A few weeks ago, I dropped my oldest son off to College to play baseball and hopefully get an education as well😉. It was something he had worked very hard for. He sacrificed a lot of his high school social time, and dealt with a lot of unforeseen circumstances to get himself there. As parents we walked through it all with him, we did whatever we could to facilitate him achieving his goal of obtaining a baseball scholarship to a school in the US. We worked hard with him and for him, we were so proud of him when he got the offer!
The week before I took him I started to feel this dread… like death dread. I felt nauseous, very unsettled and super anxious…. It was the weirdest thing. As the time to leave was drawing nearer and nearer I became a wacky person … I wanted him around ALL THE TIME! If he was going out with friends I wanted to know how long he would be gone and would make him feel guilty for going out, I didn’t want him sleeping late because it would cut into our last few days as a family. I felt completely irrational. The day before he left I went out with a friend for a few hours and I burst into ugly tears! What is wrong with me I cried! She assured me that this was normal and that it was hard.
We flew to the city where he was going to school and had a day to get him organized and spend some time just hanging out. I was so sad, like abnormally unhappy. I was putting on a smile in front of him but feeling totally overloaded internally trying to keep my crap together in front of him. My son was thrilled with his barrack like dorm and small shared bathroom. Actually he was so happy to be there, like beaming happy. The day I dropped him off I told him how much I loved him, how proud I was of him, to work hard, choose the right friends, wash his sheets once a month and to make sure he used his meal plan and not to eat at McDonalds every day…..I did not cry people, I held my stuff tight and then drove away sobbing.
This was his goal. WE had helped him achieve this! This was the plan all along…. No surprises…. But inside I felt like we had made a grave mistake. What on earth were we thinking helping him move a 3 hour plane ride away??? We didn’t think this through I said to my husband through tears…. Something bad could happen to him and I can’t get to him fast enough…. What if he gets sick and no one takes care of him? What if’s, what ifs, and what if’s ALL WEEK long. I thought my husband was going to lose his mind with me, he then brought in the reinforcement of my sister to help settle me down. People, I could not pull it together! I was not prepared for this emotion AT ALL! We were supposed to be celebrating this achievement yet I couldn’t…. then came the shame.
I had heard from other very close friends that it was hard when your kids went away to college and moved out of the house. But they kind of kept their crazy under wraps. I think there is this weird emotion of shame when we feel these things. Let’s be honest, as parents we love when our kids are successful… we post about it, we tweet it, we wear the school colors etc. We want to tell everyone how proud we are of our kid because we saw them putting in the time to achieve their goal. But then when the time came and I experienced these new emotions I didn’t want to tell anyone! I was embarrassed that it was so hard for me to let him go. I had spoken so proudly of his achievement to my friends, how could I then turn around and be a complete basket case and doubt the decision for him to leave. I had spoken to them about some of his struggles to achieve his goals and asked them to pray for things that actually happened, I felt shame in admitting to them that I was becoming undone at him leaving. It was easier to post the happy strong moments but not admit that inside I was falling apart. Like, I needed to go get therapy falling apart. Why don’t we talk about the ugly part of our kids leaving?
Now that I am home and had some time to work through my emotions it makes total sense. We spend 18 years raising them, protecting them, helping them and loving them… and then overnight we literally walk away from them and they are on their own. That is why it feels like death or a loss, because it is. Things for the most part won’t be the same, we work so hard to prepare them to leave and then when they do it is difficult. I don’t have the answers, I am still working through it. But I do know we need to celebrate their achievements AND we are allowed to mourn the loss of them leaving.
However, I do have a few practical tips that I will share in another blog on how to help them get set up in their new place away from home.
I am still not there, but I am getting better… I try not to call him more than once a day, that’s progress right????? I read this great article that talks a lot about surviving this transition. You can check it out HERE.
To all the parents out there who said goodbye to their kids this fall, I feel you!
1 down, 2 to go,