I have spent the better part of the evening reading each and every emotionally charged snippet about children heading off to college. I went back and re-read what I wrote about Cody leaving last year on my blog and found myself choked up all over again.
To every one of you feeling the pain of having to say goodbye tomorrow or the next day or next week understand this; yes it hurts, it is going to hurt, there is no way around the pain of watching your child walk out the door alone. Yes it is a good thing, you have done your job it is time for them to shine! No you don’t have to be happy about it, no matter what anyone says to you, this is your child, your emotions, let those emotions flow freely, you have earned it! Yes you are going to miss them terribly along with their dirty laundry, snarky comments, goof ball friends and most importantly you are going to miss just sitting with them sometimes not saying anything at all. It is hard not knowing what they are doing or how they are feeling along with constantly wondering if they are safe, after all that has been part of your existence for the last 18 years! But in the back of your mind you know you have done your job, so trust me it will be ok. These children or now young adults no matter how we may perceive them are the very best part of us heading out to make their marks upon this world and that is a good thing. They will come home and they will leave again, but know this, each time they come home they will be a little different, a little wiser, a little more educated, and a little more like the adult you always hoped and dreamed they would become. So while you are grabbing for tissue to sop up the misery, take your free hand and pat yourself on the back for the best my friends is yet to come! I promise!
Ok so here it is, 5 days since my boy headed off to college and now I am seeing on Facebook and hearing through conversation there are hoards of children cleaning out their rooms, packing up boxes, loading up trucks, trains, planes and automobiles, all to adorn the entryways of higher learning.
Since my boy left early to attend a freshman backpacking trip (super idea), my personal experience with watching our son vanish in the rear view mirror gave me a bit of a leg up in the separation anxiety arena and the raw emotions associated.
None of which I was prepared for in the least! It pretty much has gone something like this over the last several days.
Cried at the thought of him never really “living” here anymore
Cried at my burnt toast
Cried at the sight of the dog licking its ass
Cried over feeding the fish
Cried because the coffee I was drinking was the same as his
Cried when I looked into his room (oh wait that was because I was going to have to clean it)
Cried at the prospect of dying alone (whoops an unrelated topic, sorry)
Sniveled at the thought of mowing the lawn
Went to bed, woke up the next morning (yes that was the first day)
Cried at the thought of crying
recited over and over again: I am so sad, why am I so sad?
Transferred money into his checking account (you guessed it cried again)
Cried while cleaning his room (not out of sadness but disgust! It was really gross!)
Cried because I couldn’t remember just how in-depth our “sex talks” were? Lord knows we can’t afford to be grandparents quite yet or have him come home and ask if that “thing” looks like a rash!
Heavy sigh over whether or not he will take care of himself. Yet with the food plan we purchased he better come home a little chubby! (secret note-he can eat all the cereal he wants when he wants it at no extra cost! Uh SCORE!!!!)
Cried just to cry, hey its my emotional breakdown I can do what I want!
Seriously though, it has been an adjustment and although there have been some wonderful, caring responses to my irrational dilemma there is definitely one thing I have learned through this entire process.
Dont tell someone who is grieving over their kid going to college to; Be Happy!
Note I said grieving. You see I have come to this conclusion after several days of watching Cody “ghosts” walking around our property. We parents who are sending our first born out into the world are in fact grieving.
Grieving or to grieve:
grieve verb \ˈgrēv\ : to cause (someone) to feel sad or unhappy
: to feel or show grief or sadness
Yeah that second definition fits pretty well!
So when a parent says: it’s just so empty without little Jonny at home. or I see little Jonny around every corner in our house or I feel like a part of me is missing without my son at home.
Responding condescendingly: Well aren’t you happy for them? I mean this is what you worked all those years for isn’t it? Is in no way the proper response.
Yes I am incredibly happy for them, ecstatic,, euphoric, jubilant, seriously over the moon! But that is not the point!
I am sorry if your plan was to have kids and ship them off the very moment they turned 18. Got your little tax deduction all those years and now OH BOY I see a new office in the house or that bar/game room the wife and I have always wanted! Well that wasnt me, it was never me. I had children because I wanted children. To be a part of their lives, invest in everything they do, watch with pride when they succeed and coach them when they fail. I had children hoping to leave a better legacy than before and something strange happened along the way. I fell in love with them first, parented them second and after they grew, became their friend.
My son means everything to me, I am incredibly proud of all he has accomplished, I know for a fact he will succeed at what ever he applies himself too. But he is still a part of me, he is still a face I look forward to seeing every single day. A smile and laugh that can erase even the harshest of days from burdened shoulders. I can’t turn back time and say yes to hunting trips when I had to say no, I can’t turn back time to sit a while longer in his room chatting about everything and nothing at all, I can’t turn back time and laugh while he annihilates me at Halo, I can’t do anything, but sit in his empty room, listen for a voice that’s not there, wonder how he is doing at that very moment and if it’s all he ever dreamed it would be. The sadness is not for him, the sadness is for me…
The only thing I can do is have a sense of humor and faith.
So as you run into these “newbies” yeah that’s right 5 days puts me in veteran status y’all! Tell them you understand, listen with compassion, feel their pain, and let them know you are there to talk if need be. Because they just shipped a human being that took 18 years of hard work, molding, love, dedication, devotion, grey hair, and lots of tears out into this world.
Turn on the news if that thought doesnt scare even a childless couple I don’t know what will..
Last night I did one of the hardest things I have ever had to do…
I left my son at college.
Hold on you say: THAT is one of the hardest things you have ever had to do? Through all your life experiences, work related and personal, all you have had a hand in or dealt, that was one of the hardest things you seriously have ever had to do???
Cody James Franceschi was born on July 11, 1996. He came out with the cord wrapped around his little neck and an interesting shade of purple illuminating his hue. After 30 seconds of delivery room panic he was placed in front of me. The moment I held him, I swore I would never leave his side. I didn’t care if he grew up a monstrous felon, I would never, ever leave this boys side.
and I haven’t… Until now.
Having children is a cruel fucked up joke! You spend all this time planning, preparing, and making lists. You swear to all within range he will be better than you, raised properly and through due diligence turn 18 and head off into the world a well rounded individual due to those 18 years of unwavering efforts. The little bundle of joy arrives, you hold him and instantly this macho, puffy chested, kick a puppy bravado melts away.
What was I saying about being tough, having a firm hand, kicking his ass out when he is 18? Boogie, boogie boo! What a sweet little man; is he cooing? Did he just make a pee, pee? YES! MY BOY JUST MADE A PEE PEE!!! HE IS A GIANT AMONGST MEN, A LEADER OF THE PEE PEE FREE WORLD!! LOOK NURSE, LOOK! NO OTHER LAD HAS PEE’D SO FAST AND SO WELL IN ALL OF YOUR CAREER! RIGHT???
You bring him home, don’t sleep for nights, but one look in their faces and its all ok isn’t it? Over the first couple of years there are more sleepless nights, something like 5,000 dirty diapers that need to be changed (didn’t know you held a degree in waste water management did you) snotty noses, first trips to the doctor, and the crying, oh my goodness the crying; and thats just you around midnight in the fetal position on the floor, let alone the kids whimpers.
Things move along, they go to school, make new friends, have parent teacher conferences, a few teacher, teacher conferences that you might find out about later, and in the middle of it when you are struggling to help them with homework because lets face it, your college education is out the window; unbelievably after all this you can barely function at a fifth grade level! Then what?? You and your spouse come up pregnant again! Whoopieeeee!!! Oh well we got this now so whats one or 3 more over a 10 year period. Right?
Middle school comes and you watch his heart break over a girl who moves away, you stay tough, tell him she wasn’t the first and she wont be the last. Spend countless hours sharing tales of the heart and the woe involved hoping he can glean some valuable information. But he remains strong and yearns for her anyways. He does date a few other girls, but lets face it, you always remember the first girl you liked.
We begin to see his excellence arise as he comes home with awards, both scholarly and athletic. His whit becomes sharper, his laugh is developing, a voice changes.
Then one day he is in high school and you are left wondering how this happened? Four years, you have four years left with what was a, 9 pound bundle of joy just yesterday. Thats plenty of time right? Yeah, four years is a long time so all is right with the world.
Four years of 0 period, cross country, band practices, the fair, raising pigs, FFA, homework-tons of homework! You look around and it feels as though life is spinning out of control! His dry whit has now formed an attitude which in reality is his testosterone testing the proverbial waters. He becomes an avid bow hunter, loves
taxidermy, duck hunting and fishing. He is running at a 100 miles and hour and so are you! Helping coach his team just to spend more time with him, meeting more kids you think are awesome and their equally awesome parents. You keep trying to make his hobbies a priority but with three others at your beck and call, all in their early stages of adolescent development those moments he held your sole attention are becoming harder and harder. He gets his drivers license and a hunting dog, then just like that it begins…
He slowly starts heading out without you. He doesn’t need you anymore to get him out to hunt, fish or mountain bike, and you being the ever busy, trying to be all to everyone dad let it happen.
Another thing starts to happen as well. You trust him. No accidents, no tickets, he is where he says he is going to be, comes home when he says he will be home, takes care of the house for you while you are gone, and stands side by side with you when building fence or the barn, or fixing something all without you asking him. He doesn’t have to do it, he particularly doesn’t care for the ranching side of things, but he wants to because its valuable time he is sharing with you, without making it a big deal. He has befriended a wonderful man through his mom who owns a kennel and a 3 year friendship, work equity relationship arises. This man (Steve) teaches him how to train bird dogs in exchange for work. He takes Cody under his wing and treats him like a son. A father couldn’t ask for more.
He still leaves the shop a mess, and forgets to mow the lawn occasionally, drives his mom and I crazy while exerting his unrequited knowledge on occasion, but he is always there at home. You watch him branch out into training and boarding his own dogs. His love for canines, all canines is amazing, they all flock to him without question and he can get them to do pretty much what ever he wants. “Thanks again Steve.” He idolizes you, your training abilities, knowledge of classic cars, guns and stuff. Every boy should have that one adult that is not his dad or mom to look up too. Just so they know dad/mom aren’t completely full of shit.
End of the year parties, graduation, kids you both have watched from 5-18 all still friends patting each other on the back happy to have finally finished high school. Its an amazing time, filled with laughter, high hopes, and the prospects seem endless. What college will they be accepted too, what branch of the military are they joining, where is the Tech school they are attending. The conversations are inspiring and so fun to listen too.. You smile, proud of them all, feeling like they are your kids as well. An accomplishment for sure.
Then it happens.
You arrive one Thursday morning with another family to move him into his dorm. He is rooming with a life long friend. The son of one of our closest friends, so it feels extra special. The excitement is palpable, the boxes are torn apart, belongings placed carefully around the dorm. Then it hits you just a little, this is THIER room. Not a room in your house, not a void of space for which they can hide and try their best to avoid following the rules. This is THIER room. It is perfect. It smells like 30 years of boys who came before them, the carpet and tattered dorm furniture are mid 80’s at best. But they have arrived, 18, adults and out on their own 5 1/2 hours from home. They are free!
I am proud, so very proud of the man Cody has become or is still becoming. I am overwhelmingly proud of all he has accomplished through his tenacity, his mothers help and besides my fumbling self. 18 years ago I felt I had all the time in the world with this boy, now as I sit and write this, my head is filled with every single wonderful thing we have done together and as a family. His brothers are going to miss him so, Parker idolizes Cody and Jake has really needed his guidance this last year. I have not seen them yet to see how they are handling this huge change in our family dynamics. But even with all the memories, the family time, the brotherly and sisterly bonding. I feel like I may have missed out on some things.
And this is where raising children becomes the cruelest of jokes. I have also come to realize, he doesn’t need me anymore..
Oh I will always be his dad, he will hopefully call me for advice and want to talk now and again. But he no longer NEEDS me. It is devastating and crushing my heart….
Here is the second cruelest part of the joke.
Somewhere over the last year, he became my friend. I didn’t realize it until this morning when I was making coffee and he wasn’t there, strolling out in his shorts or PJ bottoms. You see pretty much every morning I am home he walks out and says; what’s up pop? Then has a cup of coffee with me and we talk about hunting, or guns, or cricket (his dog) or the fire department. We talk like two grown men as opposed to a father and son.
My friend has also been there every evening to say goodnight as both of us are always the last to go to bed. I took it for granted, and today I realized short of school breaks the first year, then trailing off as he gets his own place next year and develops his own life, he will no longer be there or here or what ever the case may be. He wont be stopping by the station anymore to say hi and hang out for a while between school or practice, or asking if we can go fishing, hunting, shooting bows, another series of events I assumed would always be there. He wont be around anymore to save my bacon when things fall apart schedule wise around this busy ranch. He is grown, we fostered him, loved him, guided him, argued with him and now he has succeeded and is gone. My son, my friend, is on his own and the silence within these four walls this morning is deafening.
So many asked yesterday if I cried?
Well I am glad to say I held it together, that is until this morning when I tortured myself by walking to his room ( a reflex response to our daily coffee routine) looking in, seeing only his hunting dog, lying on the bed, sad, wondering why Cody’s truck was here, I was home and Cody was not. It was more than I could take; she doesn’t understand whats happening, the boy who slept alongside her everyday for three years since adopting her, is now gone and I cant explain to her why or that he will be home in a few months or that she will move with him next year when he gets his own place. The emptiness of the room became the emptiness within my heart, knowing he will never truly live here 100% again. This will always be his home but no longer will he reside within its walls everyday, something apparently I have taken for granted for 18 years.
So there I stood, shoulders slumped, no Cody lying on the bed, room half empty of his belongings and a sad dog who had surrounded herself with her favorite play-toys.
Fear resides as the devils left hand while hope lies within the depths of the right.
As a young man I would lay in bed wondering what would become of my life. Not just the normal glossary topics such as marriage, children etc.. But what would BECOME of my presence here on earth, both in the present and long after I am gone. There has always been a yearning to become more, a feeling as though there is more for me to accomplish, left gazing to the heavens wondering what more could be out there and hoping that one day all would reveal itself to me. You see fear has always kept me from being exceptional at anything and hope has continued to keep those dreams alive through wild daydreaming and at times pointless planning. But in the end my inability to control my fears have left me with nothing more than hope and for that an empty feeling deep within my soul remains.
As we enter the final days until Cody leaves for college, it has occurred to me this conversation has never taken place between the two of us. Is he prepared to strike out on his own? Does he have a true vision of what his life will become, where he is headed, and if he has a plan? Or does he even need one?
Do his daydreams have meaning, has anyone ever told him they are part of the fabric for which his inspiration will evolve. When we are young we should be encouraged to follow those dreams to strike out on our own, throw caution to the wind, find out who we are by testing the very mettle molded by our parents and the experiences held up to this point.
As a child I was constantly warned that daydreaming was a complete waste of time. But it was where I went, or could go to be whatever I wanted to be at any moment. As a child I was also terrified to daydream out of fear of punishment, chastised for the very waste of time others felt my mental trips to be. As an adult I believe daydreaming, contemplation, to meditate is the mystical treasure map of our lives. Where do we want to be? What do we want to become? It’s all right there, trapped within our magnificent, organic, computers (the brain). Stare into the distance; let your mind take over and what do you see? Are you on a beach in Tahiti or piloting an aircraft? Can you feel the warmth between your toes as you stroll across a cobblestone path or are you closing big deals in the heart of New York’s financial district? Can you hear the applause of a packed theatre as your performance brings down the house or the cold sting of a winter’s night as you walk carefully up the side of a car you just pulled over for speeding, no back up, alone? Does a fire engine race by as you gaze into the unknown whilst its sirens leave you with chills, or do you feel empathy and an inner strength as though you could perform that very job? Can you smell the dirt roads of an impoverished country and see yourself guiding those in need or walking across an unknown landscape with no destination in sight until you unknowingly stumble across a new challenge, or fortune.
Do you see yourself doing GREAT THINGS!
There is an old adage that our parents told us as youngsters; when you grow up you live in a country that will allow you to be whatever you choose to be. Personally I prefer: There is nothing you can’t do once you put your mind to it. But my personal favorite is: if you can dream it, you can be it.
So to my son, his friends, every boy and girl heading out into the world I say; this is your time! This is when you take a moderate amount of responsibility and huge dose of dreams and find out who you are, what you are, how much you really like yourself, then squish it all together and become whatever you want to be too this world! Yes! It won’t be perfect! Yes it will be messy at times and involve meeting new people, understanding those you have nothing in common with and occasionally like a sculpture in the works need a little molding from time to time. Yes you will leave behind people you care about as well as those you don’t, but have learned something from just the same. Yes! It will take work, hard work, so hard at times you will feel like quitting but you won’t because you have a dream. Leave a legacy, a mark, have a moment in time that will forever be yours and remember to never, ever quit daydreaming.
To every adult out there who reads my blog. I have never stopped daydreaming, but I have allowed my inability to control fear keep me from accomplishing my dreams. Hopefully life, burdened with all its responsibilities has not left you stunted in the same fashion, unable to dream big, achieve those dreams then close your eyes and smile wide; for now that you have done your job as a parent; it is “your time” as well.
Dream big, open your eyes and see what happens when you push fear aside….
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.