The title of this entry was my daughter’s last Facebook post before she left for college this morning. I’ve already bemoaned the struggle of letting my kids — especially my oldest daughter — grow up and move away to college. So I won’t bore everyone with my day of joy and sadness entwined together tightly … so tightly that there were time I could barely breathe.
But what became more clear to me today, as I encountered old friends who were in the same boat I was is that this confusing feeling of loss is universal. Not totally — I hear some parents rejoice as the kids leave home.
The parents I encountered today, however, were all looking a bit shell- shocked. Fortunately, there was plenty to do … setting up the rooms, attending various planned activities to keep everyone busy enough not to think about the separation that loomed all day like the dark, threatening clouds. Still, most were obviously trying to be more excited than their hearts would allow them to be.
Later, when I got home, I check out various on-line notes from friends offering emotional support. Many had their children much further from them than me. I appreciate that … but it didn’t bring comfort that she’s “only” two hours away. Some offered prayers, others simple, beautiful words. But an old college friend said this, “I guess now we know what our parents went through…”
I wasn’t a very understanding daughter to my parents’ feelings as I left for college. Neither of my folks even finished high school. Although I thought both were very smart, they really couldn’t understand my strong desire to escape my small town and dive head long into college life. I jumped in head first, and never looked back. I visited. They visited. But thinking back now on how my insensitivity and selfishness probably broke their hearts over and over … I am humbled and saddened and so thankful that my kids are so much more compassionate than I was.
Had I had any idea of the pain that watching those people we love the deepest spread their wings … of the incredible sacrifice a parent makes for the happiness of their kids … I would have written a lot more letters, made a lot more phone calls, and spent a lot more time with them when I could.
Regret is a useless emotion and a waste of time. My mom is gone now, and my husband assures me I was a good daughter … although I have a tough time remembering that. My dad is 83, and I’ve learned to call often, and visit regularly. Now, I have texting and Facebook and e-mail, and it’s a rare day I don’t talk to my son at college, as I will my daughter. We’re a different family than mine was growing up. I’ve intentionally invested in my kids, sharing life and living as a family community unit as to make our “growing up together” much different from had with my folks.
I hear all the time that we never really understand a situation until we are there, in the midst. I also believe that we can learn a lot from our children, if we are humble enough to see the lessons. This process of mentally handing my kids over to their “whatever comes next” is teaching me a lot about myself … my strengths, my weaknesses, my dreams, my fears … so much it’s tough to articulate here. But whatever comes next, I’m sure if I stay open, the process and the product will be beautiful.
Painful, but beautiful.