Here’s the story of how my family went from a family of four to a family of three-ish.
How it all Started
It all began back in 2001. I was a senior at Auburn University, married and pregnant. My son was born just a few months shy of my husband and me graduating from college. (Our running joke is that he is so smart because he had months of college before he was even born.) After graduating, we grabbed up our son and our very modest belongings and headed off to make the life that we now know.
A couple of years later, we had a daughter. By then, we were just a tad bit better at being parents than we were when our son entered our lives. As the years progressed, we somehow grew from young, dumb college kids to full-fledged parents.
Now, let’s fast forward a little bit. Well, a big bit. (There are way too many memories and highlights to put in one post. We’ll save those for another day.)
The Plot Twist
I knew from the day he asked me for the first $35 for a college application that he had a trick up his sleeve. Yes, I’d been preparing for him to fly the coop once he graduated from high school, but nothing quite compares to the day that it actually happens. See, my family is close. Really close. So, the mere thought of going to a restaurant and hearing the hostess say, “Fluker, party of three” as opposed to “Fluker, party of four” sent my anxiety through the roof!
At first, I played it cool. I kept my feelings in check so that I wouldn’t ruin his senior year. We celebrated college acceptances, ACT scores, scholarship offers, and the like. I smiled through the tears as he made The Decision, though I must say that it was much easier to smile since he chose our Alma Mater as the place to seek his degree.
Then came the series of sappy social media posts. It was much easier for me to type my way through my feelings than to express them aloud. Social media gave me a way to express my feelings and get the virtual support I needed to get through what was coming.(I owe my friends so much for putting up with my foolishness! Y’all are the real MVPs.)
Next came the day that we had been preparing him for his entire life. The day we dropped him off at college. Over the years, we invested lots of time and energy teaching him to live independently to be ready for college life. We taught him about self-respect and finances and cleaning and treating people right and how life’s not fair and about hard work and being a good citizen and well, you know, all the things that parents teach their children. He’s shown us time and time again (with a few snafus along the way) that he’s been listening. He has studied hard in high school, participated in school and community activities, held leadership roles in organizations, worked a part-time job, surrounded himself with good friends (heck, I’ve even picked up some good friends through him), and just has been an overall good kid. He is prepared. He has the foundation and support that he needs to do well in life, if he chooses. My husband and I frequently high five each other for our efforts. It’s been hard work.
But, you know one thing we forgot in the midst of preparing our son to move away for college? We forgot to prepare ourselves! We forgot to start thinking about being separated from him for the longest periods of time. We forgot to start thinking about how it would feel when he practically takes care of himself (aside from frequent calls for cash). We forgot to prepare ourselves for him deciding what, when, or if he eats or sleeps. We forgot to prepare ourselves for the empty chair at the dinner table. We forgot to prepare ourselves for the empty bedroom (never mind that I’ve already turned it into my office. LOL) We forgot to prepare ourselves for the empty parking space in our driveway. We forgot to prepare ourselves for the empty spaces in our hearts that would have to settle for phone calls and monthly (if we’re lucky) appearances from our college kid.
The Silver Lining
Lucky for us, that was our practice run. We have another chance to get this right! We have another kid in our home who is loving (her words, not mine) being the “only child” and getting all the attention. She loves rubbing it in her brother’s face that she gets the parents all to herself! She’s a high school senior this year, and while we are very busy preparing her much the same as we did big brother, we also keep tucked in the back of our minds that she will one day flee the nest. Maybe this time, we won’t be so taken aback when we return home after dropping her off at college.
So, until the time comes for baby girl to flee the nest, I think my husband and I will prepare ourselves by . . . wait, no we won’t! We are going to soak up every single minute of baby girl’s senior year and save the sappy, sad, woe-is-me narrative for another day. And, we’re going to patiently wait for the phone calls and visits from our son and enjoy those moments. We’re going to sit back and watch the fruit of our labor and fly in for reminders and remedial sessions as needed when they approach obstacles and challenges along the way.
Because that’s what parents do. We take the training wheels off, put the safety helmet on, and watch our kids roll off into the life that they make for themselves. We celebrate their successes, and we make teachable moments out of their missteps. At times, it may feel as if they don’t need us as much, but we know in the back of our minds that they will always need us. And even though “Fluker, party of two” is in our near future, we know that “Fluker, party of four” will always be in our hearts.