By Roxanne Smith
Our only child Jakob is a freshman in college. Andy and I just returned from visiting him at his college, two hours away from where we live. I wish I could say it was a wonderful weekend. It wasn’t. It turned out to be really difficult.
I wish I could say it was a wonderful weekend. It wasn’t.
I had every intention of going and being a blessing to our son. I miss him very much and have been looking forward to Parent’s Weekend since he left home in August! Instead, midway through the weekend I turned in to a weepy, angry version of myself. Ouch!
Jakob wasn’t in a great place…he’d had an infected socket after wisdom teeth extraction, and he was in pain following an oral surgery debridement down to his jaw bone. Ouch!
I wasn’t in a great place…I have chronic pain, and it takes enormous effort for me to travel in our adapted van. I had to attend “Parent Weekend” activities lying down on my cot. To make things worse, I didn’t sleep well AND no one talked to me at the mixing events. Ouch!
Andy was in a better place than the two of us, but he’s been missing Jakob a lot in our transition to the “Empty Nest” and wanted nothing more than family harmony. He didn’t get a pure version of that. Another Ouch!
Through a set of miscommunications we ended up spending the afternoon in our hotel room instead of with our son.
We were able to attend the college’s Music Festival. However, Jakob, who plays clarinet in Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, wasn’t able to perform because of his healing tooth socket and I of course had to lie down.
I have to admit that my expectations were part of the problem. I wanted to meet Jakob’s new friends. He tried inviting two of them to visit our hotel room, but they had other plans. We stopped in at his dorm briefly, but it was fairly empty.
I have to admit that my expectations were part of the problem.
The marketing materials which had been flooding our inbox showed pictures of parents and their students smiling and laughing together. The college was providing events such as flag football, rock wall climbing, and a tailgate dinner for the families before a volleyball game. It seemed like they were really promoting community in this small Midwest liberal arts college.
That sure wasn’t our experience. It seemed that most parents who came for the weekend took their son or daughter away from campus instead of doing the scheduled events on campus. Those who stayed didn’t seem all that interested in mixing with other families.
So rather than dealing graciously with my frustration and disappointment, I let some angry words fly. I was crying, Jakob was crying, and Andy was trying to make peace. What a way to bless my son.
I was crying, Jakob was crying, and Andy was trying to make peace. What a way to bless my son.
I started sensing God prompting my spirit. “Roxanne, stop for a minute! Listen to Me! You don’t want to blame Jakob, not really; you don’t want to burden your son.”
God helped me break through the emotional pain I was feeling to blurt out an apology. It wasn’t the success or failure of Parent’s Weekend that mattered; it was the relationship with our son. Where Jakob lived and what he would do as an adult would change over the coming years…but our love for each other would be the true goal.
It wasn’t the success or failure of Parent’s Weekend that mattered; it was the relationship with our son.
And frankly, life is always harder to figure out when disabling chronic pain is involved. Jakob said halfway through the weekend, “It’s just so much easier for other families!” It’s true: how do you interface with the able-bodied world when you have to lie down 22 hours per day??? We know how to be a family at home…we need time to figure out how to be a family away from home.
We know how to be a family at home…we need time to figure out how to be a family away from home.
On Sunday we attended church together and received Holy Communion. I was incredibly aware of how flawed/imperfect I am. But I was able to receive God’s grace. Even though I blow it, God keeps working in my life and helping me to grow.
After church I told Jakob that I need God’s help more this autumn than I have in a long time. I told him I was glad that I knew where to go to receive God’s strength. I told him I would try to keep my expectations in check, next time we visit him. When we said goodbye, the air was clear between us.
Even though I blow it, God keeps working in my life and helping me to grow.
That’s what grace is. Being an imperfect human being and having God say He loves me anyway. Experiencing relational strains and then having God come in and bring forgiveness and a fresh start. And I am grateful.
The featured image was taken by Elisa Schulz and used with permission. To see more of Elisa’s work see her Facebook page. Elisa is a local photographer who enjoys working with families to capture special moments. She loves to photograph God’s creation. You will always find Elisa with her camera!