The raw emotions I was experiencing last week seem to have gone away (for now?) as we creep closer to Wednesday, which is “Take J to College Day”. We’ve moved into a different phase of college move-in prep, too: the “actively waiting” phase. Just like his older brother (who also chose a college in Wisconsin, where school doesn’t begin until after Labor Day) did, he watched all of his friends head off to school ahead of him. Now we are just shuffling around, trying to keep ourselves busy until it’s his turn. We all know that this is happening, that it is supposed to happen, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, and we can finally see “acceptance” on the horizon. Indeed, in some ways I think we’re all ready to just get this show on the road.
The “actively waiting” stage is the one in which Jim and I stay busy by trying to ensure that J has everything he needs before leaving while at the same time trying not to think about the actual drop-off too much. In some ways the act of helping him check off everything on his “what to take” list by running out to the store for random items feels a little like desperation because although we will certainly buy things for him in the future, this seems so…final. Each purchase is made eagerly (“Now we can check THAT off! Yay!”), which makes the shopping ritual feel we’re trying too hard to show him how much we love him, even though we’re not going off the deep end and buying him anything off the list.
Well, except for a box of Apple Jacks, because he loves those (he gets it from me). And a box of Sour Patch Kids. He probably won’t eat either one because he has become very conscious of labels and healthy eating and I don’t even care if he doesn’t eat them because it’s the thought that counts and he’ll certainly make enough new friends who would probably love to take those things off of his hands if he decides he doesn’t want them…
The “actively waiting” stage is odd from J’s end, too. He has become quieter than usual over the past few days, no doubt a little nervous about his new life. He keeps rearranging and reconsolidating his piles of stuff which sit in the staging area (D’s room), rechecking his list. In some ways it seems like he’s been in denial; I had repeatedly asked him to make a grocery list of non-perishables that he wanted for the dorm room so we could go shopping together and he just…didn’t. Not wanting to leave everything for Tuesday night, Jim and I just went out on Saturday and filled a cart with all kinds of things we thought he’d want. J was fine with that. Done.
Last night we learned the detailed reason for his hesitation. Due to the fact that his dorm-sized refrigerator will be shared by him and his two roommates, we realized he won’t have room for milk to use in the protein shakes he enjoys daily after his workout, so I suggested that he go to the store with me (I was going for dinner supplies anyway) to check into pre-made shakes that he can keep in his closet, refrigerating the small bottles one or two at a time. He fought me on it, saying it wasn’t necessary and I fought back with motherly despair, insisting that YES HE HAD TO HAVE THESE PRE-MADE PROTEIN SHAKES. He ended up accompanying me to the store and, in the car (where we have always had great conversations) he told me that he was sorry if he upset me but he just feels bad that we are spending money on him. He doesn’t want us to go to any extra trouble. (Sigh. I love my kids.)
I had to explain to him that not only is it our job as his parents to provide for him, but we are happy to, and it makes us feel better about sending him off if we can make sure he has what he needs. He seemed to feel better about it, I think. We both did: thank goodness for communication skills. We bought the protein shakes and when we returned home he put them with everything else he’s taking to college.
This is all part of the drill. It’s almost time.
Because we’ve done this before, I know that the drop-off/move-in on Wednesday will feel very sudden and in some ways completely shocking, even though it seems like we’ve been preparing for ages. Although none of us will feel truly ready, tip-toeing our way through this transition is a part of the process.