“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 Kid on slidedrops, anticipating, anxious…

“Wheeeeee!”

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.

Daughter is off to college

“We cried, we hugged, we said goodbye.

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.

“Wheeeeeeeeee!”

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.

 

Susan-KeatsSusan Keats ~ In 2010 Susan received life-changing news after a routine mammogram. She had breast cancer. After plenty of tears, anxiety and soul searching, she finished treatments and is now entering a year of renewal, growth, and recovery. Susan hopes that those who are just stepping into the experience of illnesses or crises will find the same comfort and inspiration that she felt when others shared their experiences and wisdom with her. She is looking forward to rediscovering parts of herself that she had allowed to fall away. This is going to be a great year!

7 Responses to “My Afterlife” Series ~ Who’s Crying Now?

  1. Very sweet blog and with a daughter who’s already a high school Sophomore in the blink of an eye, I can relate to these feelings soon to come. Wiping away a few tears right now.

  2. Susan says:

    Thank you Robin. When my kids were little, people would tell me to love every moment because it would fly by. I remember thinking that it was DRAGGING. Once high school hit though, it has indeed flown by. But the sadness of letting them go also has so much joy wrapped up in it too. What a mix of emotions! But, with your sophomore…enjoy every minute!

  3. Merle says:

    We can get used to anything. Wait until she graduates, gets a job in another city, another country, another continent. It doesn’t ever get any easier to say good bye. And we are never done growing up.

  4. Susan says:

    Merle, all I can say is, thank goodness for Skype!

  5. Ellen says:

    Great story. You captured it perfectly! My step-daughters are several years out of college now, and there have been so many “hold your breath and say wheeee” moments as they progress through their lives. Sometimes I’m the one having the great ride on the slide as I watch them change and grow and live life to its fullest.

  6. Susan says:

    Thanks Ellen! You are right too about us being the ones to go down the slide. I hadn’t thought of that, but yes we do!

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