On realizing my little boy is about to graduate

My nephew is joining the thousands of senior high school students applying to colleges and universities. In fact, he and his parents are visiting a couple of colleges on the West Coast right now. Even though I have seen this boy grow up, I was still in a shock when the fact that he will be graduating in a couple of months and leaving soon for college hit my brain. My little boy! My baby!

When my brother first brought up the subject of college, I had to ask him what the boy was planning to study. “Science,” he said. “He’s thinking about going into medicine, maybe.” I drew my breath in at the announcement and then babbled, “Good! We already have enough writers!”

I’m not sure where that came from. I’m a writer and proud of it. The fact that there are two in this family who can claim the title hardly makes it a lineage. I did slap myself after those words escaped my mouth. A couple of days of self-examination later, I knew they didn’t come out of disdain. It was my Protective Mother Hen instinct speaking. We two writers are surrounded by cousins and siblings who chose to be teachers, business owners, nurses, cooks, doctors, secretaries, and engineers. They are the sensible and practical career choices, welcome and valued. The arts, well…not so, as the unspoken message goes. Our inclination for writing makes us oddballs in the family’s eyes. And as Protective Mother Hen, I didn’t want my nephew, my little boy, to feel as we two writers sometimes feel: not quite fitting with the rest, not quite like the rest. It’s not a comfortable feeling. I can understand Protective Mother Hen. She doesn’t want her boy to suffer.

But I know better than Mother Hen. I have to trust my boy. His parents have raised him to be a confident and capable young man. We cannot and should not shield him forever from stumbles and falls. Just because he didn’t choose the arts doesn’t mean he will be spared from not-so-good feelings. But as this writer has learned, he too will find strength and wisdom, and he will thrive. He will.

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