Today, we dropped Zach off at Virginia Military Institute. Last night was a night of revelry and tears. We spent the night with one of Zach's best friends and his parents at their house in Lexington, Virginia, who graciously invited us to stay so we could all have a relaxed morning getting our incoming cadets matriculated. As we reveled and shed our tears, Zach asked me to promise not to cry in front of him today. I told him I'd try my hardest.
Today, I kept my word. I didn't shed one tear he could see. And today I was rewarded for my strength. I got to see Zach do exactly what he wanted to do with smile on his face (albeit with nerves jangling and a pit in the bottom of his stomach). He joined the corps of cadets at VMI as a rat.
Today, I was rewarded with a big hug and a photo op as Zach prepared to sign the matriculation book.
I was rewarded with his smiles, hugs and sweetness. And I was rewarded well for keeping my emotions in check. But today wasn't really about being rewarded. Today was more about what I gained.
Today, I gained a son who is turning into a man. My man-child faded from view a little, which made me a little sad, but the man I know he will become came bursting forth and made me smile with unbridled pride.
Today I gained a little insight into what life is going to be like for Zach in the future. As we sat and listened to the speakers before all of the Rats were called to their companies, one of the colonels said something to this effect, "You are now entering the toughest university in the nation." (Zach shuddered and leaned over to me saying, "I really have to pee now."God love him for his sense of humor.) The colonel went on to say, "You all will rise to the challenges ahead of you and you will succeed. You are a reflection of your parents and they have set you on a good path. When they see you next they will see changes in you. You will not have changed as a person. The person you were will still be there but your sterling qualities will become more apparent." I took those words to heart. I know Zach took them to heart too. Today I gained the knowledge that Zach will rise to the challenge and he will succeed. Today I also gained the insight that I'll rise to this challenge of letting our kids go and I will succeed.
I've been rewarded a lot and gained even more, but there is one thing I gained today which is beyond priceless to me. As Zach marched off with his Brother Rats in Company H we stood on the sidelines and watched. He made sure to catch my eye and give me a wink and a smile.
Today, I gained a son who understands what it means to not only be taken care of by your parents, but to take care of them as well.
Oh, for the love of my children...