Grief is a crazy thing. All summer people have been asking about Anna going to school, and how she feels and how we feel, etc. It’s been easy to say, “Excited and nervous” without thinking about it too much because we are going to be here her first semester. So when we drop her off this coming Monday (2 days!!) it doesn’t feel as permanent or final as it did when I said goodbye to John the summer before he went to Nyack. The circumstances were different then – we were just adjusting to leaving South Sudan suddenly and that part of our life being over, the other three kids were going to school for the first time, we were trying to figure out if Nairobi was going to be our new normal or if it was another very temporary stop in this game of life. Because of that we had decided that I would take John back, go to orientation with him in July, and then head back to Nairobi, leaving him in the hands of Shawn’s parents. They were very helpful and we are thankful for them, but they are not John’s parents. It was a very hurtful time for John who felt (understandably) abandoned by us to figure things out on his own. And I sobbed that whole rental car ride to the airport, in the airport, and the entire two plane rides back to Nairobi. I missed my family in Nairobi, yet I couldn’t leave my 18 year old 7,000 miles away.
Now we are having another one of those times. After much talking with John we decided to be in the States for Anna’s first semester. Because of that it hasn’t seemed as much like my heart is ripping out of my chest. We have had graduation, two graduation parties, said goodbyes in Kenya, hellos on this side, spent the summer at camp where she met a lot of Houghton students, and talked a lot about this change. We went dorm room shopping last Monday and had a blast buying both fun and necessary items for living at school. It was all going well.
Then last night I ran into Walmart after having dinner with some friends. I realized that we hadn’t bought any snacks for her room, and wanted her to have something this first week of orientation, so I ran in to pick a few things up. While I was in there I noticed a bunch of college students shopping for their own rooms or apartments. One of the things I always loved about being in the Albany area was the fact that there are a lot of colleges around. suddenly I saw a few young men laughing and trying to figure out who should pay for the ranch flavored sunflower seeds that one threw into their cart, and I almost had a panic attack.
Anna is going to college.
She leaves in two days to go to International Student orientation. It will be a small group of students and I think it will be great for her to start off that way. I believe with all my heart this is the right place for her in this next phase. But she’s still leaving.
I continue walking around the store kind of stalking these young men, who are oblivious to anyone around them. I want to run after them and ask them if they miss their mamas. What has gotten into me?! I am barely holding back the tears as I decide between cinnamon applesauce packs or pouches. I give this debate my full attention for a minute until I am composed enough to finish the shopping excursion and get to the car.
I know this time of year is a bittersweet time for all parents of college kids – especially freshman parents. I am trying to savor the time we have here. It was so nice on Monday to say, “We don’t need to buy this yet because we will see you next month.” We didn’t have to think about a whole year of things that might be needed as she goes from the beautiful weather on the equator to a long winter in NY.
So all you mamas and dads out there who are letting go in this season – whether it’s Kindergarten for the first time, college, or military service (thank you so much!) just know I am right there with you. Thankfully we can believe that God loves our kids even more than we do!