Latanya Henry prepared for this moment for years.
Her plan: Stay busy. Take up photography. Knit more. Volunteer.
Still, friends have shared their concerns.
She's your one and only, they say. You're going to fall apart, they warn.
But those comments only make her more determined. She always knew this day would come. She's ready, she tells them.
"From the day Tatiana was born, I knew my job was to prepare her for the world," Latanya said.
In August, time is up. Her only child is headed to college. Attending Duke University, Tatiana Henry will be more than 600 miles away from their Apollo Beach home.
"It's bittersweet," Latanya said. "I'm excited for her. But I'm also excited for myself. I can pursue new things. I can do things that I want."
As a stay-at-home mom, Latanya dedicated the past 17 years to her daughter. She hates the term helicopter parent, because even if she had 10 children she says she would treat them all the same.
With Tatiana, she did all the mom things — clothed her, fed her, kept her safe. But along the way, the two became friends. Movie nights in mom's bed became stress relievers for them both.
Now, Latanya, 45, has to learn to let go. A little.
"I'm cognizant of the fact that I'm not to harass her every day," Latanya said. "But it will be very hard."
And Tatiana, a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at King High School, may have to learn to have a little patience.
"I've been telling her: You have to cut your mom some slack," Latanya said.
Tatiana admits that, unlike her mother, she hasn't put too much thought into how she'll cope away from home. She's more excited about a new schedule, a different environment and the experience of being away, she said. Besides, they'll talk all the time. There may be some dispute as to the method, though.
"I'm more of a texter," Tatiana said. "She'll want to hear my voice."
"When I hear her voice," Latanya said, "I know whether she's really okay or not."
In order to keep her occupied (and stop her from flying to North Carolina each weekend), Latanya has lined up several distractions. She plans to continue volunteering with high school students and become a better photographer.
"You can send me photos," Tatiana chimed in with support.
Plus, Latanya's husband, Linwood Henry, will be home. A radiologist, he retired in March from his position as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.
"This is definitely an odd place in my life," Latanya said. "I'm like, where did all the time go? I just don't know."
The two plan to spend plenty of time together this summer. No jobs or homework or studying. Just mother and daughter.
And when the day comes to drop Tatiana off at her dorm, Latanya will no doubt be upset.
But she's trying not to worry. Besides, Thanksgiving will be just a few (long) weeks away.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.