Monday, August 03, 2009

My Turning Point

Ever have a time in your life that’s a turning point? One big turning point for me was when I decided to stop teaching school and try writing. That was the year my son started third grade and my daughter started first.

Oh, I wrote. But I also became a room mom, a tutor, and a church volunteer. I baked cookies and casseroles and sat at the kitchen table and helped with homework every day at 3:30. As the years passed, I drove the kids to church and soccer and baseball and tumbling classes and tutors and swim team. (Oh, have I spent hours at the side of a pool deck!) I stressed over grades and proficiency tests and dances and middle school drama.

And through all that, I wrote and wrote and wrote and even sold a few books. Time moved on.

This past June, I encouraged my son to go to summer school before his freshman year in college. He really wanted to go, and I thought it was a good idea. After all, I had done it-and even met my husband then. So last month, he and I flew down to Alabama and I dropped him off. We rented a car and he drove me to Tuscaloosa. I took him out to lunch, and over to the grocery store to get some snacks and bottles of water. And then we went to the dorm.

It only took us two trips to carry up the four duffle bags and groceries to his room. Around us were lots of kids in the same situation. Little by little, I watched him become a little cooler and cooler toward me. Pulling away.

Finally, when we put that last bag on the floor, I asked him if he wanted me to make his bed. He shook his head and told me he was just fine. And, as I looked at him, I knew he was.

Oh, I had planned to be so great and so cool. I was going to smile and offer words of wisdom and warnings about having ‘too much fun’. But all I did was try not to cry. This time, he was the one who was giving out hugs. This time, he was the one patting my back. Telling me that everything was going to be just fine.

How many times had I said that exact thing to him over the years?

I nodded, turned and practically ran from that room, trotted out to my rental car, and then –finally- in the privacy of that little Subaru- I cried. Okay, I'll admit it. I cried the whole way back to the airport.

On Saturday, he’ll come home for a week! He’s already asked if I’ll take him shopping. So for just a little bit more, I’ll bake him some cookies, run him to the mall and generally fuss…and then we’ll take him back to school.

I have high hopes that this time I’ll cry a little bit less, but I kind of doubt it. I’m going to miss him…but what I’ll really miss is those days of noise and mud and bikes and trails of snacks leading down to the basement. I miss washing machines full of swim suits and towels and baseball uniforms. I miss Scooby Doo on the TV and trips to McDonalds.

I’m sure very soon I’ll look back on these days, remembering it as a time of transition…and the beginning of other new things to come. But at the moment, I can’t help but feel a little bit out of sorts.

Anyone have any college stories to share? Either of when you went off to school…or taking your child? Any suggestions or laughs would really be appreciated!



Anonymous said...

When my youngest daughter went to college it was here in the city so I didn't have to watch her go away. But, when both my daughters moved out I thought I would love having the peace and quiet and not wondering when they would come home, but after only a couple of days I realized I hadn't ever been totally alone. It took some getting used to. Now when they bring my grandchildren over I can enjoy the craziness once again. I always tell my girls, it doesn't matter how old they are, or that they have husbands and families, they will always be my babies.

Linda Henderson

shelley galloway said...


What sweet thoughts. Thanks for sharing! I bet your girls love bringing their kids over to see you!


Megan Kelly said...

Shelley, I teared up reading about leaving your son at school. Haven't done that yet, but everday I notice my kids do the pulling away bit, growing up and not needing me--in public. :) When I left my kids for the first time at daycare (a one day a week, few hours at Mother's Day Out), they hadn't been away from me except to be watched by grandmas and grandpa. The little traitors happily trotted off to play while I waited for tantrums. It was the longest five hours I've ever spent "getting to do what I wanted." lol The upside is you know you've turned out a strong child who can do without you and thrive. Congratulations!

shelley galloway said...


Now I've got a lump in my throat from reading your note! I had forgotten all about those babysitter days.

My daughter was always clingy, except when she was with her brother! Then, whenever I went to work, she'd just follow him wherever he went. When my son was just a toddler, he'd cry when I dropped him off...and then cry when I picked him up! Oh, that made for stressful days at work.

I guess this is why we write for the American line. We've got lots of stories about life with kids!


Heather Webber said...

No stories, just that I'm tearing up with you--sympathy tears! Enjoy your weekend with him.