My oldest son was born on the 4th of July. Independence Day. That’s particularly fitting this year, since this is his last birthday before college. In fact, in several more weeks he will be independently living away from home in the dorm. Gradually his independence has crept up on me, but now it’s in full firecracker bloom. I will miss him terribly . . . even though his college is about 17 minutes away . . . because I won’t be able to count on seeing him every day. I won’t hear his voice every day unless I call him (he might call me sometimes). Things will change. It’s not such a bad thing really for either of us. It will be good to know that he can live on his own. It means that he’s been able to separate. And if I can stand it, it means that I can separate.
I took a graduate seminar in separation (honestly) a while ago. In the class we read about how children who had a good attachment to a parent in their earliest years would be better able to separate when the time came, since they had a more secure base. Because they were allowed to establish closeness and constancy early on, they had less separation anxiety and could move away from their parent to explore when interesting toys or objects were put just out of their reach.
I remember taking him to kindergarten. I’d walk him to the fence, and then start to drive out of the parking lot. He would stand at the fence waving with a big smile on his face. He wouldn’t go and play with the other kids until I was out of sight. I used to think he had just a touch of separation anxiety. Now I think he did the waving thing for me, to let me know he would be okay, that I could go home, not to worry.
Separation is bittersweet. Maybe you’ve recently had an Independence Day. Maybe you’re happy about it, maybe not. It could be awful, especially if you weren’t expecting or ready for the separation. When you change or transform, you will be moving away from people and things that were special to you, and/or those who weren’t good to you. Maybe your Independence Day is simply that you can stand on your own two feet and be okay. The more time there is to adjust, the better. What eases my separation anxiety, is to know that things can’t stay the same forever, and that if they did, there wouldn’t be growth.
I’ve polled other moms of college kids and I get the same answer when I ask them what’s the benefit of sending a kid off to college. Almost always, they say that they become appreciated more.
The character Pollyanna from a Disney movie said that if you look for the good in people, you will find it. I like to bend her words a bit to say that if you look for the good in a situation you will find it. Like a smoky, stinky, loud firework that bursts into a shower of sparkling, dancing lights . . .