“My Afterlife” Series ~ Who’s Crying Now?
By Susan Keats, Contributor & Seize-the-Day Propagandist
I see you there. You’re standing at the end of the slide and your tiny kid is up there at the top, scooching forward to where the slide drops, anticipating, anxious…
Or maybe you cheered “Yaaaaaayeeee!!! as your child embarked on that slippery but inevitable ride to the end.
Some kids, lacking in confidence would stay at the top and cry for you to come get them down, but eventually, they made it down on their own and immediately climbed back to the top, full of motivation and a sense of accomplishment. Other kids barely needed encouragement before they slid gleefully down.
“You did it!” you clapped proudly. I know you clapped. I sure did. I think we all did.
Now, those same babies are leaving for college. We just took our own daughter to college recently. Our mood on the trip there was joyful and excited. We were filled with the exhilaration and anticipation of this new life adventure unfolding before us…before her. It was hard to think beyond that as we drove 5 hours before finally pulling into the dorm driveway.
During the initial spurt of energy that we needed to get bags, boxes and boatloads moved from the car, to the elevator, and up to her room, we couldn’t help but look into the faces of the other families preoccupied by the same ritual of hauling stuff into shoebox-sized spaces. As we passed them in the hall, our eyes met with the hope that we were somehow seeing in each other the families of our child’s next best friend.
After helping her to put stuff away, meeting the roommate and evaluating the showers, the lounge area, the dining facilities and the building she would now be living in, we lingered as long as we could at the edge of our daughter’s new life. We wanted to stay a little longer, but she was ready for us to go. We cried, we hugged, we said goodbye.
My husband had initially anticipated that he would want to leave immediately, holding back tears and a broken heart on the long drive home, but he got swept up in the beauty of the campus and the excitement of being at college, so we stopped at the bookstore to stock up on university t-shirts that we would now wear as emblems of our proud-parent status. On the way home however, we both sat silently as the miles ticked behind us, examining our lives now and wondering how the change would feel.
In spite of feeling certain that she would be fine, I arrived home with bitten finger nails.
Other friends who had dropped their children at universities across the country also arrived home with feelings of trepidation. We all called each other.
“How did it go?” we asked.
Some children had cried and begged their parents not to leave. Some parents cried and had to tear themselves away. A friend’s husband sat on his daughter’s bed at home and sobbed.
Another friend worried. “He was all alone. What if he doesn’t make friends?”
“We had to walk away, leaving her in tears” I was told sadly.
We worried, we commiserated, we hoped for good things. We didn’t sleep much that first night.
Little did we know that while we lay awake worrying in our beds, our kids had begun to scooch forward. Anticipating and anxious, they had begun the slide away from home and away from our waiting arms, but into their amazing and exciting futures, filled with their own achievements and accomplishments that do not involve us. The parents.
Now, a few weeks have gone by. My daughter is happy, exuberant, making new friends, joining clubs, getting involved, going places. Other friends report the same. The fears and worry are now mostly behind us.
Transitions are hard for everyone. Sometimes for the kids and sometimes for the parents. For me, this one is bitter sweet, yet overall my heart soars.
I want to clap! She did it. I’m so proud, so happy, so full of admiration. My heart still aches, but tears are not a part of the mix. I’m just proud. I know you are proud too. I see you there, clapping.