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College Prep Triggers Emotions For Mom

On January 10, 2007, I wrote a newspaper column that described how I freaked out when it was a year away from my son Jack’s bar mitzvah. A series of articles followed that described all the emotions that I experienced during this sacred rite of passage into adulthood.

  • Will he learn his Torah portion?
  • Will he feel closer to God?
  • How do we fit Hebrew school into an already crazy hectic schedule?
  • Who will be invited to his party?
  • Should I splurge on lox at the kiddish luncheon even though he doesn’t eat anything but plain bagels?
  • Will I find outfits for the entire family that coordinate with his necktie?
  • Will I be able to get through my speech in front of a congregation without weeping uncontrollably because my heart is bursting with pride?
  • Will I ever be able to walk again because my new high heels are too tight and my feet are killing me?
  • Will he finish his thank you notes by the time he gets his driver’s license?

That was five years ago, and now I feel that same panic again. Only this time I’m emotional because my first child is applying for colleges and he will be leaving home in, gulp, about seven months.

It’s the little things that set me off and make me want to cry. Like the other day, for example, I was at the grocery store and stalked a mom pushing her baby in a grocery cart. Her little one was snuggled inside a plush shopping cart cover, which I never understood because even though her baby is clean the blanket is now full of germs.  Anyway, I pretended to sniff the cantaloupes, but I was really cooing over her daughter’s adorable onesie pajamas and reminiscing how going to the supermarket used to be a field trip before my kids were in preschool and still took naps. When I finally got brave enough to approach her by the potatoes and say, “They grow up so fast, so enjoy this special time,” she must have thought I was a child predator because she ran out of the produce section and pretended to wait in the deli line until I passed by. It brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it was the onions.

Every time I see a mom hold her child’s tiny hand in the mall or balance a kid on her hip, I feel a pang of sadness and emptiness.  Yesterday my 17-year-old son walked to the driveway to get his backpack out of the car so that he could do his homework, and I asked him for a hug on the way out the door. He looked at me like I was nuts. Maybe I am.

I still carry a preschool photo in my wallet of me holding him on my lap because he didn’t’ want to take the picture by himself. Isn’t that the sweetest thing? If I knew I was getting my picture taken that day, I would have styled my hair and not worn an Indian print fleece vest, but whatever. My little guy wore a shy smile and a cute little buttoned down shirt. I carry portraits of him from the next two school years, sitting in a white chair all by himself, his hair full of loose copper curls.  Don’t get me started.

Anyway, I’m trying to hang in there and be strong. And as I wait up for him to get home from work tonight, I will pretend like I don’t miss him already.

What’s your advice for moms like me on how to emotionally prepare for when their teenager goes to college?