My Son’s First Steps…on a College Campus


My son and my husband walked a few feet in front of me. As I watched my son walk, ironically, I stopped in my tracks. We are on a college campus…for him. 

My son is a junior in high school. He is as smart as a whip but does not have the grades or the accomplishments to show it. He is not one who has a college “he has to” go to or a field “he has to” major in. He’s pretty much at square one and has a lot of narrowing down to do! 

On a recent Sunday afternoon, we took the opportunity to visit a college campus that is not too far from where we live. It’s far enough that he would definitely live on campus. No formal tours were available for high school juniors just yet due to COVID restrictions.  Scheduled tours were only available for accepted high school seniors needing to make their final decisions. So we decided to take a swagger around the campus ourselves.

Watching my son roam through the campus was like a gut punch. Our goal was a quick visit to provide him an intro to campus life. Just a look. Just a stroll. Yet, this was certainly another first in his life journey, as it was in mine.  

I expected him to be indifferent. I mean, it’s not like he was jumping for joy and unpacking his bags, yet it was evident that this relaxed trek had piqued his interest. He looked around from building to building and strolled through the campus as if he belonged there. Maybe not this campus, but “a campus.” A campus could be his home soon, and he looked comfortable.

My thoughts turned inward. No way did I do enough to prepare him for college. How many life lessons can I teach him during the next year? I need to make a list! It’s true what they say. There is never enough time.

My brain was on overdrive. The emotions and thoughts floating around in my brain were crazy contradictories. 

Excitement, but sadness. I was thrilled to broaden his horizons, spread his wings, meet new people, experience life outside of our house and gain some much-needed independence. Yet, sad because this time in our lives is coming to an end, and I will miss him terribly.

Confident, yet apprehensive. I trust that there is a college for everyone, and he will land right where he is supposed to. But what is it going to take to get there? There are so many decisions to be made in the next year! Applications, essays, references, etc. Oh boy, this is going to get real soon!  

Grateful, though worried. I am thankful to be able to offer him the opportunity and hopeful for good things to come. Though, there is concern that no one can take care of my baby as I can! Practical, common sense, and life skills  – does he know enough? Goodness forbid he is one of the less fortunate ones, or he is too trusting or what if I didn’t teach him something he should know?

Realistic, but in awe. With the realization that my baby boy is approaching his college years, I am utterly amazed about how fast time really does go. I’m simply living all the cliches!

I know that this is hardly a new phenomenon. There were millions before me, and there will be millions after me. But this is one is my baby. My first baby, who I could swear was taking his first steps in life, was traipsing through a college campus! 

The little boy that came home from daycare and watched the movie Cars. Every. Day.

The little guy that begged for one more “pickup hug” when I dropped him off at day camp.  (I don’t suppose that’s acceptable at college drop-off!).

The Kindergartener who wouldn’t let me leave when my volunteer time was over.

The boy that wouldn’t leave my side that I jokingly referred to him as my magnet.

The days of picking him up from the bus stop and offering to take bets with other waiting parents on whether or not my son would have all of his belongings with him.

The little boy who insisted on the same nightly routine of pulling his cover over his head ten times for what seemed like forever.

The baby boy that didn’t have much of a mom when he was a baby. The stolen time that we will never get back. I hope you can forgive me if I may have missed teaching you a thing or two. 

My son who makes me laugh and smile like no other. 

The walkthrough of this college campus was the first of many firsts.  But, in many ways, it felt as if it could be the first of many lasts too.   

My son, walking through the SUNY New Paltz campus, alongside his father

The “what ifs” will coincidentally be our only constant for the next year. This will be the biggest shift in our lives for my husband and me since we’ve had kids and my son’s biggest life shift ever. I have faith that it’ll all work out. There’s a college for everyone, but the unknown is where we will be living in the immediate future. 

That boy is a piece of my heart. Seeing that heart walking on a college campus is too surreal. Knowing it is for him is beyond my recognition.  

As he marches through the college search, jaunts through the journey of the application and acceptance process, creates his path with stride, and carries himself to a destination, I’ll leave him with this: 

As you continue stepping into new opportunities, we’ll be so happy for you and proud of you. Keep marching forth. But always know that if you walk enough, you’ll always come home again. Please always remember that our family will always be your home base. And you will always be safe here.

Am I ready? Um. Negative. Not in the least. Yet, if he is feeling ready, it doesn’t matter much where my mind is. It’s his time to shine, not mine. 

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Melissa is a Bronx native who moved to Westchester County after she and her high school sweetheart got hitched in 1997. She and her husband live in Mount Kisco with their son Corey (2004) and daughter Mia (2007). Melissa spent many years working in Human Resources and currently works in enrollment and marketing for a child care organization. Melissa is a two-time survivor of Postpartum OCD. She initially became interested in writing to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders but has discovered that writing is a newfound aspect of her life that she thoroughly enjoys. Melissa is excited to write with the Westchester County Mom team and hopes you’ll enjoy her stories of the trials and tribulations of a born-n-raised city girl raising teenagers growing up here in Westchester.