My son’s best friend just graduated high school and will be heading off to college this weekend. The one year age difference has never made a difference to these two boys, who have been virtually inseparable for the last five years. But it will definitely impact both of their lives when school starts. When my son starts his senior year of high school and looks around the halls, he will see fewer familiar faces. His friend will begin college classes amidst a sea of strangers. And his single mother, a dear friend of mine, is already experiencing a sense of loss, knowing that she will be coming home to an empty house now that her only child has left. But she will be okay.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about my friend. Although she has walked down a mental road sprinkled with potholes throughout her life already, this step presents one of her biggest challenges. She worries if she did everything right those few precious years she was solely responsible for raising her son. She is feeling the financial stress of putting her child through college. She is trying not focus on the fact that she does not have a companion with whom to share a quiet dinner with or to relax with in front of the television. And she wonders what she will do to fill the void of time that was otherwise occupied with her volunteer efforts at the school. But she is fully aware of the signs and symptoms of psychological distress should things begin to spiral out of control. And she has me to keep a vigilant eye on her. So she will be okay.
Regardless of her concerns, maybe even in spite of her concerns, my friend has chosen to plunge forward with cautious trepidation. She has made the decision to seize this new chapter in her life and set goals for her personal and professional life. She has also, quite wisely, decided to take unnecessary pressure off of herself and allow plenty of time to find herself as she dips her toes into the waters of this unchartered phase of womanhood. She may have good days, she may have bad days, and she knows that no matter what the sunrise brings, life will go on. She knows that as the days turn into weeks, and the weeks and months into years, she will have more wisdom, strength and insight than she does today. She knows that with every wrinkle, every sunspot and every gray hair, she will learn more about who she truly is. And she will be okay.
I wonder why it takes us so long to discover things about ourselves. I wonder if I would have parented my own children differently, or better, if I knew then what I know now. I suppose that is an irrelevant question, because much of what I have learned about myself I have learned as a direct result of stumbling through parenting and years of self-exploration. I wonder if I will have the same concerns and fears as my friend. I wonder when I look at my own parents with legions of respect that I only developed through years of being called “mom,” if they too had those same moments of self-doubt. But because my parents made it through seeing five of us kids out of the house, and I am entirely confident that my friend will survive this new path in her road, I know that even if I freak out and begin to hyperventilate the day I say good-bye to my little boy, I will be okay too.
© Copyright 2011 by Jen Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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