We moved our youngest son into his dorm room over the weekend and said our goodbyes. The move was generally fine. We didn’t break anything in the move, I didn’t pull-out my back lifting anything, and we also didn’t embarrass him too much in front of his new roommates. I’d call that a win-win! I even managed to make sure I didn’t break out into a big puddle of tears until we were well on our way home.
When I think of him, I may still see him as a young toddler, lifting out his arms to be picked up, or a pre-teen, asking to buy the hot new video game, but he’s not. He’s a strong, young man. He’s ready for college and is deeply committed to working hard and making his dreams come true. I have no worry about him succeeding.
Goodbyes though are never easy.
Why the sad faces
We said our first goodbye to our daughter seven or so years ago when she went to college. She was the first to leave home. I deluded myself into thinking I would be fine. I was a man’s-man. Yes, yes, I know, a silly macho idea from a bygone era, but it’s what I grew up with and figured I would be fine. Of course, I was wrong. I started off poker-faced. I gave her some last-minute advice, a big hug and walked cooly back to our car. Everything was going as planned until I looked in the rearview mirror and saw our middle son hunched over the back seat, trying to console his teary-eyed little brother. It had finally hit the two of them that we would be driving home without their sister. Of course, I turned into one big puddle as well.
We drove in silence for five minutes or so until my wife broke the tension, laughing out loud at the craziness of the situation.
We ended up talking the rest of the trip about how change can be good, how it was a great opportunity for her, and how we all needed to talk about our feelings. Plus, she was always just a phone call away.
Don’t embarrass me Dad
When my middle son enlisted in the United States Marines Corps and was preparing to leave for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, we didn’t dare break out in tears. He would be gone for 13 long weeks and would be challenged both physically and mentally.
The little boy that consoled his brother had his own dreams now and had given us strict drill sergeant-like guidance: “no tears guys, especially you Dad!”
He didn’t want us embarrassing him in front of the other recruits or the buff, intimidating-looking recruiters. I guess fear is a good motivator. We kept our composure, at least until we got to the car when my wife and I broke out into another strange, but true, break-the-ice laugh.
Are you ready? Are you ready?
With our youngest, it was an odd sensation. We’ve been preparing ourselves for this moment for over a year. We’ve known this date was coming, we had it highlighted on the family calendar, but it’s still been a challenge. Friends have been quick to ask us about becoming “empty-nesters” and if we’re ready for the change.
It doesn’t help too that there’s a meme going around that says an 18-year-old child, heading off to college, will have spent 90% of the time he or she will ever spend with their parents. I’m not sure how someone can come up with that number, how they know down to the exact percent, I’m just too statistically challenged, but I can’t help but get teary just thinking about it.
Uh-oh, break out the Kleenex tissues!
One final message
It’s hard saying goodbye, but I do feel like we were more prepared this time. I knew exactly what I wanted to say to him before when it came time for final hugs and we went our separate ways. I told him three important messages: that we’re proud of him, that we’re here for him, and that we believe in him.
And one final one: We’ll see you soon!