It was a week.
Over the course of 48 hours, we took our 14-year-old son Beckett to boarding school in Virginia to start his freshman year in high school and spent an inspirational day on the beach with our 12-year-old Carson for Surfers Healing.
For the last several months, we talked of this week often, knowing it would be a parental roller coaster ride to remember. After having a week to reflect on it and taking some time away from work, I have concluded it went about as well as could be expected.
The boarding school drop on Tuesday was busy. The leadup to this day was torturous and much worse than the actual day itself. My emotions never overtook me. I credit the school for knowing the drill. From the moment we got on campus, we were busy working our way through the orientation schedule. Every 30 minutes or so there was a new session to attend and in between all these learning opportunities was moving in and getting Beckett settled in his new home away from home.
With all the new faces around and the campus buzzing with activities, Beckett was certainly not interested in getting his room set up the best he could, but we were adamant in helping him get settled in and unpacked. Leave him in the best organized shape possible was the goal. The frustrations that came along with that specific process helped keep the emotions in check and confirmed he needed this experience.
As our day continued on campus, there really was no time or interest in getting sad over leaving a piece of our heart in Virginia. My thoughts were consumed with pride of being able to provide this amazing opportunity to my son. Everywhere I turned there was something else to be impressed with amid gorgeous visuals of the nearby river and historic buildings. The best part was the people, namely the educators who will become his family. As many of them put it, “we all live together in this community.”
Being 14 and swept up in all the newness, I don’t think Beckett knows how fortunate he is yet, but I suspect in time there will be gratitude for this new life experience.
This big change’s impact was evident with Beckett’s little brother Carson, who has Autism. Though he often appears aloof, inattentive and unaware, Carson, who is nonverbal, is cognizant of all things going on around him. He just doesn’t always show interest. In the days leading up to Beckett’s departure, we noticed something with Carson. The weight of Beckett’s departure was on his mind. I feel guilty admitting this, but I had not thought a ton about this change’s impact on Carson. We have steadily prepared him but I’m not sure I grasp what it means for him. It’s a loss for him.
The last couple weeks were focused on getting Beckett ready and covering everything on the checklist the school provided. It was a bit chaotic. During the few quiet times, I tried to keep present and reflect on this period of all our lives. It’s a time we will never forget.
Weeks ago, we assumed Carson would not want to go with us for the long drive to and from Beckett’s orientation day at his new school. We were wrong, as he made it clear he wanted to be involved even after we explained all the details of the meetings, moving in and all. Whenever I asked him if he was sure, he grabbed my hand and shook his head. He was telling me we were not going without him. He was aware and understood what it meant.
On the morning we were to leave, the plan was to get on the road by 5. Carson was first up around 4. He had set his alarm on his own the night before and packed all his belongings in a book bag to take for the trip. His brother was on his mind.
When it came time to leave him at school, Beckett was rushing to get to soccer practice. Things were getting a little chaotic again because he didn’t listen where his mom said all his soccer clothes were earlier in the day. Scenes like this played at home every day. It was probably best how it all went down, but I noticed Carson standing closely and moving with Beckett as he was getting his practice clothes together. He was going to say goodbye despite the chaos. He gave him his big brother a huge bear hug and we parted ways.
Everything was so rushed it didn’t carry a ton of meaning at the time. Later, with a few days to digest everything, it occurred to me how aware Carson was about everything. Maybe he even more so than his brother because he was the eldest was so engrossed in all the newness. Within minutes of being on the road home, he was asleep in the backseat. It was maybe a relief. We went directly to Ocean City for Surfers Healing the next day (more on that next week).
In the week since we have been home from taking him to school, we have spoken with Beckett several times. More texting than talking, but he’s busy with three soccer practices a day and life as a boarding student. He’s doing well overall and seems to be adjusting to his new life.
As for us, it’s weirdly quiet around the house. I have felt off all week. It’s an odd transition. It’s just like when a kid goes to college, but four years earlier. I bounce between sadness and excitement but most of all relieved he’s enjoying himself and working through his new life. He’s happy, which is all that matters.