They walk like kings and queens, relishing their soon-to-be freedom. They soak up the compliments on their achievements, seemingly ready to conquer their new school, make new friends, climb to the top of the hill again. They make friends quickly at orientation, figure out how to switch classes before I have even figured out how to read their schedule, confidently take you across the maze of campus to the next session, whiz through BB&B choosing sheets, comforters, message boards, organizational tools. You hold back the tears and the sadness and embrace their new selves. You cheer them on and hope you don't miss them too much.
Until they stand in the kitchen at midnight, crying and telling you how much college is going to suck. How they don't want to leave their friends, their past, their buddies. How they cannot possibly face these challenging new classes, live in a 12 x 12 "cage" and succeed at anything. It is all overwhelming.
And you want to shrink them down to a 5YO size, put them in your lap, cuddle them like you did before they went off to kindergarten, and tell them that it will all be ok. And you'll always be here for them. That life is full of choices and this is but one. If it works out, it will be great. And if this choice doesn't work out, another will come along, and that will be great.
Instead you hug them, cry with them, point out the benefits of going to college now with Facebook and Skyping and cell phones, not like I did, I had to WRITE SNAIL MAIL every single day to my best friend. I couldn't afford to call him. [this was unfathomable to the Teen] And I missed him like someone had cut off my right hand. But I did make new friends - friends I have kept for 25 years, even after moving around the world and back. You try to explain that their life is a big pot of mixing in ingredients, simmering the old, adding the new, making this great creation, growing this wonderful person. You admit it is scary and a little bit sad, but mostly an awesome opportunity.
And you send them to bed with hugs and reassurances, and then cry yourself to sleep wondering if you have done the right thing, given them the right tools, loved them enough so that they will know they can ALWAYS come home to Mama.