It's that time of year, again. The time when the sweet young people that parents have been nurturing get ready to leave home to go to college. Or get ready to launch out on their own, having graduated from college and now on their way to that first job.
It is indeed a bittersweet time. That time was for us, my husband and me, some years ago. Usually, I am not so aware of this rite of passage--buying up the supplies, figuring out how to pack and load all of it, stuffing the family car to the gills with the entire contents of a child-becoming-adult's bedroom. But this year, I am more aware as two young people in our neighborhood are launching out. One is on her way to college, the other on her way to her first job more than half-way across the country.
We have watched these girls grow to women, and have cheered them on their way, from a distance of course. What we are now particularly watching is their parents as they go through all the letting-go agonies that parents before them have experienced. The agonies that we too experienced a decade or two ago. In talking with these parents, it is evident they are feeling those mixed emotions--pride and worry all intermingled.
I especially recall when our older child, our son, went to college that it didn't "hit" me all that much. First, he was going to a college somewhat nearby--close enough that if either we or he needed to, we could drive to see him. I recall that I did not cry or even tear up when we--his parents and his younger sister--got in the car and drove away leaving him to make new friends, meet new challenges, and live on his own.
I do confess that four years later, when he had graduated and was now heading to graduate school, it did "hit" me--my son was REALLY leaving home. Graduate school was in another state, and his then girlfriend (now wife) was going along with him. That surely meant that we had been replaced as the central figures of his life and that he really was "leaving home." And, as they pulled out of the driveway to begin what became a life journey, I did cry.
I faced the emotion of separation with our daughter in a different way. Her first college was further away from home, and as it turned out not the right place for her. So, after a successful semester, she asked for and received our permission to embark on an even bigger adventure. At age eighteen, she went to London for a half a year. She found a job in London and found a city that she loved (and now calls home). Of course, she returned to the U.S., transferred to the right college for her, and finished her undergraduate education with a flourish.
This spring, a robin built a nest in our next-door neighbor's hanging flower pot. First there were four lovely blue eggs, and then four scrawny absurd baby birds. They turned into four constantly open mouths. It was fun to watch the dutiful parents flying back and forth bringing beakfuls of food for these ever-hungry babies. Then we left on vacation. By the time we returned, the robins had fledged and were gone. I was sorry to miss watching that wonderful transition--when the baby robin first leaves the nest, and the parents flutter around for several days watching, guarding, squawking encouragement or last minute instructions.
While we human parents may not do so much fluttering around and squawking, we do completely share the nervous anxiety wondering and worrying--will she make it? what if she needs something and I'm not there? does she remember to....?
My blogging friend, Julie Zickefoose (who is far more eloquent than I) has her own fledgling child who heads to college this year. Read her lovely blog post here.
And, if you are anywhere where you see a nervous set of parents fluttering around their daughter or son, send a couple of helpful thoughts and prayers their way. It is, after all, fledging time.