Anticipation is building: Eldest arrives this afternoon for her spring break. I cannot tell you how much I have missed her. Last year I went up to visit at least once each semester. This year I haven't seen her except when she came home at Christmas. And while phone calls and texting keep us loosely in touch (I am a far cry from a helicopter parent), it's not the same as being able to wrap your arms around your girl and give her a good hug.
Two years ago, when Eldest got into college, people asked if I was worried about sending her off to school so young. I suspected they thought I hadn't thought this through. But if you know Eldest you know early college was her idea, and you also probably knew which college she'd attend even before she applied. In fact, if you really know Eldest, you would have predicted this when she was about three.
And then last week, while watching Kiss Me, Kate, the contrast between Eldest's chosen path and the path of her age-mates struck me full-force. For the leads in the cast were all Eldest's age. They were neighborhood kids with whom she'd been in productions when she was nine. And they were still here, still living at home, just getting ready to go off to college, having this last great performance as a send-off.
I thought of Eldest, slogging through problem sets and being a 'learning assistant' for a math/comp sci class and trying to find a job that will look good on her resume for that pivotal after-sophomore-year summer. I thought of her doing grocery shopping so that she doesn't have to pay for a full meal plan, and of how she tries to cheer up her overworked friends in her most-intense college. I thought of the choices she's made for activities on campus -- wise choices -- to balance her social life with her academics. And I thought, That's a lot. That's a lot for a kid who isn't even 18.
It is a lot. And yet it's the lot she's chosen. Selfishly, I miss those extra years of hugs and late-night chats that might have been mine, had she followed the usual track. But wanting to hold her is no reason to hold her back. I'll be happy to hold her this week, though. And I hold her in my heart, always.