Virtual Voices
Austen Henry
Photo courtesy of Amy Henry
Austen Henry

Sending your ‘hand-shucked’ son off to college

Parenting

Dear Austen,

Next week you join the ranks of the college bound, all 25,000 of them heading to your particular school. I suppose that means there are 25,000 other mothers out there also preparing for their children’s departures, as we have yours these last couple of weeks or so.

At least three-quarters of them are more accustomed to this whole saying good-bye thing than I and the other quarter are, and I wish I had their email addresses so I could write and ask just how, exactly, this is done.

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I’ve never sent a boy off to college, you see, and it’s like scything my way through the Congo. All I see is the poisonous frog on the leaf in front of me; the path ahead is obscured by 1 million other unforeseen hazards. At least this, not being able to actually see the path, is what I am supposing.

You’re one of the half-dozen I hand shucked, as your dad says. You never spent five minutes in daycare or public school and only recently have spent your days amongst peers your own age. It’s shocking, I bet, to find a world of people who don’t, as a rule, spend their time reading dusty books and quoting dead people, but teenagers do indeed have their good points and I suppose dubstep and pink slime-filled hamburgers have their place in your raising as much as anything else.

I wanted to ask the Twitterverse this first, to get a general consensus and also to prove I’m not crazy, but what is it exactly a mother is supposed to say to her son on the cusp of his adulthood? We’re not swoony types, the kind to gush, but we’re also not among the frozen chosen of parents, so what does this letting go thing entail for the likes of us?

Sure, you’ll be home for weekends here and there, but it will be different, won’t it? You won’t need to toe lines or abide by curfews like in the old days. Other people will fill the advisory roles we’ve filled, and eventually you will ask another woman’s opinion before you ask mine—or instead of mine.

Unready as I feel, truth is, I’ve worked toward this day since 1994. I’ve taught you how to be a man the best I can: to open the car door, to separate your whites from your jeans, to eat the occasional cruciferous vegetable. Why now I’m speechless is a mystery; words have (with mixed results) so rarely failed me.

So I’ll just say this: Forgive me for naming you after a 19th century romance writer. I truly do love the tough and tender boy whose childhood ambition was to be “Zorro preacher.” I’m proud of you for being a Berean, for wanting answers, but also for having the kind of faith that never questions the most important parts. The most important parts are really what it’s all about; someday you’ll get that.

And, lastly, I love your stories. Keep telling them, even when your audience is more tired than a post-season Alaskan fisherman. Your stories will change the world. As, I pray, you will, too.

Love,

Mom

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.

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