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"Breaking up" is hard to doPosted 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.
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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.