My son didn’t want the suitcase I put out for him. I thought it would be convenient, put out a suitcase and just drop in things as we found what needed to go to his dorm room. He had different ideas, and he didn’t want that ratty old suitcase. It will go to the dump. And I need to back off. He sorted his bedroom things when I wasn’t looking, putting away his treasures into the new under-bed storage bin that we purchased. I’d pictured going through them together, me helping him figure out what to keep and what to let go. But this is better. He is owning his life in a way that matters. He’s leaving two shelves of things in the closet. He’s also leaving things in the dresser. For both locations I have instructions to leave them alone. And I will. He may discover he wants some of them later. Or maybe he won’t. I left things with my parents when I went off to school. So did his older sister.

He did let me fish out half a dozen pairs of worn out or discarded shoes from the back of his closet. He took a picture before I put them into a box to be donated/discarded. I stood there, box in hand and watched him for a moment. The weight of leaving his old life behind rounded his shoulders a bit. I could see it in his face as well, but for once I did not dig or try to get him to tell me about it. His internal world needs to stop being my job. It is me he needs to get away from, because the patterns of childhood are too strong for both of us. I’ve spent so long being his helper, translator, guide that I don’t know how to stop. And he can’t become the adult he needs to be unless I stop. Which is why he needs to move out.

I’ve sent a child off to school before, you’d think the practice would make this easier. I should know how to step off the stage of my child’s life and lurk in the wings. I don’t get to be a player any more, except for emergency need. Why didn’t I recognize that this was the transition ahead of us? Surely I should have recognized the push-pull of the past few weeks and been less thrown by it. Now I suspect that each launching will be its own kind of difficult. Each child struggling and growing in their own way, and me thrown off balance in unique ways for each one. This shouldn’t surprise me since they’ve been different from each other since day one. We’re right on the brink, ready to launch, only two more days at home, then we drop him off.