It’s OK to be sad if your kid is heading off to college soon, but remember: You’ve spent the past 18 years preparing them for this exact moment. (HuffingtonPost.com photo)
As complicated as things may get at times, life is a pretty simple concept. We are born with one true purpose, which is to eventually die. Everything we do in between can fall neatly into two categories: Survival and the establishment of a legacy. As grim an outlook as this may seem, we fight for both, from our first breath till our last. So why is it, even though we know what our eventual fate is, we fear so many things in between?
Like most people, the majority of my friends are the same age as me. It is our common bonds that attract us to want to spend time together and share experiences. Because of a series of life choices, some good, some not so much, I wound up being the first one among my chosen tribe to face a lot of “firsts” — like staring a “real” job, getting married, having kids, getting divorced and all of the trials and tribulations that come with those things — apparently making me the person of experience on many things I sometimes I wish I wasn’t.
The weird thing about experience is how it tends to creep up on you, and you don’t even realize you have it till you are questioned about it. Those who know me well know that I am open to talk about any of my life experiences. Although my oldest child, whom I technically can’t even call a child since he just turned 19, is just about to start his second year of college, the youngest group of his friends just ended their high school careers and are now heading off to college as well. You would think that a year difference wouldn’t mean much, but it really has.
Maybe it is because I was going through my own process of trying to get through the idea of my son becoming an adult and moving on with his life that I didn’t understand or realize how other parents with kids graduating the same time as him were handling the change they were faced with. However, this year I have been approached by so many parents of recent graduates asking, “How do you get through this process so easily?” The unfortunate answer is you don’t.
Sure, time may mask the feelings of the loss of a child from a home, but with every empty minute, the thought of that change finds a way back into your mind. It is unrealistic to think that it won’t. As parents, we worry when our kids are within arm’s reach, and that feeling only amplifies when they are not around. Although I feel as if my outlook is realistic, I realize it is of little comfort. There aren’t many things you can say that will make this scenario much easier, but the important thing to remember is that everything you have done with your kids up to the point they are ready to move on was to prepare them for that moment. If your kids are strong and confident enough to take on the world, it is because you have helped make them that way.
In a time when so many things are changing around us, why is the idea of change still what we fear most? It is OK to be sad, but does it make sense considering that unless our children grow, they will never have the experiences that make life worth living? Because without everything in between, there would just be birth and eventual death, and that doesn’t equate to a life. In two years, I will be going through my second and final high school graduation as my daughter heads out to start her own life as an adult, and even though I was the expert among my friends this year, I know I will probably be right back in their shoes again when it happens because it is our nature to fight change — even if it is for the best.
Tom Roarty is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.