Now’s the time when parents are smiling through their tears; bravely dropping first-time college students off and those moms and dads are so distraught, wondering if they’re going to make it. When the radio plays “…can I die from a broken heart…” they’re wondering themselves. I’m here to tell you, you’ll survive and you’ll realize Julie Lythcott-Haims’ claim, “A parent’s job is to put ourselves out of a job” was an utter fabrication. Parents are never unemployed.
Do you wonder why our college-bound kids, though anxious and apprehensive, still go to a university and away from the nest? One of our kids, when asked what they had planned for the future, said, “I want to go to college, mostly because I’ve lived here forever and I don’t want to live here forever anymore.” Pretty sure that’s how Gar feels about living with me. He’d tell you, “Don’t tell your boys, but the college years are the only vacation he’ll get between his mom and his wife.” Gar has limited options because some things are easier to get into than out of, but we’ve always told our kids, the sky is the limit.
Parents, you’ve driven to practices, games, meets, meetings, rehearsals and recitals, cooked, cleaned, washed and volunteered, but you’re gonna have to wait about 15 years before one of your kiddos will tell you that it was all appreciated. Right now they’re too busy looking to you for support that they’re pretending they don’t need or want. They’re excited yet afraid, just like you. But you don’t have the luxury of telling them your fears. You have to master your feelings and be emotionally mature; something my offspring continually wish I’d practice a little harder on perfecting.
Kids are courageous, moving thousands of miles across the country to new experiences, not knowing a soul, yet stepping out on faith. Their daring comes from knowing they have you to fall back on when it gets spooky. I always told our kids, “Your dad told you we were moving as soon as you leave, but we can’t because you have Google, and you’ll find us.” Actually, they know we’re not always right, but we’re trustworthy because we’ve had lots of experience at being wrong, and we’ll be here until Jesus runs through town.
One afternoon while a college freshman, our daughter called, frantically saying she needed my help. Startled, I asked what was wrong. She said she hated to tell me because it was so stupid. Patience waning, and thinking the worst, I felt a slight panic. Then she sighed, “I dropped the radiator cap between the car and the radiator and I need help getting it out.” I paused, relieved she wasn’t dying, and said, “Well, go to a map and tell me the distance between the college and our house. If we’re close enough, maybe I can reach my hand in and dig the cap out for you.” My kids would like to dart me with a tranquilizer. I told her to put foil over the hole and drive to the nearest mechanic’s shop.
You’ll have oodles of opportunities to help your kids. A couple months ago, our son who’s a doctor in Florida began an infectious disease fellowship and moved his gang from Pensacola to Orlando. Without getting the facts, Gar and I volunteered to help. We packed and loaded boxes into a truck, while very strong fellows toted the furniture. When we got to the destination, only then did we realize we are not very bright. Those children had rented a three-story house. Count them 1, 2, 3. Thankfully, different hired guys, obviously no more intelligent than we were, who didn’t inspect the job before agreeing to it, carried everything up those flights of stairs. Not for the first time, I marveled at the amazing tasks money can buy. I’m guessing in the future, when those chaps are called to that neighborhood, they’ll be very good at saying no. I am happy to report that my thunder thighs came in handy and only occasionally gave me a tongue lashing.
So, parents, fear not, you’re still needed and will be for many years to come. The kids need advice all their lives. This may not be true, but it’s the adage I use when inserting my opinion. When your college student begins the search for a major, and considers banking, insurance or law, take the advice I’ve always given my offspring, “We’ve always tried to steer you away from crime.”
Trena Eiden [email protected]