Over the next few weeks, millions of young adults like my son Alex will leave their parents’ homes and head off to college. Perhaps you have a son or daughter who will be leaving the nest soon, too. If so, please know that you are not alone. I understand all-too-well what you’re feeling right now.
When our son was accepted at the University of Missouri, Bethany and I (Mizzou alumni) were both extremely proud of him. We were also extremely sad that he would be moving away and venturing out into the world on his own. With Mizzou’s move-in day scheduled for Wednesday, August 14, Bethany and I were looking forward to spending as much quality time as possible with our oldest child before the big day arrived.
Last week, our family spent a week together in northern Michigan where we went camping, visited with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmas, and played tourist in places such as Traverse City and Ludington State Park. It was our last big family adventure of the summer, and it was wonderful.
Just before our trip began, Alex was offered a job as a desk attendant at his dorm, a rare honor for incoming freshmen. Bethany and I were once again filled with pride. Our enthusiasm was tempered, however, with the revelation that desk attendants are required to move into their dorms before the rest of the students arrive so that they can receive the training necessary to do their jobs properly.
Last Saturday my baby boy, my best friend for the last 18 years, moved away from home and into adulthood. It was too soon. I wasn’t ready.
On the morning of move-in day, I kept my mind occupied by airing-up the tires on Alex’s bike, cleaning the old microwave he would be using in his new room, and gathering some Mizzou mementos from my personal collection to give him. With his mother, siblings, and girlfriend helping pack, we managed to fill the bed of my truck with everything Alex would need for his new accommodations.
Yet I couldn’t help but worry if I had done enough to prepare him for this next stage in his life.
Parents spend nearly two decades teaching their children the difference between right and wrong, how to be respectful, how to read and write, how to tie shoes, how to hold a spoon, how to drive, and a million other life lessons, but when their kids finally venture out on their own, the question remains: Did I do enough?
Alex is a hard worker and a good student, so I have no doubt he will do well at Mizzou. He treats others with kindness and good humor. He keeps up with current issues and has strong moral convictions. He is a good friend and a great brother. And he is the best son a parent could ever hope for.
None of those things happened by accident. I guess I can take some of the credit, though most of it should go to his mother. Bethany is an amazing mom—and wife. (The day after we dropped our son off at college, she and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary.)
After getting Alex settled into his room, everyone gave Boo-Boo (his lifelong family nickname) a big goodbye hug. Then we left him to his new life. I worried that he would feel all alone in his temporarily empty residence hall, and I felt guilty for leaving him there. Would he think that we had abandoned him? Would he doubt how much we loved him? Did we do enough to prepare him for this day?
Shortly after we arrived back home, Bethany and I received a text message from Alex that took my breath away. It read, “I love you guys so much. Thank you for taking care of me and being the best parents in the world. I miss you already, and I’m going to visit you all the time.”
How did he know how badly I needed to hear those words? How did his mother and I manage to raise such a thoughtful, loving human being?
I wasn’t ready for this next chapter in Alex’s life, but clearly, he was. Maybe we did do enough after all.