This past Saturday the moment of truth finally arrived for our family. It was time to bid goodbye to our oldest child as she begins College. In my earlier post entitled “Don’t Turn Around“, I spoke about the bitter-sweet experience it is to watch a child grow up, and accept the circle of life.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect on Saturday. Would I bawl like a baby? (as many predicted) Would I go home, crawl into a fetal position on her bed and refuse to come out? Or, would I actually cheer? (as one jovial brother-in-law suggested).
In the end, I certainly didn’t cheer. But, I didn’t cry, either… (misty-eyed doesn’t really count, right?). The day was long and eventful. It involved packing the car to it’s extreme capacity, an extended road trip, an unfortunate encounter with a friendly but stern Highway Patrol officer, and several hours at our final destination. We helped our new Freshman get her Post Office Box, move into her dorm room, buy books and supplies, make several trips to the local Walmart, and eventually have our “last supper” together. Our daughter’s joy and excitement was infectious. She chattered non-stop about all of the upcoming events planned on campus that weekend. The day her mother had secretly dreaded was the same day that she had been dreaming about for years. (Funny how that usually works between parents and their children).
After driving back to her apartment building one last time, we stood on the sidewalk exchanging hugs and kisses and giving last-minute parental warnings and advice. It didn’t take long for Daughter #1 to extract herself from this familial frenzy, and make her way up the steps to her new ‘home’. She turned, waved, and yelled: “Just remember, Mom! It’s not like I’m DYING!”
We all smiled and chuckled. We waved one more time. She went into the building and closed the door. Her father, sister, and I got into our car and drove away. Clean and simple. No problem.
It was true, after all, I thought. It’s not like she’s dying. It’s not like she’s even out of reach. I don’t have to wait even two minutes to hear her voice I if want, let alone months, thanks to T-Mobile. I don’t have to wait for a message to arrive by mail, I can just shoot off a quick text. We could even talk to each other face-to-face if I figure out how to use Skype. So, there really shouldn’t be any emotional drama sending a child to college in the 21st Century at all. It’s almost like they’re still right there!
I suppose the bottom line is that although our child is not dying, the way things have always been up until that moment we drove away without her has – for all intents and purposes – “died”. Or, in more pleasant terms, “passed on”. My experienced co-workers and friends who have forged this path before offered their matter-of-fact words of wisdom:
“Nothing’s ever really the same once they move out”.
“They seem more like visitors when coming home”.
“They always forget to tell you where they’re going and when they’ll be back.”
According to these bastians of wisdom, the college child also frequently forgets to call home, and avoids telling details about parties or other late night activities. This is all aparently part of their right of passage to grow up, gain new confidence, form new friendships and ideas, and solidify their independence. As parents, we hope that the wisdom we have shared and lessons we have taught will be retained. As devout Latter-day Saints, we hope the core values of faith, scripture study, church attendance and prayer are planted deep in her soul. We hope she will turn to God daily. We cannot be with her now to guide and protect – but we know He can. We hope she will treasure the spiritual things which we know can bring peace and strength. For over eighteen years her father and I have been exerting all our effort preparing her for this moment. I guess we forgot it would really come. But it did. She has officially received her wings to fly, and must chart her own course.
Every family must experience this. It’s our turn now.
Ready or not, here we come.