Leaving Kids at College
by Tracie Shroyer
It’s one of those moments you wait for as a parent: you hold your breath and wonder how you’ll respond, hoping you won’t embarrass yourself or, worse, that you won't embarass your kid who is trying so hard to be brave and cool and grown up at the same time.
I’ll admit it, I was worried. It didn’t help that everyone I knew sent articles--to me and my son--on how to cope. One in particular explained the significance of letting your mom make your bed for the last time. Making his bed?
Oh brother, this was going to be bad.
The long drive to school didn’t help--23 hours if we didn’t hit road construction or traffic. And of course we hit both. My nerves were shattered by the time we arrived. And my normally chatty, light-hearted child was unusually quiet. Yep, this was going to be terrible.
We went through the normal move-in procedures, sweat running down our backs in the 100-degree heat of central Florida. It took most of the day to get him settled, with runs to Target and Home Depot--because every engineering student must have coated plywood to make a 4x8 dry erase board in his room--and get everything set up. By 6pm it was time to call it a day.
I looked around the room and gave him a hug. We’d be back in the morning to bring refrigerator items and have a last lunch before saying good-bye.
I’d purposely not made big plans for that night, figuring I’d be melancholy. But I wasn't. Chalking this up to the fact I'd be seeing him again the next day, I held my breath.
The next day, saying our final goodbyes, I waited for the expected flood of feeling to hit as I watched my son grow smaller in the rearview as we pulled away.
But the flood didn’t happen.
This really bothered me at first. Why wasn’t I a puddle of emotions? Where were my tears? What was wrong with my heart? I was convinced I was defective in some way. Strangely, as I noticed myself trying to cry, I began to reflect back to the 18 years we’d spent together.
I remembered his little freckled face playing with frogs and his addiction to his sandbox. He is the only 7-year old I’ve ever known who was so into building that he’d torn old, unused copper pipe out of our basement and sweated it to make a full sewer in his sandbox construction zone.
I remembered times of heartache when he didn’t understand why it seemed the only way to make friends as a boy was to play sports. He hates sports.
I remembered joy when he found his people--in the theater doing tech stuff.
And as I remembered each of these memories, not even significant enough to be called events, I realized it was because I could remember them that I was so secure leaving him now. My husband and I had worked hard to remember the little things, to be present, to be purposeful as parents, to never have regrets over the time we spent with our kids. It was hard at times--to stand firm in our decision to not work on Sundays, to reserve that day for worship and family time. To make sure the kids didn’t watch TV when they were small, and to read and play games together after supper instead.
And other times that were so amazingly cool: the time we took a six-week road trip across the American West--in a 19’ travel trailer! Or when we kayaked together in the ocean stalked by a dolphin who wanted my son’s hat.
Years ago, when I was home everyday with three kids under the age of 4, others told me how fast it would all go. Even though it seemed impossible at the time, when one day felt like 20, I took that to heart. I was conscious to remember those times--the times it was tough and the times it was amazing; the times we traveled and the times we stayed home.
It was being present in all of those moments, big and small, remembering them and knowing they prepared all of us for this moment, that made me so comfortable being able to say good-bye and see my son walk confidently into his own world, ready to make his own precious memories.
Tracie Shroyer is Judy's VA -- her virtual assistant. She lives in Minneapolis and for over 6 years has helped Judy manage her business and her life. From researching best marketing practices to managing social media to collaborating on book and CD projects, Tracie is resourceful, proactive, trustworthy, and just plain fun to work with. She is a valuable asset to Power & Presence Training, and a creative writer. You can find out more about what she does at LaunchTechMadeEasy.com