I bet whoever coined “bittersweet” was a mother watching her offspring venture from home.
Listen closely. You’ll hear the buzz of parents bidding farewell to children headed to college.
We rejoice. We lament. We’re nervous and scared. We’re excited and confident, too. Proud parents, we are.
And we’re wondering. Not just about where they are, who they’re with, what they’re eating, are they safe and whether they’re studying enough – or at all.
We also wonder about us, minus children and with marriages that have revolved nearly exclusively around building career, home and family. We wonder about our new normal.
On Wednesday, we dropped off our only child, Teeghan, at the N.C. A&T State University Honors College dorms. She is starting her freshman year as a pre-med student in the school’s Early Assurance Scholars Program, which carries a direct admission into the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine.
Yes, precious cargo!
My “feisty” self fist-bumps my husband and says, “We’re one and done!” But next to her is the me who isn’t quite ready to be done, who wants to turn time back. The me who has become obsessed with issuing random “now, remembers” since summer sped to August.
I’ve also spent the past year or so reimagining me: morning laps in a pool instead of carpool, time to write a stage play and create a greeting card line I dream of, and some DIY projects for her daddy and me.
It didn’t hit Yvette Willard so soon.
After a monstrous college admissions process in which her daughter, Kelsey, 18, auditioned her way into a choice of fine arts programs, there was financial aid to navigate and a summer of plays for her budding thespian.
The clincher: a scene sans Kelsey’s comedic granny character in “The Addams Family,” her last show before starting at Western Carolina University, when Gomez sings the “Happy/Sad” song.
“It’s been emotional,” said Willard, a friend since our girls met as pageant contestants in 2004 and later became classmates at Enloe High School in Raleigh. “He was losing his little girl. It hit me hard.”
We laughed, too – at ourselves and our daughters’ promise they’re “not idiots” because, well, “I’m 18, not 2!”
“It’s like ‘today requested, tomorrow fired!’ ” Willard said, echoing another song lyric. “She thinks she’s ready. I think she is, too. I’m excited to see her at Christmastime, excited to see the changes.”
Both of Rhonda and Cedric Nelson’s sons will move into N.C. A&T Saturday with sights set on business and law.
Born 15 months apart, Trevor, 19, is a recent graduate of Wake Early College with an associate’s degree. He enters A&T as a junior. Cameron, 18, is a graduate of Millbrook High School.
“A lot of kids don’t make it,” said Rhonda Nelson, who hosted a Fourth of July celebration for her sons’ accomplishments. “We’ve prayed they’ll reach this day. I have given them the ammunition to go out into the world, spread their wings and be positive, productive citizens. It’s what we work toward, and it’s a big step.
“I’m proud of them. I’m just trying to figure out what’s next, for me.”
Nelson applauds her husband’s constant presence and involvement as their sons’ Little League coach, business mentor and world-travel guide.
“It’s a comfort in sending them off to school,” she said. “We’ve prepared them and, wow, the day has come.”
Ask Angela Bradley: It doesn’t get easier.
Her oldest son, Tafari, is a senior at Western Carolina. Her youngest, Haki, a 2016 graduate of Heritage High School in Wake Forest, officially started his freshman year Tuesday to study biology as a scholarship athlete at Catawba College in Salisbury. Tafari goes back Aug. 22.
“That’s when it will hit me,” Bradley said, recalling the utter sadness she felt when she and husband Derek dropped him off his freshman year and during Haki’s six-week football camp this summer. “I just miss them so much.”
And she worries.
“It’s different for us with black males,” Bradley said, pointing to inherent fear of police shootings of unarmed black men and street crime that can make lessons from home matters of life and death. “Society doesn’t see them as cute little boys anymore. They see them as men.
“But I know they have the foundation,” Bradley said. “They have what they need.”