Getting Me Ready For College
So as I am left alone with my thoughts I cant help but go back in time when my daughter, Bennett, was a baby. I think about how much changed in my life in an instant. Immediately things that seemed important became irrelevant. My entire thought process changed. Pam and I no longer though about us as a duo but as a family. I got to fall in love with my wife again. Not understanding the emotion, I didn’t know where all of this was coming from but somewhat resented such a disruptive change in the way I was selfishly living my life. I look back now and realize I was not only growing but growing up. For true growth some things must be left behind. I now know this but feeling my little girl is heading off to college I don’t feel at ease. I find I feel anxious! Not so much for her but for me. How will this impact my life and way of life. How emotionally I will handle all of the changes about to come my way.
As we have done through all of Bennett’s development there has been a plan. Rarely has anything with her been left to chance. Yes we have always prayed about her well being and for great things to occur in her life but we have always maintained a strategic road map for the goals set before us. For this college experience we simply are out of the loupe. Being a scholarship athlete many of our duty’s have been taken over by the school. This leaves me feeling like my daughter will find she doesn’t need me anymore. I assumed this role of control and responsibility 18 years ago and now the world is saying let go of the reigns, “Ive got this”! Really? How can I trust everything will be alright? As our time with her dwindles I cannot help wrestling with the inevitability that my little girl is leaving me. She is onto her own journey. I remember leaving for college and out into the big bright world on my own. Maybe we need to get away from our family and all the cynicism and jadedness to get a truly fresh take on the world and what it has to offer us and what we have to offer.
At this point, do I feel Bennett needs me to help her circumnavigate the University of Alabama? Of course not. However, as her dad for 18 years it is hard not to try to inject myself into everything she will be doing. Is that my own narcissism? I don’t think so. I look at it simply as trying to fend off any problems and any resulting pain that could come her way. This is what dads do! It is the habit I created many years ago and continue to foster each and every year. After all, I have gotten better and better at understanding her problems and how to fend off the small problems before they get to be big ones. I have gotten better at identification as well. I believe this is true because she has grown so much as a person we are seeing more and more eye to eye.
These last two weeks have been so much fun. Little things we have done together, lunch, shopping, ect gives me such insight into this special young lady. Her candor about certain things, her self assuredness about others. Her laughter and wittiness all remind me of myself when purity of thought and lack of failure were prevalent in my life. My prayer for her is to maintain that happiness. People flock to her now but when she gets to college she doesn’t recognize the fan base she will have, many who will look up to her and gravitate to her since her attitude is so amazing.
So we packed the Pathfinder to the roof with boxes of everything she needed and set out on our journey to Alabama. Driving and talking, listening and advising, I am sure she will be sick of me for a good while. But as our time together is coming to a close I feel as though I am listening and looking at her more. Making memories with my mind that I can draw on when I need to, I guess. I really cannot describe what I am feeling as I have never felt it before. With my job, I was lucky enough to be able to spend lots of time with Bennett and really get to know her. Hey, maybe that is what I am feeling. I have gotten so used to knowing everything about her that when I don’t know what she will be doing it makes me uneasy. I’ll get over it eventually.
Arriving in Alabama and getting her set up in her dorm I couldn’t help feeling out of place. Several of her roomates had already arrived. They engaged in conversation that was instantly unfamiliar to me. I busied myself with setting up her closets and hooking up TV’s ect just to justify my being there. As I did it finally hit me. She is going to be just fine. She doesn’t need me there doing what I was doing but it made both of us feel better just spending those last minutes together. I finished up and then asked her if she wanted to go to lunch. I think she was feeling my uneasiness. We headed out to Newk’s, a place I’d heard Pam and her talk about all last year. As I ordered I realized, I am on her turf now. She knows more about these places than I did and that would be happening more and more. As we ate she told me many things about her life on campus and what she hoped it would bring. I found myself somewhat spellbound as I listened and watched my little girl who had become this amazing young woman. I recognized she was anxious to step up to any responsibility asked of her. I realized she was going to be alright. Alright? Alright has never been enough for her. Exceptional is more what she is after and she is ready.
I took her back to her dorm and dropped her off. I asked if she would like to go to a late super since I was heading out first thing in the morning. She said sure. Now I could really feel my grip wanting to harden but really knew this was going to harder on me than her. I picked her up for dinner about three hours after we had eaten lunch. Obviously this meeting really wasn’t about food. At the dinner table I said my last prayer with her. Still asking if she needed anything else, I could feel our time slipping away. We ran by a store on the way back and got a few more things but honestly I don’t remember what she got. I just paid for it. After all, I felt like I was in a movie that was stuck on fast-forward. My time with her was slipping away. As I pulled in front of her building the hustle of others moving in was still going on at 10PM. I got out of the car, walked around it and embraced Bennett longer than I felt I ever had. It was so long I feared she recognized it. She let me. I think if I’d have hugged her longer she would have let me as well. She knew what I knew. We would never be the same. This experience will change us both. After a quick kiss, I told her I love her. I got in my car and drove out of sight.
That drive in the morning was the longest trip I felt I had ever driven alone. I’d driven, several times to Los Angeles, but this trip from Alabama to Orlando was an eternity. The cavernous inside of my empty Pathfinder was a constant reminder that my little girl has grown up and is on her own way. Now I must be a distant observer and let her welcome me into her world. I look forward to that day but for now I will smile and be proud of her; Proud she chooses to do this on her own with confidence and an independence that few kids are ready for. She has truly become a strong young woman. She must fly alone on this journey.
When I returned home that night I hugged and kissed my wife, popped the chilled champagne, and toasted “We did it”!