“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
“Oh, my gosh, Mom! You don’t have to make such a big deal out of it. It’s not like I’m going to college!”
I wiped a tear from my eye and replied, “When you’re a mom, you’ll see.”
Yesterday we dropped our daughter off for a week of music camp at college. It’s not like this is her first time away at camp, but this is the first time going to one on a college campus. And she’s not on any college campus, but THE college campus that holds our family’s heart—Penn State. And she’s not just staying in any dorm, but the same cluster where my husband spent his four years in Happy Valley. And she’s not in any room, but one overlooking the most photographed and sacred spot on campus—The Nittany Lion Shrine.
When I gazed out her dorm room window and soaked in the scene, I saw the intersection of the past and the future. In only four years we’ll be doing this for real.
Plus, this week of camp offers a tremendous opportunity for her to go deeper with her love of singing, learn from music experts, live a mini-college experience and meet new friends. I’m excited, but nervous for what’s in store.
Throughout registration, auditions and course selection, I wanted to jump up and down with excitement. I wanted to mother, question, offer my opinions and share concerns. But I knew that through the eyes of one fourteen-year-old girl, she'd counter such unacceptable displays of parental emotionalism and excitement with a firm, “Mom, STOP! You’re soooo embarrassing!”
So, I summoned up every ounce of inner strength to tamp it down. To be supportive, but not smothering. Interested, but not excited. Emotionally available, but overly emotional. Cool, but not detached. (It's exhausting work!)
To give her a little more breathing room, the boys (a.k.a. my husband and son) went outside to play on campus.
But, I knew my daughter's cool exterior masked the nervousness that lie beneath. Roommate concerns topped her list: “What if she’s 300 pounds and plays the tuba?” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) “What if she snores?”
“What if she’s really nice and you become friends,” I countered.
Once registration was taken care of, we all made a quick trip downtown for lunch. Then it was time to scoot back to the dorm for a quick stopover before the first session began. A pillow and suitcase on the formerly vacant bed announced her roommate had checked in, but was nowhere in sight. My daughter started to unpack and I rested on her bed watching and trying to hold my tongue—Let her do it. I planned to stay long enough to escort her to the first session so she wouldn’t have to walk alone. As if on cue her roommate rushed in the door, breathless from running around.
They briefly sized each other up. Introductions revealed they were the same age and sang the same voice part. All concerns quickly washed away and within moments they chatted easily.
It was time for me to go.
I gave my firstborn a quick hug goodbye and added, “You don’t have to call, but will you please text me before bed to let me know how it’s going, thumbs up or down?” I think she reluctantly agreed.
As I walked out the door, two more girls stopped by to introduce themselves. The four of them started talked and their excited voices carried me down the hallway, assuring me all would be OK.
True to her word, I got a text last night, giving a little update and asking a question. Then later, to my surprise, she called. “Mom, what’s the weather going to be like this week? I’m planning my outfits and I’m not sure which one to wear tomorrow.”
I chuckled to myself, glad to be needed, and passed on the 10-day forecast. With the important fashion details under control I asked, “How’d it go tonight?”
The past six hours came out in a flurry, “We had an ice cream social at the Creamery. And I was upstairs hanging out in my friends’ room listening to music. Tomorrow night all of us are going to pop popcorn and watch a movie, and Tuesday night we’re …”
My heart rested easy knowing my not so little girl was in a great place, growing, learning, laughing and making friends. For her dad and me it was a dress rehearsal for the big drop off day coming all too soon. These bittersweet experiences sharpen the eventual reality and primary purpose of parenting—our children's independence.
For now, I’m going to treasure this moment in my heart, adding it to the others I’ve collected along the way. Some easy to miss, others glaringly obvious, but each priceless payment for this sometimes thankless, often tiring and all-consuming job called motherhood.