A Right of Passage

By Kate Kopp college



(The following was written a few years ago, when we took our son, our first born, to college seven hours away. I’m happy to report that he, and we, all survived that first year. We are now about to take our daughter to college in a few days and, though we know we will all survive, it still tugs at our heart. I thought I’d share this post as so many families are experiencing this major milestone in their homes. Just remember, it gets easier!)

We dropped our son off at college yesterday. A right of passage, I know, but not an easy one. I’m told it’s the first step toward adulthood, but, to quote my sister-in-law, it’s a doozy.

My husband had been dreading that day for six months, knowing his first born, his only son, and the only other testosterone-laden family member would be leaving him to fend for himself in a house full of females. I am much better at living day-to-day. With two other children in the house, two dogs, and too many volunteer positions, I was able to postpone my worry until the last moment.

After all, someone had to plan the graduation party, and shop for the college supplies, and wash the sheets, and pack the clothes, and supervise the packing and then… cry.

I can vividly remember being handed this screaming, nine-pound baby boy 18 years ago and thinking, now what? What am I to do with him? How am I to take care of him? As a parent, you nurture, clothe, feed, protect and love this child for 18 years, and then suddenly, in the time it takes to unpack a dorm room, you leave them to fend for themselves, hoping you told them everything they will need to get by on their own.

Did I remind him not to wash his new red t-shirt with his whites? Did I explain to him how to change his sheets? Did I show him where I put his extra towels?  Did I tell him I love him enough?

Driving out of town, leaving our first born behind (never mind that he is 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds) was possibly the hardest thing I have had to do yet.  We drove there with three children in the car, and are leaving with only two. It was like leaving an arm or leg – part of me was missing.

Grant it, we will see him in six weeks. Family Weekend is as much for the parents being left behind as it is for the kids. And I know that the tears are really selfish on our part. We are crying for ourselves, not him. He is about to embark on a new, exciting world – full of self-discovery, parties, football games, girls and hopefully, academics!

No, we cry because we realize that our little boy is no longer little. Our family is forever changed. Our table for five is now a table of four. And soon, much sooner than we want to think, even that number will shrink.

And that is good. That means we are doing our job as parents – encouraging our children to grow and spread their wings. But boy, is it hard.

So, behind our sunglasses, we cry, with a smile on our face and a tug on our heart. We say a prayer, as we drive away, that we raised him right, taught him everything, and that maybe he will miss us just a little.