One of the reasons we moved here was to have a screened porch. In our previous town we weren’t allowed to screen in our deck, and we thought that was a bit much.
We had lived in North Carolina’s version of Ellis Island – the place where most outsiders first land and learn to assimilate to the culture of the South. Once an appreciation for all things Southern is formed, you are granted a visa and allowed to move to other parts of the state. But I digress.
As a screened-porch owner, I have learned that bugs will fly in occasionally. This may not be a problem for some. I can’t bear the thought of something dying on my watch, so it bothers me terribly. I catch and release them, and in doing so I have learned a valuable lesson about change.
You can’t catch a bug when it first arrives on the porch. It is too agitated.
The next morning, though, after it has gone 12 hours without water or nutrition and is slowly dying, it is easier to catch. I trap the insect in the cup and immediately it gets a burst of bug adrenaline and flits anxiously, bumping against the cup. I take it outside, and with a seeming burst of joy it lifts and floats away.
This is change.
Often we wait until we are nearly dead inside to leave that relationship, job, location, or that case of senioritus. Even when we know we are taking the right next step, we are still so scared and nervous. Once over that hump of fear, we get to enjoy life’s next big adventure.
One of the big differences between the bugs I catch and us humans, is those insects are getting a straight shot of fear. For us people, our emotions are more nuanced.
Personally, I would prefer a straight shot of one emotion rather than the cocktail of emotions I am feeling right now, which requires one of those little pink umbrellas.
Like many of the mothers who have descended on our town this weekend, I have a son who is graduating. I smile at that fact. He is going on to the next phase of life after successfully completing this challenging phase of high school. I am proud.
If there was a contest for who loved college the most, I am confident I would either win or be first runner up. I could be a PR person for going to college. I hope my son loves it as much as I did. I am happy and excited for him.
He is leaving our home and living in a dorm in the fall. This past year he has made the idea of him moving out seem attractive at times. He is an adult ready to make many of his own decisions about his life and doesn’t always want his parents’ opinions. He knows so much. I am relieved.
He has done very well in high school where there have been caring teachers watching out for him and parents who provided structure. He is going to a big school where in many ways he will have to create his own structure and schedule to be successful. I am scared.
This is it.
Our family of four will forever be altered. If this next phase is successful, we will never live together full time as a nuclear unit. I don’t have two children anymore. I have an adult child and another one right on his heels. I have one year left of full time motherhood. There are no do-overs for the mistakes I have made. I can only pray my sons will forget them in the same way they forget to fold their clothes in the dryer. We are breathing some rare air as a family of four. I am sad.
When I cry at graduation, and I know I will cry, those tears will hold a mix of pride, happiness, relief, fear, sadness and any number of other emotions. I will quietly say in my head: “This is the right thing. You have so much for which to be thankful. You have done well. He is going to be fine. You are going to be fine. Parents know their children longer as adults than they do as children. Your relationship might exist for 40 more years. It’s going to be OK.” I call this talking myself off the ledge, as well as avoiding one of those really embarrassing sobs usually reserved for funerals.
If you too have a child graduating this year, congratulations. If you are a mom, happy Mother’s Day. If you are experiencing change and all the emotions that accompany it, know that something good might be just around the corner. If your day held the ROYGBIV of emotions, please join me in sipping something with a little pink umbrella.
Mary Carey lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, two sons and two dogs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org