Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Back-to-School Season

It seems like everyone I know has a child going to college this year.  I guess it's just the age I am right now ... after all, Hannah would be starting her third year of college, and Bethany will be going next year.  So I suppose it makes sense that so many of my friends have been saying good-bye to their children over the last couple of weeks.

You know, I really ought to take a hiatus from Facebook during the month of August.  I must confess, I have a really hard time reading all the posts from moms whose kids are heading to college.  For many of them, it's almost as if their child has died.

Last year about this time I read a Facebook conversation between two moms that really bothered me.  I mean it really bothered me.  I literally lost sleep over it, which was silly, but then it doesn't take much to interrupt my sleep.  I wanted to write about it at the time, but was honestly too bothered by it to even write a blog post about it.  I always try to include something positive when I write, and I just couldn't figure out how to put a positive twist on this.  But a year has gone by, and maybe ... just maybe ... I can do it now.

So here's the basic conversation.  This is between Mom #1 (whose youngest son just went to college) and Mom #2 (whose daughter just got married).  Imagine reading this through the eyes of a parent who has lost a child.

Status posted by Mom #1:  "This is way harder than I ever thought."

Mom #2:  "Not sure what you're talking about, but if it's about your kid being gone, I TOTALLY AGREE!  I'm fighting every day not to be curled up on the floor in the corner."

Mom #1:  "I hate coming home because the house is so empty and quiet.  It's the stupid stuff that gets his car not being in the driveway, or his clothes not being in the laundry.  It's killing me!"

Mom #2:  "I know what you mean.  I cried like a baby today over shampoo.  I was thinking I needed shampoo and I wondered if 'Susie' did and then I realized I wasn't going to be buying her shampoo anymore. Something like that happens almost every day!  I never realized how final everything would seem once she got married."

Mom #1:  "I did that over a Pizza Roll coupon.  Realized I didn't need it because no one here eats Pizza Rolls anymore.  Cried like a baby.  I am trying, but it just sneaks up on you and then you are done."

Mom #2:  "Yep, me too.  Everyone keeps telling me to find something else to do, but it's just not that easy."

Son of Mom #1:  "Mom, I would love it if you would buy me Pizza Rolls."

I am not making this stuff up.  I know it might seem like it, but I'm not.  I did change the names to protect the innocent, but this is the conversation nearly verbatim.

You know what bugs me about this conversation?  If Mom #1 is really missing her son, she can text him, call him, or even Skype with him, which is the next best thing to talking face to face.  She can hop in her car and go visit him for the weekend (he was only a couple hours away from home).  She can clip that Pizza Roll coupon, go buy the Pizza Rolls, put them in the freezer, heat them up in the microwave, and serve them to him when he comes home in a few weeks.  He clearly is looking forward to coming home and eating some!

If Mom #2 is really missing her daughter, she can give her a call and arrange to meet her for lunch and a pedicure.  They can plan a shopping day together, and maybe even cook Christmas dinner together.  And, you know, I'm sure her daughter wouldn't mind if she picked up a couple bottles of that shampoo and dropped them by her house sometime.  Someday, this daughter might even give Mom #2 a beloved grandchild!

These Moms don't see how blessed they are!

A mom who has lost her child can do none of those things.  When we said good-bye to our children, it wasn't with the knowledge that we'd be seeing them again in a couple of weeks.  We knew there would be no more laundry to do, no more favorite foods to buy, no more shampoo to purchase.  Their car is no longer in the driveway, and their bedroom is quiet and empty.  No texts, no phone calls, no Skyping, no Christmas dinners, no grandchildren.

So where am I going with all this?  I guess I'm just making the point that we bereaved parents are different than other parents.  We think differently and our perspective on life is different.  This is never more apparent to me than during "back to school" season.  Why do parents spend so much time and energy bemoaning the fact that their children are growing up?

I'm still having a hard time trying to put a positive twist on this post.  I guess you can tell that this is something I really struggle with.  In fact, I ran across a quote from Sheila Walsh the other day that I think can be applied to me in this case ... "One of the hardest things for Christian women is to tell the truth about ourselves; we seem to feel obliged to appear triumphant."  Ouch!  She totally pegged me with that one.

Last year, when I angrily read this Facebook conversation to Brad, and told him all the snarky comments I was thinking about adding, he reminded me that these Moms just didn't (and couldn't) understand.  To them, their children leaving home (even if it was only for a short time) was the worst thing that had ever happened to them.  It was my responsibility to extend grace to them, and (gasp!) even pray for them.

I'm working on it.  I really am.  I've tried to be more understanding during this "back to school" season.  And with God's help, I'm doing better.  After all, next year it will be me sending my girl off to college!  And right now, I'm thinking I'm going to be very grateful for cell phones and Skype!!  :)

Oh...I almost forgot!  Here's the obligatory first day of school picture from this morning.  I love this girl!


Kerry said...

That's right, Jill...thanks for sharing this. We shouldn't be quiet about being HAPPY about our girls getting to experience everything God has for them...

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing. Everything you've said in this blog entry makes perfect sense.Sometimes we need to see things from a different perspective or in this case, from a better perspective.

Melanie said...

I get this. I am so very unsympathetic concerning the "empty nest" syndrome.
I have to keep telling myself to ignore it and extend grace.