Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Survive Your Oldest Child Leaving Home in 15 Easy Steps

One year ago today, my oldest child left home. With everything he needed packed into one small backpack, he boarded a bus (and then a plane) bound for Army Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Having a child grow up and leave home is a proud moment. It is that moment, looking at what amounts to a decent human being and a productive member of society, that you realize all of those poopy diapers, sleepless nights, grocery store temper tantrums, and insane grocery bills might have been worth it.

Having a child grow up and leave home is also a traumatic event. It is beyond difficult having someone you've been majorly responsible for keeping alive for almost two decades move hundreds of miles away, where keeping them alive is no longer within your parental power or control.

"How did I do it?" you ask. I have an easy 15 step program for surviving your oldest child leaving home.

Step One: Spend the last three weeks before he leaves trying to remember all of the important life advice you've forgotten to tell him over the past 20 years. Then tell him at odd moments.

Step Two: When the day of departure arrives, stall by taking copious amounts of pictures.

Step Three:
Attempt to put on a brave face and fail miserably.

Step Four: Hug the complete stranger, official-looking government employee who just put your first-born child onto a bus...in spite of not being a "hugger."

Step Five: When the complete stranger, official-looking government employee asks you, "Ma'am, are you going to be okay?" assure her that you will, even though you suspect you won't.

Step Six:
Wave at your son as the bus drives away. Remember when that very same hand waving at you from the window first curled around your fingers as you held him.

Step Seven: Have a good cry in the bread aisle of the grocery store, because sandwich rolls come in packages of six. You  realize you are now feeding only five people.

Step Eight: Express gratitude when your youngest child fills his empty seat at the dining room table with a large stuffed bear wearing a baseball cap.

Step Nine: Write to him every single day while he is in basic training, because you never want him to be without mail. (And it is the best kind of therapy to write about the things he is missing, and how much you miss him, and all of the memories that constantly flood you about when he was small.)

Step Ten: Linger just a bit outside of his empty bedroom every time you pass it.

Step Eleven: Tell yourself you won't cry when you see him at Family Day, but fail miserably.

Step Twelve: Feel like you will bust wide open at his graduation. Those aren't tears. They're liquid pride.

Step Thirteen: Brag about him incessantly to people back home.

Step Fourteen: Have him sharpen all of your knives, reach high things, and fill all of the empty spaces with his confidence and new muscles and his presence when he visits home.

Step Fifteen: Hug him tight every time you see him. Every. Single. Time.

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