August 26, 2020
Lately, I have seen many pictures posted on social media by parents as they drop their kids off at college. It’s a tough time for parents, eliciting a range of emotions. The following is a reflection I wrote 10 years ago (Wow, I’m getting old!) when we dropped off our youngest for his freshman year at Rose Hulman.
Carol and I took our baby to college last Friday. We loaded two boxes, “everything he needed” according to Robby, into our car and headed for Terre Haute and the campus of Rose-Hulman. It should be noted that we needed to drive two cars when we took our daughters to college. Robby, or Rob as we discovered he is now calling himself, is the youngest of our four children. We had been privately dreading this day. Not because he wasn’t ready, he has been ready for a long time. He is goofy and a bit of a homebody; but he is reasonably mature, very intelligent, and somewhat independent. He is focused on his future.
We certainly are not worried about sending him out into the world. Carol and I are worried about sending ourselves out into the world! For the past twenty-six years, parenthood has, to a great extent, been what has defined us. How we have loved one another, what we have said and how we’ve said it, what we have done and how we’ve done it, the jobs we have chosen – how we have lived – has been about being parents and building a family. And suddenly, it’s just the two of us.
I once heard the expression, “the sadness of a job well done.” I did not understand what that expression meant until we made our way home from Terre Haute. Our years of commitment to loving and parenting our kids helped produce the mature, intelligent, independent, focused child I described above, as well as his three fairly well-adjusted older siblings. We certainly messed up along the way, making more mistakes than I care to share; but I feel confident saying that our kids knew they were (and are) loved and never doubted our mistakes came from a place of love. There are times, like last Friday, when the pride and joy we feel for a job well done is overshadowed by a sad reality — the pay-off is that our children leave us, and strike out on their own.
So Carol cried and I reflected, and the hugs and looks we shared acknowledged we were feeling the same joyful sadness. Many of you have felt it, either because you are in the same phase of your lives as we are, or because you have experienced some of the sequential steps along the way – baby’s first step, first day of school, going to high school, first boyfriend or girlfriend, walking across the stage at graduation, and so on. A door opens for our children and closes for us.
Treasure the days you have with your children. Love them. Challenge them, instruct them, be an example to them, pray with them and for them. Parent them – notice I use ‘parent’ as a verb. Do all this with love and you will be rewarded with genuine joy, pride and peace of mind; but beware, it is likely to begin as a sadness that comes from a job well done.
Robby’s (Rob’s) room is clean and nearly empty, the bed is made (Carol made it. Robby never made a bed in his life) and the top of the dresser is void of its TV and gaming system. But there on his nightstand, is his posable Gumby action figure, waving hello to all who enter the room…or is he waving goodbye?