I didn’t know how worried I could be about a child before they were even born. I didn’t know how much I could love him before I had even held him in my arms. I had no idea that I could be happy when a nurse woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that I needed to old this new baby because he was inconsolable without me.
Over the years I have been shocked by the power all of my children have held over my heart. I had no clue how much fun I could have sitting down to lunch alone with my son or daughter, talking about their thoughts on the world around them.
I didn’t know how much my heart would break the first time one of their friends caused them real heartbreak.
I have loved every minute of being a parent but I was not prepared for it and seventeen years later there are still surprises around every corner.
Blaise, my oldest, was just given an appointment to his first choice, the United States Military Academy – West Point. When my husband brought the envelope in from the mail we could tell from its heft that it was an appointment and my heart simultaneously jumped and sank.
Blaise has worked so hard for this, not just during the application process or even just during his high school years, but starting in middle school when he began preparing in earnest to get into the most prestigious colleges. And though he is not one of the students that knew from a young age that he wanted to attend a service academy, the thought he put into this decision cannot be doubted.
It began with a seed planted by Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. As Blaise sat in the car beside me, listening to the audiobook, a light went on inside him and he made a decision to live his life in the way he wanted. He decided to go for his biggest dreams and not be hemmed in by what he thought others expected of him.
That was the first step on his path to West Point. This came in the unlikeliest of places – the stunningly beautiful Cornell University campus. We had visited West Point the day before and he was not convinced. He was sure what he was looking for was a more traditional university experience so we had headed to Cornell.
When I saw the cute little, short-skirted coed who would be giving us our tour I thought, “Well this is it. He is going to love this place.”
But halfway through that tour he turned very serious and when it came to a close and we were given the option of doing a tour of some of the engineering buildings, he declined.
As we were walking off campus, he told me that he knew what he wanted. He wanted to go to a service academy. The tour at Cornell had convinced him that he wanted the “whole person development” that is offered by the academy and he wanted to serve our country. He said this without a shade of doubt.
Since that day he has worked every day on the process of getting into the academies. Even as I write this he is preparing for our trip to visit the Air Force Academy so he can make a more informed decision about the service in which he will serve.
So, I was happy when I saw the envelope. I was proud that his efforts have been rewarded. But at the same time my heart sank. Suddenly I realized that not only will my son be leaving my house in a few short months for university but that when he does, he will return as a soldier. And of course the realities of the dangers he faced hit and my heart flipped about with worry.
Even after seventeen years, I am taken aback by the emotions that come over me when my children are involved. I knew I wanted children. I knew I would love them with all of my heart and I knew there would be days when my heart would break or leap for joy but I didn’t know and am still surprised to find that all of these emotions can occur simultaneously.