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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017

"Breaking up" is hard to do

Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2010, at 11:49 AM

About five minutes from now -- or so it will seem to the parents -- high school grads all over the country will head for college.

Highways everywhere will be clogged with moms, dads and grads in cars and SUVs loaded down with bedspreads, coffeepots, clothes new and old and full of high expectations that Junior or Junior Miss is bound for academic glory, followed by a stellar career as a rocket scientist.

I want to tell those of you parents who will be doing it for the first time this year that you are about to undergo an experience that is life-changing, not only for your child, but for you.

It was 15 years ago that my one and only child, a daughter, went away to college.

For weeks ahead of time, we shopped for the things she would need. The school kindly provided a list, and several of my friends with older children put in their two cents' worth, too. We had a lot of fun in those last weeks before her departure.

I worried a lot about sending her off to college.

I worried about her being so much on her own. Her school of choice was five hours away by car. I worried about the distance -- what if there was an emergency? I worried that she wouldn't like her roommate (that turned out to be true). I worried that her roommate wouldn't like her (which also turned out to be true).

I worried a lot -- I think I even made up things to worry about. It's a mother's job to worry, but there was one thing that never crossed my mind. More about that shortly.

Finally the day came. We loaded up my car and hers (I worried about her having a car on campus) and off we went.

When we arrived on campus, we made many trips up and down stairs, up and down the elevator, with help from some very nice young men every now and then. I worried about the way they looked at my daughter.

Eventually we had it all in her room, boxes and bags haphazardly strewn everywhere. I was ready to unpack, put things away, get stuff organized.

But to my surprise, it was then that she turned to me and said, "Well, have a safe trip home and call me when you get there."

I wish I had worried about how hard it would be to say goodbye.

I really wanted to stay and help her, but it was clear she wanted to do that herself. In retrospect, I understand, but at the time, well, I was crushed.

We walked downstairs to my car, I stammered out a few "words of wisdom," and then it was time to put the car in gear and start the long trip home.

I cried steadily for four of the five hours I drove.

And just when I thought I'd gotten myself emotionally in hand again, I turned the corner on the last block of the trip and cried even harder when I realized she wouldn't be there in the house to greet me.

Parents, please take a good look at your child when you say goodbye and head back home -- it's your last chance.

The child to whom you wave goodbye on campus will be gone the next time you see him or her, replaced by a person who looks almost the same - but there will be a difference.

You might not notice it at first, but it's there.

This is not a mistake. It's not a mixup by the college, sending you someone else's baby.

This is the way things are supposed to be. The job of a parent is to raise children and then send them out into the world, whether the parents are ready to give up those children to adulthood or not.

You can't prepare for the moment, so don't try.

I'm just letting you know it will happen.

Showing comments in chronological order
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Oh my God! Even remembering that day a few years ago brings a tear to my eyes. I love the wonderful young lady and mom she has become but... I miss the almost grown up little girl I took to College.

It wasn't easy. So, be prepared! Even the toughest old goat gets a little misty eyed. Oh how I love my kid!

-- Posted by movaldude on Thu, Jun 17, 2010, at 11:40 PM

It will be my turn next year and I'm sad just thinking about when that day comes. I've done it once with my oldest....it was hard, my first born. But next year I will be sending my last off into the world. I don't look forward to the long empty nest days. I supposed you get used to it, but even when they come home to visit, it's not the same. I think I might cry today, too.

-- Posted by luvthoseowls on Fri, Jun 18, 2010, at 4:54 PM

I cried while I wrote this - my daughter told me after she read it that she didn't recall being so abrupt with me about leaving, but she was! Life has a way of making things even, of course. She will have to do this at least twice.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Jun 18, 2010, at 5:05 PM

Thank you Kathy...Even 2 years after sending my daughter to college, it still brings tears to my eyes to remember the day I left her standing outside the campus dorm. It does get a bit easier but I do agree with you on the changes that occur, you will take your "child" to college and the next time you see them, they will seem to have grown up overnight. Going from the dorms to a 4 bedroom with 3 roommates and now this year to a 2 bedroom with 1 roommate, there are always changes. To those that have to go through these changes, hug your child and keep the memories close at heart!

-- Posted by Hazel Eyes on Mon, Jun 21, 2010, at 10:18 AM

Great article Kathy. I'm going to be in your shoes August 8th. Hard to believe that he's leaving. I'm wondering if boys have the same reaction as girls? Hmm...I'm also wondering about those four flights of stairs to his dorm room. Ouch!

-- Posted by writerintraining on Tue, Jun 22, 2010, at 9:06 AM

In a couple of months it'll be 14 years since we loaded the van and car for the 3 hour drive to deliver my daughter to college.

KF, my parting experience was a little different from yours. After we got her moved into her dorm room and tended to everything, we were about ready to leave when it hit my daughter that she was now more or less on her own. She abruptly turned away and headed back to the dorm, crying, and for me that was like being stabbed right in the heart. I let her go, only because that was the way she would want it.

The drive back home was painful; I wanted to tell my wife to turn around, but I knew that wouldn't have solved anything.

The initial shock of parting passed within a day or two and all of us adjusted to being apart. We made several trips up there during her four years and she made several trips down here during that time. (I got the laundry detail on those visits.)

Our nest is now empty, but not a day goes by that I'm not reminded in some way of the two children who grew and matured under our roof before taking flight.

-- Posted by Slater on Wed, Jun 23, 2010, at 11:50 PM

As the above-referenced daughter,I swear I wasn't that cold when Mom left me at college!

However, since my parents divorced when I was quite young, I must point out that I was used to always being without at least one parent, so that made it easier on me.

Mom also doesn't point out that since the day she left me at college, we have talked on the phone at least daily (and frequently more than that)!

-- Posted by koeller77 on Thu, Jun 24, 2010, at 10:40 AM

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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.
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