Ah, August. It's the time of year when many parents deliver their offspring to college. After four years of running the high school gauntlet – get the grades, take the AP classes, participate in extracurriculars, rack up the volunteer hours, collect the honors – your sweet baby child is suddenly all grown up and off on his or her next adventure, and it's one from which you will be largely absent. You spent all that time cheering their teams and listening to their concerts and shuttling them all around town and documenting the whole thing with video and snapshots, and now, it seems, you have made yourself obsolete.
You lug plastic tote boxes into your kid's dorm room, rearrange the furniture, make the bed, hang the twinkle lights, and fret over roommate assignments. After the frenzy of activity, poof – junior is gone. Launched. When will he come home next? Is asking for just one text a day too much? What if she forgets to [insert very important thing here]? Who will reminder her to do all the things YOU used to remind her to do?
These days, my Facebook feed is full of posts from emotional parents sobbing as they bid their progeny farewell, predicting they'll be a "basket case" on move-in day, posting emotional odes to their baby birdies as they leave the nest. Parents wondering how their infant, born just last week, can possibly be gone from the house already.
Moms and dads forgetting, for a moment, that this, after all, was the goal all along.
Of my three sons, two are college age, and both chose, for a variety of reasons, to attend community college. This means they are living at home and commuting to a nearby campus so they can take general ed classes, probably for their first two years. I'm confident this was the best choice for each of them, and not just because of the significant cost savings.
And yet, part of me feels like I've been missing something this month. My peers are experiencing a rite of passage that I am not. I joke about how I can't get mine to leave, how I say to them, "Are YOU still here?", and even as I am confident in their choice, I still have mixed feelings.
While the changes my family is undergoing are not as significant as the change that comes when a child moves out, there are changes. Post-secondary education is a big deal. Commuter kids must also find all their classrooms, manage their time, advocate for themselves, and continue to develop their study skills. All of this is challenge enough for the maturest of young adults. But I believe some kids need the extra advantage of being able to do all of that without also having to navigate the unique challenges of residential college life. Some kids just aren't ready to tackle it all at this age.
So, as you adjust to life without your young'un around the house, remember those of us whose kids are still around, and the unique adjustments we're making to accommodate this new phase of their lives. Even as I explain to my kids that my one job is to get them ready to leave home, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of me is relieved to be able to give them some additional time to transition. When it's time for them to go, they'll be more than ready in every way.
And so will I.