Three of my friends dropped their daughters off at college last week; each one fared well through the attending emotional turmoil. Now that the first full academic week begins, I am thinking about them, and remembering the waves of emotion that crashed over me when I turned that corner with my kids. Nothing prepared me for the intensity of those emotions when the apron strings were snipped, though many friends had tried.
When I turned from waving farewell to our son, 800 hundred miles from home, that August morning fourteen years ago I stared into a black pit swirling with sadness, joy, and relief: Sadness that the door on his childhood really was shut tight; joy that one was opening on his future; relief that homeschooling had not hobbled him in the academic race. Our daughter finished college near home and drove herself to her first academic week; the black pit emotions over her didn’t overwhelm me until she invited me to come along on a local photo shoot as she completed a homework assignment for her photography class – I saw the door to childhood firmly shut, and the one opening on her future was not off kilter because of homeschooling her.
College presented as much of a parental challenge as watching our kids walk, talk or feed themselves – or assume control over their little bodies; hovering didn’t make them walk or talk faster. They needed our protection for some things, our provision for others. Protecting and providing made me feel great – the challenge when they went to college, and as they have grown up, is redefining my protection and provision. And the hardest part of the challenge may loom: accepting their protection and provision for us.