This week, as I find myself speaking with parents that are sending their kids off to college, I hear a jumble of feelings. Joy, excitement, parental pride intertwined with grief and sadness, to name a few. I’m reminded of how the theme of letting go recurs throughout parenthood.
From the time our children learn to walk, our job is to help them without hovering, and that balancing act continues as we send them off to college. How much contact and support is the right amount?
I heard a quote that sums it up:
A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these she said is roots, the other, wings.
- Hodding Carter
I thought this would be an especially good time to share one of my very favorite blog posts from one of my very favorite writers on the planet, Juliette Fay. If you haven't read her novels yet, you're in for a treat. She's amazing. I hope you enjoy her story of sending her first child off to college.
Letting Her Go: A Daughter Leaves the Nest
In the week after my first child, a daughter, was born, my hormones took me on one heck of a thrill ride. Up, down, exuberant, weeping, weirdly angry with my husband for not understanding. And who could blame him? I didn’t understand it myself. Yet every feeling was so deeply real and rational in the moment, it seemed he should be right there with me. Thank God he wasn’t.
I remember with crystal clarity staring at this tiny bundle of soft vulnerability, and realizing at full volume what I had taken on. Not just the care and feeding of another human being, for which I was fully prepared—I’m an oldest child, had babysat my way through high school and worked with kids for a large portion of my career. I’d had thirty years of preparation.
What I hadn’t figured on was this: I had willingly agreed to a lifetime of desperation.
Desperate love of a kind I’d never known. Desperate worry. And a thought blinked across my hormone-addled, sleep-starved brain like an LED warning sign over the highway: THIS WILL NEVER END.
Before she was born, I had considered parenthood from my own daughterly perspective. I grew up and moved away and my parents stopped taking care of me. Their job wound down to check-ins when I went to college, and ended completely when I graduated and moved across the country. They have their own lives; they don’t “parent” anymore.