Monday, August 2, 2010

Is She Ready?

My oldest, Kate, leaves for college today. Early, I know, but she’s taking a 2-hour course in the wilderness of the north woods of Wisconsin, so she leaves this afternoon.

Me. A mother with a child in college. How did that happen?

How did I go from changing her diapers, singing little churchy songs with her, teaching her the ABCs, and sending her off to kindergarten to . . . this?

I know how it happened, of course. Through lots of years of hard work (on her part and mine), through lots of life lessons, through some tears, and through lots of laughter we pushed and pulled and gave and took to get to this day. Teamwork, that’s what it was.

But today the question I ask is not so much how did this happen? but is she ready?

I wonder, as I’m falling asleep at night, if I’ve remembered to tell her everything I need to tell her. About not taking Motrin on an empty stomach . . . or about how many cups are in a pint . . . or about how some friends will come and go and that’s o.k. even though it’s hard . . . or about boys.

(Scratch that last one. I have never known and still do not, after 25 years of marriage, know much about boys. She’ll have to figure that one out on her own.)

But, really, I often find myself these days wondering is she ready?

The squirrely kid who wore sweatpants and athletic shirts and who barely combed her hair through her entire 7th grade year. The girl so smart she can manage AP Calculus but who can’t find her way across town without a map. The girl who loses track of time because she’s engrossed in a book. My absentminded professor.

Is she ready?

Yes, she is. You know how I know?

Last week. That’s how I know.

Last week, B and I took a little trip across the pond. (Have you heard? *wink, wink*) Before we left, we gave her a few instructions that were, basically this: Go to work. Feed the dog. Take care of the house.

There might have been a couple of other things on the list, too, like Make-sure-you-get-your-car-out-of-the-driveway-before-the-guys-come-to-seal-the-blacktop-on-Thursday. Big deal. We knew she could handle that.

But some things came up that weren’t on the list, and these are how I know she’s ready.

First came the air conditioning. A few days into our trip I decided to splurge and call home to see how Kate was doing. (Believe me, at $1.29 a minute, this is indeed a splurge.) She was fine. A little lonely, but we knew that would be the case. Toward the end of our call she happened to mention that it was really hot in the house because one of our a/c units didn’t seem to be working.

What?! Panic sets in from Scotland.

As we talked, we figured out that it could possibly be the batteries in the thermostat, so Kate went to buy some batteries (I’m notorious for never having batteries on hand—drives my husband crazy), and called us back. All was well. She managed to remove the thermostat from the wall, replace the batteries, and put the thermostat back on the wall. It worked.

Small test compared to what was to come.

Next was the flat tire. One day, Kate was just pulling into the driveway when our neighbor came over and said, “Kate, did you know you have a flat tire?” The email we got was hysterical.

“Mom! Dad! What do I do?!”

We instructed her, via email, how to call AAA to get someone to come change her tire (Just as an aside, can I just say that at least once a year we get our money out of our AAA dues? It really is a good investment.), and then told her she would need to go to the tire store to have the flat tire fixed.

She did this too, without any problem or complaint. Unfortunately the tire was shredded, so she waited for us to get home to buy a new one, but that was O.K.

Next test, sick sister.

The day before we were to get home, Maggie was scheduled to come home from camp. We knew they would be home alone for about 24 hours, but we knew they would be fine.

What we didn’t count on was Maggie being sick. I really should have thought this one through because Maggie is sick every year when she comes home from camp. She’s allergic to horses, and there are lots and lots of horses at this camp. Even though she stays far away from the horses, and even though she takes medication for asthma and allergies while she’s there, she still gets sick. Every year. Without fail.

This year she picked up a little cold toward the end of camp, and that just made her asthma and allergies even worse so that by the time she got home she could barely breathe. I talked to her on our last night in England and heard this little voice saying, “Mommy? I don’t feel well at all.”

Can you just hear my heart breaking?

I could hear in Maggie’s voice that she was having a lot of trouble breathing, so I offered a few suggestions, none of which were very helpful. We then talked to Kate and tried to help her decide whether or not she needed to take her sister to the hospital for a nebulizer treatment. It was horrible, being on the other side of the Atlantic, not knowing how to help your sick child or her sister who had never had to take anyone to the doctor before.

But here’s the thing. Kate just listened to our instructions. She didn’t panic. She didn’t cry. She just listened and wrote down what we said and then I’m sure she prayed.

Thank goodness for my friend, Amy, who came over later that night with cold tablets for Maggie which helped clear up some of her congestion and, more importantly, helped her sleep that night.

But Kate? She didn’t sleep much at all. She assumed my role and listened for her sister’s breathing through the wall, hoping and praying she wouldn’t have to take her to the doctor the next morning.

Is she ready? Oh, yes, she’s ready. Kate assumed more responsibility last week than any of us expected her to have and certainly more than she had ever had in her life. And she handled every test that came her way with such grace, such great ability, that (don’t tell her this) I was actually a little surprised.

She passed each test with flying colors.

Thankfully, Maggie was better the next day because Kate was about to handle yet one more test.

I’ll tell you about that tomorrow because it deserves a post of its own.



  1. Forget college; she's ready for the real world! (Plus, she's probably as smart as a college grad anyway!)

    As a side note, northern WI is an awfully long way to go for a 2-hour course!

  2. Everyone knows my favorite quote, "The days are long but the years are short." When your kids are young, some days seem like they go on and on and you just long to fall into bed at night. And then.... they are gone and you fall into bed with silence in your home. But, that is the way it is supposed to be and thanking God that your kids have grown into mature, able-to-be-on-their-own adults. Enjoy your blogs.

  3. Darn it, Shelly! I'm crying at my desk again!!

    I just visited my college town over the weekend, which brought up all sorts of memories. So that's the mindset I'm in as I read your post.

    She's ready. (Obviously. Wow!) And she's not. (Because who can ever be truly ready for LIFE?) But she'll be just fine! And so will you. :)

  4. What a test for her, that she passed with flying colors. Maybe it was God's way of getting her Mamma ready more than anything. She proved herself to you and your family. :) What a great kid.
    I have one of those absent minded professor types who wears sweats and never brushes her hair, and is always reading. Your post gives me hope for her future.

  5. Lovely post Shelly! As my youngest starts high school this month I find myself wanting to stop the clock for awhile - it goes soo fast.

  6. My son will be living in a house with 3 other guys this year instead of the dorm he lived in last year. So I, too, have been asking myself "Is he ready?" all over again, on a different level this time. He'll be a little further removed from the land of ease where someone else takes care of things and little closer to the land of complete responsibility. It's all a little unnerving for me, but I've seen him grown even this summer. So I also know he is ready, or at least as ready as anyone is at the beginning of it all. I know some of the lessons have to be learned through trial and error. And I hate that for him. But that's how it is.

    I know your daughter will do grand at college. You have obviously taught her well and prepared her. I'll be praying for you!

  7. This makes me cry. why? Because I've got my own squirrelly kids who hardly comb their hair, won't keep their shoes on and can't stay dressed! And, it goes so fast but this makes me know there is hope!

    Also, how many cups are in a pint???


  8. I just got home to all these great comments. Thanks, everyone! My husband and I were talking this morning about whether we're "sad" or not, and we decided "sad" isn't really the feeling. It's more like melancholy that we're entering a new phase of life.

    God give me strength! :)

  9. This post choked me up, too. Partly because I hear the (much deserved) pride in your voice. You have done an AMAZING job with her. . . and that little college down the road is going to really be blessed by her enrollment.

    But, I also got choked up because it's so exciting and SCARY to hear and read stories like this. You've achieved what so many of us dream of. . . independent, confident kids who can take on the world. (Or, at least deal with the world while her parents are on the other side of it!)

    Can't wait to hear more about her, and her exciting future.

    . . .and when she figures boys out, could you give her my number?

  10. It sounds like you've done something right in raising that girl!

    I can totally relate to your feelings of her going away. I went through it with my oldest when she moved away to school a couple of years ago.

  11. Kate will do amazingly well. You've done an outstanding job with all of your girls.

    My oldest son just bought a house and moved in. THAT is weird!