I thought it would be easier the second time around, but I was wrong.
We are packing up our oldest son for college this week and I find my eyes watering inexplicably. My son wonders why my eyes are red and I tell him it must be allergies.
What’s curious, though, is three years ago, when his sister started college, the same thing happened.
I was excited for her then and I am excited for him now.
These next four years will be an adventure and then some. He’ll achieve success and celebrate it. He’ll make mistakes and learn from them. He’ll make do when the dining hall is closed and will discover Ramen noodles are a food group of their own. He’ll make plans for the weekend and plans for the future. (And maybe even plans to come home for a visit now and again.)
He’ll learn it really is true that the laundry doesn’t fold itself and dishes in the sink don’t magically disappear. He’ll wonder how he ever went to school seven hours a day Monday through Friday. He’ll be satisfied with the space of a dorm room – even without air conditioning. He will learn it takes exactly nine minutes to walk from the dorm to psychology class and anything over 13 credits is basically free.
He will occasionally miss sitting around the supper table at home. He may even miss his mom’s fancy chicken. He will definitely miss his little brothers – but not every day and especially not before 10:00 a.m.
My son leaves this week for college and I’m pretty sure he will have the time of his life. He will gain a vocation, play intramural sports, become more independent and maybe even fall in love. He will meet new friends, keep in touch with old ones, make memories that will last a lifetime, pursue his passions, discover his passions, pull an all-nighter studying for finals, crash on a futon at a friend’s place, wear the school colors and go to class. I sure hope he goes to class.
These first, tender years of young adulthood are a time filled with a unique blend of energy and newness. They are exciting and thrill-filled as the future presents itself with unbounded, infinite possibilities. My son looks ahead with clear, bright eyes and I know he is capable of achieving whatever he sets out to do.
I want all of this for him. I am so pleased he is able to experience it, yet as I prepare to say goodbye (which I realize isn’t really goodbye) I have a twinge of – I don’t know the word to use. I am conflicted – happy and sad all at once. I can’t help but reminisce about preschool and prom and everything in between. Nostalgia creeps in, threatening to wreck the celebratory mood of our move-to-college day. I find my allergies acting up again and I reach for the box of tissue.
It’s such a conundrum, raising kids. They come to you as completely needy little beings and your goal is to nurture, teach, feed and love them to the point that you become obsolete. After 18 years of your down-and-dirty, backbreaking, heart-breaking sacrifice and hard work, they up and leave on their own as strong and independent individuals. This is considered a parenting success and you are supposed to be happy about it.
And you are. But sometimes, gosh darn, it is hard to let them go. If you are honest, you’ll admit some weeks are harder than others. I guess this is one of them. Darn allergies.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.