An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Letting go never easy on the parents

Since so many of you are experiencing the college drop-off day for the first time,
here is an article from last year.

Letting go never easy on the parents
by: Maria Novajosky, Guest Columnist

*published in today's Columbia County News-Times (Wednesday, August 12, 2015)

           Two years ago my husband and I experienced our first college move-in day when our eldest son began his freshman year at Clemson University.

            The date was circled on our calendar for months, and as we added to the ever-growing college stockpile in our dining room, in truth we never thought past that date. Everything we did was leading up to it – purchasing the bed lines, dorm supplies, and textbooks – but we couldn’t envision anything beyond. Sure, we talked about him going away to college in the fall, but all the preparation seemed more like we were planning a trip.

            The night before the official move-in day, we sat down for a special farewell dinner – the last home cooked meal for our son before he had to live off the university meal plan. We watched home videos, laughed, gave advice; we knew he would be leaving tomorrow, but we couldn’t imagine that our family of five would soon be a family of four. I mean, how could we? It was all we had ever known.

            Driving to Clemson that morning we were quiet, and with each passing mile I realized we were driving away from everything we knew and heading into unchartered territory. Our son may have been a freshman, but in many ways my husband and I were, too. When we arrived we were caught up in a whirlwind of orange: the giant paw prints announcing that This Was Tiger Country, the banners, signs and flags welcoming us to campus, and the eight upperclassmen wearing t-shirts the color of construction cones descending on our van to help us carry everything to our son’s room.

            For the next several hours as we helped him unpack, clean, and make his bed, as we met other parents and visited the dining hall, and as we poked around the dorm it was almost fun. Exciting, even.  But there came the moment – somehow we all sensed it at the same time – that the circled date on our calendar was NOW. As we walked out of his room I placed a package on his bed for him to open later – a box filled with notes from his brothers, funny drawings, reminders from Dad, and a stack of blog posts I had written on our family that I printed out and stapled together. Inside was also a bag of dum-dum lollipops because there was something funny about giving a college student something that was dumb.

            When our son walked us to the parking lot there was a moment of awkward silence. How do you take 18 years and reduce them to a single goodbye hug? I looked up at my son and reality crashed down in the form of tears and a lump in my throat that prevented me from saying goodbye, or I love you. I couldn't even say the words.

            And I’ll never, ever forget driving away and feeling as if I left a part of me behind.

            Today, I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. But with the gift of hindsight I can also see how the pain of letting go is much like ripping off a band aid – there is a moment of searing pain, but it passes and then there is room for healing and growth and newness.  These two years we have watched our son turn into a mature engineering student who has already completed two engineering internships and who is headed for a career he truly loves. So I can see how letting go was not only necessary, but good. And yet . . .

            And yet this year we have another date circled on our calendar as next week our middle son starts college. Again, there is a dorm stockpile in the dining room with piles of towels, books, and cleaning supplies stacked between a dorm refrigerator, a nightstand, and a giant, foam mattress pad. The more we add to the piles, the closer the date looms.  

            Will it be easier this time around?

            We may have been through this once before, but no, letting go is never easy. Our family of five down to four and then three; one son at college here, the other son over there, and our home somewhere in the middle. The good news is we still have our third son who, since he is only in the sixth grade, will be with us a while longer.

            Thankfully we don’t have to let him go just yet.

1 comment:

Suburban Correspondent said...

Larry just took David (our third) down to Huntsville, AL, today. No way I could have handled that drop-off! It's weird, sitting here and looking at his empty chair, where he has sat doing schoolwork for the last 2 years. Trying not to get maudlin, but I'm not promising...