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Oldest Son left for college on Monday. He is now a junior. How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday that he was a nervous freshman, excited and terrified all at once. Now he is a confident young man with graduation a real possibility in less than two more years. He is looking at the real world now. For him, the real world means being an Army officer. He loves Texas A&M and he loves the Corps of Cadets. Maroon is now his favorite color. But he knows this is all just preparation for something bigger.

Second Son leaves for college tomorrow. He begins his freshman year at Rice. He has asked that I fix shrimp pesto pizza this evening. Missing Mom’s good cooking seems to be the number one concern. Since my parents are in Houston he isn’t even too worried about that since Grannie is more than happy to keep his belly filled. I am not sure if he is really confident or just oblivious to the challenges ahead. Of course, he is the one who at age two declared, “I have imagination, and I have a plan!” Right now college seems to him like an interminable adventure. The real world hasn’t come into view.

I think I am feeling like Oldest Son as I reflect on my parenting adventure. I will never stop being a Mom. I will never stop praying for my kids and fretting a little bit over their well-being. But as a second fledgling takes flight, the reality of an empty nest is looming. There is a real world out there that doesn’t include carpools, science fair projects, and nagging about messy rooms.

Of course, I still have two more chicks in the nest and six more years before the youngest makes the leap for college so there is still a good bit of intense parenting to be done yet. But the world beyond having kids at home has appeared on the horizon--exciting and terrifying all at once.

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