And Just Like That, They’re Gone

People always tell parents that they blink and the next thing they know, their kids are being dropped off at their college dorm or moving out or getting married and they are having their own kids. It’s weird to think that 18 years, nearly 2 decades, is such a short period of time. You don’t even know what happened. One minute, your child is walking around a KMart, with his pants at his ankles because nothing ever fit him right saying “Mommy, pants fall” and the next, you’re making his bed at college and taking all of the pictures you can within reason. Did they really grow up enough to be tossed into essentially total independence? Did we do enough to prepare him? I guess time will tell.

We’re so happy that we’re able to give him this experience. We’re happy that his hard work paid off. He’s had a goal in mind since he was little and worked so hard even at such a young age with the goal of going into college and working for the FBI. He’s spent his entire school career working towards this goal and he got into his first choice college. We’re so proud of him. But moving across state may as well be across the country. Though, I’m convinced even if he did go to a closer school, including my own excellent college within our city, him living there would be too far away. You’re really not as prepared as you want to be when the day comes.

The main campus.

It’s a nice campus. It’s bigger in person than we thought. Due to COVID, we didn’t really get to tour the campus ourselves to check it out, so it was a bit overwhelming. We took ourselves on our own little tour, hoping that when the first day of school starts next week, he won’t be as overwhelmed going to class. His dorm is within only a few minutes walk of a small beach and marsh hiking path. There’s this nice running/walking/biking path in the area, which I teased him for not knowing how to ride a bike. He rolled his eyes at me and mumbled, “I know how to ride a bike” and I responded with, “Last I saw, not very well.” He was always much better with his skateboard or scooter than his bike.

It was hard. My husband had his teary-eyed moment when he started packing up our son’s desktop, because he intends to continue his streaming while at college. He later laughed about it saying that he saw more dads crying at the move-in day than the moms. I said it was because we had to be strong for everyone else and we’d have our meltdowns later when we were alone at some random point of time because we folded a towel wrong or something. Admittedly, despite feeling the tears form in the back of my eyes and throat, I haven’t had that moment yet. Maybe after my youngest goes to school, we’ll see if coming back to the lonely house hits me.

It’s already hard. The first night, it was hard because after our youngest went to bed, we would watch shows or movies that weren’t appropriate for the youngest. We’d connect over these shows, talk about random things inspired by the shows. We’d sometimes group up for Overwatch and complain about how bad the other players were. He streamed with the new shiny webcam that our nephew/his best friend got him as a going away present. We watched, like the weird, stalker-y parents that we were, marveling about the great job we did while also being sad about doing a great job and having him so far away. My husband kept reiterating the point of “if you hate it here, there are plenty of closer schools.” My husband also kept switching between “I hope he loves it there” and “Is it bad I hope he hates it there and comes home?” It’s funny to watch the struggle between wanting your child to succeed at their dreams, but the selfishness of us wanting to keep them our small babies forever.

It hurt a little getting off the Pike back home and hearing a song come on that he would normally sing very loudly to in the backseat. We pulled up to the house to drop off our nephew so he could get his car out of the driveway before we picked up our youngest from my parents. As we pulled up, he still had his “Class of 2021” sign in our yard. It’s been hard to consider taking it down. It was even harder pulling up to see it.

The next morning was also hard. Normally our oldest son, despite having his own room and a very nice, comfortable mattress, falls asleep on the couch. He’s usually too tired from playing video games or streaming that he just goes to bed where his computer is. But he likes having his computer out in the living room because he’s a weird kid who loves hanging out with his parents. I woke up early, as I often do on Mondays to get my husband’s lunch and coffee ready before he goes to his early morning meeting. Normally, I walk into the living room and I have to be quiet as a go in to work and get my husband’s stuff ready. I tiptoed in, only to remember that he wasn’t there. He wasn’t sprawled out on the couch, with his favorite blanket that I got him when we first bought this house 7 years ago. I didn’t have to go over and fix his blanket, even though it’s hot, just because he likes the comfort of it. It was just an empty couch except for our lab/pointer mix Arya, who was laying in our son’s “spot”. She looked at me with sad eyes. “Yes, Arya. Me too.”

I saw the recycling that was still full and normally I would wake our son up to take care of it for me. But he’s not there. Still, I walked around as silently as possible out of habit or even hope that maybe it would trick my brain into thinking he was still here. He’s not. He’s not going to be here to watch our trashy TLC reality shows that we love to watch together. He’s not going to be there sharing the memes from Reddit about the show after watching it together. He’s not going to be there to laugh when I say “kimchi bitches” and imitating the scene from “Nora from Queens”. I’m not going to wake up to hear him in the kitchen and smell the kimchi that he’s eating with chopsticks straight from the fridge at 3 in the morning. Or smell the extra hot yakisoba noodles that he likes to cook up. Or see him walk into the living room with his kimchi ramen, spoon, and chopsticks and watch him quickly take chopstick bites in between Valorant rounds. Or wonder why he has the spoon because he just slurps the broth after the noodles are gone anyways, like normal kids would drink the milk after their bowl of cereal.

It’s the little things that you miss, like the arguing between the siblings or yelling about tossing the clothes next to the hamper, not in the hamper. Or the spilling the kimchi broth as I gag trying to clean it up because I just cannot get over how nauseating it is to me. It’s only been a few days and it’s so hard to overlook that there may be a part of you missing.

It’s for the best. He’s going to be great. He’s going to do great things in the world. I believe that. He’s destined to be the change that he wants to see in the world and he’s determined and smart enough to do it.

The Last Weekend at Home

It’s back to school time. That means that some of us parents are sending our kids back to school at the local grade/middle/high schools. But there are some parents that are spending this time getting ready to either send their kid back to campus or sending them there for the first time. This is the last weekend at home with my oldest, before we pack up the car and travel across the state to send him off for his first day of school next weekend. It’s a bittersweet moment. We’re proud of him for getting accepted into the different colleges, especially his top choice. We’re happy he chose one close-ish to us (about 2 and 1/2 hours away). We’re happy to take our first trip up to Salem, despite the fact we’ve live in Mass practically our entire lives. We’re scared and sad because he’s going to be gone and who knows when the next time he’ll come home is. It’s a lot of different emotions that every other parent in this position is probably experiencing right now.

This weekend will be dedicated to him. We’ll have a nice game night. We’ll take him out shopping for stuff for school. We’ll spend every second that we can with him making as many last minute memories that we can so that he’s setup for success when we drop him off at campus. Then, during the week, we organize his stuff and pack it. Maybe we’ll work in silence, not wanting to talk about it. Maybe we’ll reminisce about some hilarious memories. But we’ll likely sit in silence as we make sure his clothes are cleaned and packed up. Focusing on the task at hand rather than the emotions. That’s how we roll. Makes sure he remembers everything that he needs from home and make lists of what we need to get the day before we leave. We’ll talk about how nice it will be having his own dorm and not having to deal with his little brother annoying him. We’ll console his little brother, who will miss his big brother despite his protests that he won’t. “Because he’s super mean to me.”

It’s exciting for him. He gets to have this experience that neither of us really had. We gets to live on campus and make his own way in life. He’ll do well. He might struggle or fail at something. It’s all a part of the growth process. Every year of his life prior to going away, we focused on raising a child that was as confident as he could be, as self-sufficient as possible, and with a passion for learning. This is where he’ll learn if he really wants the dreams he’s had his entire life of solving crimes and impacting lives. This is where he continues his growth that he started in the comforts of his home. This is where he can exceed expectations or disappoint himself. That’s all a part of becoming an adult. As parents, we can only hope that we did enough to prepare him.

I’m not worried about losing contact with him. I’m sure he’ll at least send a meme or hilarious Reddit post for me daily. I’m sure he’ll call regularly, at least once a week. He should be taking this time to enjoy himself in between his studies. He should be meeting new friends. Taking full advantage of this experience that he’s lucky to get.

I don’t know a lot about this new chapter because it’s not something I’ve experienced. I have no wisdom to share. But what I do know is that he has a massive family behind him full of family and friends, that is here supporting him. He knows that he has this support. He knows that we believe in him. I’m so excited that he gets to have this moment and he’s worked damn hard for it. He will be the change. He will be great.

The Importance of an Education

Ever since I started to attend college, I knew that I wanted to go all the way with it. I wanted to be that ass that made people I didn’t like refer to me as Dr. LaRochelle, just because. That would be a half joke, I probably would pull that card out but probably only in jest. I wanted to do it because it would be awesome to be so accomplished that you could add a Ph.D to my name. I don’t mind hard work, and surprisingly I loved college. Someday, I keep saying. Someday.

First, I would have to manage my masters. Every now and then I think about it, then I start paying bills and realize I still (after about 6 or so years) owe around $30,000 in student loans from my B.A. Maybe now, as a homeowner in a single income family, I can get financial aid! I started to get excited at the possibility of finally getting there. I had the school in mind, Southern New Hampshire University (online of course). They are one of the only schools that I cam across that offers a master’s degree in Creative Writing. I did a FASFA calculator to see how much aid I qualify for. To my surprise, things like mortgages and single income families do not matter in assistance. Either way, my husband makes too much to qualify for anything like any other assistance. I sighed, and put the idea on the shelf. Maybe when my loans get paid off in another 40 years I can go. It makes sense though, what will a degree in creative writing even do? I might be able to get a job at a college to teach a bunch of kids about writing. I could waste my degree being a freelancer, as I do now, while trying to sell novels.

When I was younger, I was pushed into college by a loving man who I eventually ended up marrying. He reinforced what a huge influence on my in high school said to me. He said “you’re way to smart not to do it”. He was right. It became more than that. I looked at my then infant son and decided I didn’t need to do it for me. I knew I was intelligent. I needed to do this for him. I needed to show him just because I gave up college out of the circumstance of having him while in high school, does not mean I had to be another statistic. I wanted to show my son that you should just go and follow your dreams and get an education. Just because I was a mom did not mean I had to just give up and settle. Being a mom meant I shouldn’t settle because that was a lesson my child or future children would learn. Settling means accepting defeat or sitting on the couch on welfare just because you can. Settling means flipping burgers at a fast food place because it’s easy that way. I don’t settle.

The look of pride in everyone’s face that showed up when I walked was everything I needed to know that all the emotional struggle was worth it. And if I ever get the chance to get my masters? I will be incredibly proud because it would be such an accomplishment. I don’t need it though, because I have accomplished so much. I’m young and own my first house. I’m successful at being a mom. I do have a quasi-successful freelancing career. Hell, I have even sold a few of my eBooks. I have already done more than I would have if I never stepped foot into college to begin with. I can die and be OK with that. I’m not jealous of people with their master’s, because if they are willing to rub it in people’s faces then they don’t have the sort of happiness I do with my life. If I ever get it, I will be happy that I managed to do it while managing my life as a mom, wife, and writer. If not, I will just enjoy what I have because there’s no point in being sad because I have so much.

College Graduation

When I graduated college, our class sat on while all our speakers went up to give us something inspirational. Well, we waited for them to give us something inspirational, but it ended up we got a reality I’m sure we didn’t expect on a day of celebration. One speaker started off by saying “Normally I say to expect the greatest out there with your degree, but the truth is you’re graduating at a bad time in our economy. Best of Luck graduates, you’ll need it.” The sad truth of our times, it’s not a great time to graduate unless you picked the right degree and got the right amount of luck.

I expected it. I knew when I dropped my Education major and went full major in English; that I was going to have issues. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be happy going into that field, and the classes made me miserable. I also knew that dropping out wouldn’t be an option, so I went head on into my English classes, and graduated with a shiny degree in English. A seemingly laughable degree, something everyone gets to laugh at anyways.

I remember being in an English class, and one of the Education majors was sad. Her daughter is going to school to get an English degree at a fancy college. She felt it was a waste of money, what could you possibly do with an English degree? Of all people to say that to, she says it to an English professor. I laughed a little at the idea she would say that to him. He also laughed, but responded back with “There are worse things in the world, like being a philosophy major. Not by much, but it is.” So true.

It really is though, because you can’t quite teach with an English degree unless you get lucky to get into a private school. Then, you can’t really get into a job at a Wal-Mart or another department store because you’re “overqualified”. Really because of your fancy degree, they just don’t want you to want an actual pay rate or the fear of you leaving for something better. Assuming there is something better.

People aren’t so lucky. We tell our children to go to school and you’ll get a fancy job. Adults go back to school to get better opportunities than they had before. But times changed. Getting a degree doesn’t guarantee you anything but a pride of achievement. A pride of achievement that you’ll be paying back for the rest of your life, with that minimum wage job you get if you’re lucky.

I’m by no means saying that you shouldn’t go to college. Education is something no one can take from you. I’m saying a lot of people can relate to this. Sometimes following dreams leaves you behind, and you’re left with a lot of time on your hands and you’re not making money. I get to write, I get to be with my family, I was lucky. Some aren’t as lucky though, and I hope things will get better for them soon.