My kids will tell you that I cry easily at sad commercials, stories on the news about the military, church on Christmas Eve, etc. etc. etc. So there is absolutely a 0% chance that I’m not going to cry when leaving one of my children at college.
I thought I was ready the first time – two years ago - to leave a child at the college of their choice. When I took my oldest daughter to college I was pretty sure that I would be fine. I didn’t think I would shed any tears at all. She had already lived away from home.
She had always planned on graduating from high school a semester early and doing an internship in New York for her final semester. She received her first internship offer just days after her father died. She had worked hard to get internships at Interview Magazine and with Isaac Mizrahi. Even though our lives had just been turned upside down, I had to let her go. She had earned it. So less than a month after her 18th birthday, and the death of her father, I moved her to NYC. I was worried, and it was hard to say goodbye, but surprisingly I didn’t cry.
When I took her to school the following fall I thought I wouldn’t cry because I had handled the NYC move so easily. I was wrong. I cried off and on all the way home. It doesn't get easier. I still cry when she leaves for school.
Today I took my son to college for the first time. My goal was to not cry until I got in the car on the way home. Ha! I should have known better. He’s chosen Xavier University, a Jesuit school. They have a wonderful welcome ceremony at the end of move in day. Father Graham (the University President) spoke eloquently about Xavier’s Jesuit tradition of serving society by educating students intellectually, morally, and spiritually, with rigor and compassion, toward lives of solidarity, service, and success.
I love that he talked about the students learning to accept others, and as they do that they learn to accept themselves. He spoke about “Good enough isn’t”, and that they are expected to continue to raise their own expectations of themselves. It was inspiring.
At the very end he asked us to pray. At first he asked parents to put their hand on their child’s shoulder as he gave a blessing for the child – full of love and acceptance and thanks. I had done a decent job of keeping the tears at bay until that moment. And then he asked the child to place their hand on their parents shoulder as he prayed a blessing for the parents from the child. The tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt the love from my son and my God. It was almost as if in that instant I transferred my child into adulthood. So much for waiting to cry until I got in the car.
I know that it’s a normal transition – taking your child to college. And it’s a really happy time. I know that my life will continue to be fulfilling, but in a different way. But I’m not gonna apologize for how hard it is when you realize that it’s the last time your child will ever really live in your home. You want your children to be smart and strong and independent. And then they are. And for the briefest of moments you wish you hadn’t done such a good job.