I am the mother of a college student. It’s still hard to believe, even after flying nearly 3,000 miles across the country last week with my oldest son, Jack, to get him settled on the University of Virginia campus.
While this is a huge transition in both our lives, we experienced some really special moments on campus. In the aftermath of recent violence, the residents of Charlottesville and UVA students have come together in overwhelming numbers to show their solidarity for peace and their belief in the integrity of all people.
The same students who locked arms in concentric circles to protect the statue of Thomas Jefferson from a crowd of screaming, Tiki torch-bearing hooligans now hold signs declaring, “NO HOME FOR HATE HERE,” and are wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Not at my UVA.” Candlelight vigils and school-wide meetings to discuss diversity, sexual assault prevention and the school-wide honor code are giving students some very clear messages about life on this college campus. As a mom, I was grateful to see that.
On this trip, I was reminded once again that starting college is an abrupt end to childhood and the comfortable routines of home. As Jack quipped, “There’s nothing like dorm life to remind you to be grateful for the little things”—like private bathrooms with doors that lock, two-ply toilet paper, your comfy mattress back home and Mom’s cooking.
As we walked around campus, and especially on the night of the Fall Convocation ceremony attended by 3,600 freshmen, I remembered that special kind of energy and atmosphere that exists in college but not in other phases of life. And I’m excited that Jack will get to experience that feeling in this chapter of his life.
After helping Jack settle in, the plane ride home wasn’t easy. I was hit with the acute awareness that I have passed yet another phase of parenthood. First, there was the baby phase with what seemed like endless nights of nursing and diaper changes. Then came the elementary school phase with sweet, little voices singing during holiday programs and precious works of art covering the refrigerator. Soon after, it was violin practice, homework, school science projects and snacks for late-night study sessions.
The moments I may have taken for granted at the time are so precious to me now. Every single minute with my son holds an important place in my life. It’s been a wonderful, wild ride for 18 years, and I pray both Jack and I will have many more meaningful and fun years and moments ahead.
I know one thing for sure—parenthood is a huge, joyful, emotionally hard-at-times, heart-tugging adventure. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.