Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Last Summer at Home by Sharon O'Donnell

I was looking forward for my oldest son, a college junior, to live with us at home this summer while he completed an internship nearby. I like the feeling of having our whole family at home, the way it feels when all three of my sons are in the house as I go to sleep, the way it feels when we all sit around together and watch a game on TV. I've known that when my oldest got older that the moments of having all 3 boys at home would become few and far between. And yes, that is what has happened. The college he attends is only 20 minutes away, so I do get to see him about once a week, even though it's usually a quick hello when he stops by sometimes after class or work. I cherish the times when he comes home for a night on the weekend, and I know my husband and our other sons, ages 17 and 11, like it when he's there too -- although, they still engage in their sibling teasing and fighting.

With our middle son finishing high school in the spring and starting college also, I knew that having my sons all together would become even more infrequent. So I've been looking forward to having the oldest one home for what I considered 'the last summer' for everyone to be here.

And then came the dreaded 'apartment lease'. My son and some friends who had been living on campus the first 3 years of college decided to live in an apartment close to campus. In the long run, it would be no more expensive, and there would be more privacy and better living conditions. I was all for that. So I met my son at the complex last week to sign the papers. That is when it dawned on me that the lease ran from June through June; in other words, my son would not be living at home this summer after all. And then would come his senior year. Grad school. And the summers in summers in between -- when he would also be in an apartment.

As I signed the papers, it hit me that my son would never again live at home, in the house he grew up in, and I gotta say it took my breath away for a moment. I did say to him afterwards, "I was looking forward to you living at home this summer, Bill." He smiled and said something about he knew that and he would be by as much as he could but that all of his friends would be having apartments too and he didn't want to be the only one living at home while interning at a corporation. And I could understand that. . . . Couldn't I?

It was time to let go -- the time I'd heard so many parents talk about over the years. This was my time to do it. And it was hard. It will continue to be hard, particularly when my middle one heads off to college in August. It will be tough. But I've learned through the struggles my middle son has had with anxiety, that as a parent, having them be healthy and happy enough to leave you is exactly what you want. But it will be bittersweet.

Thank God, I still have my 11-year-old. He will be starting middle school in August, and my husband and I will start the middle/high school thing all over again. And I hope we will remember to savor every moment of it. And if we forget to do so, I hope someone reminds me.

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