Monday, August 13, 2012

The First Day of School

Eight years ago when we dropped Boy#1 off at college, the president of his university spoke to the assembled parents of first-time students. I was madly chewing gum to hold off the tears that had been threatening all day. The president was a young-to-us guy, though, with kids just slightly older than the Boys and he had valuable experience to share.

"This is a day you've looked forward to for 18 years and the intensity has really ramped up during the past year," he told us. "You not only worked hard with your child to choose the right college, you've spent the last three months comparison-shopping mini-refrigerators and searching out extra-long twin sheets. For the last month your living room floor has been covered in Rubbermaid storage tubs filled with surge protectors and computer cords. Today, you moms unpacked your child's clothes into the dorm dressers and made the beds with navy blue comforters."

I had to laugh--he was on target down to the navy blue comforter.

"Next year," he said, "at the first of August you'll ask your son or daughter if they need anything to get ready to go back to school, and you'll help them load their cars before they leave, then wave good-bye as they pull out of the driveway. The year after that, you'll get a phone call sometime around the first of September, and it will be your child. He'll say, 'Mom? Dad? I forgot to tell you I was leaving, but I'm back at school now.'"

We haven't quite reached that state of benign neglect yet, but we're getting there.

All four of the Boys were home for their grandfather's wedding, then spent the week in the House on the Corner. I love this picture someone snapped at the the wedding, one that symbolizes our family dynamics today. Husband and I were off talking to someone and the Boys were busy organizing a paper football contest (and avoiding the dance floor) when the photo was shot. They were having a great time together and while they were happy to include their parents if we drifted around, they didn't need us to orchestrate their activities.

The college president was exaggerating when he said we wouldn't even notice after the first year when our students went off to college--you don't take that much chaos out of a house without noticing just a little--but he wasn't exaggerating the difference in the emotional tone of yesterday's leave-taking compared to the traumatic first years of college. Now we are included in the process but we are not essential.

And that's just the way it should be.


  1. This is so good to read.

    I looked again and again at that GREAT PICTURE. I'm imagining my own four boys in a photo like that some day, and I can't picture it!

    1. Swistle, you'll be amazed at how quickly they get there. Also, at how much fun they will have together when they've spent most of their childhoods bickering.

  2. Nice looking group of brothers who don't neccesarily look alike but are each a perfect blend of their parents!

  3. Very handsome boys you have!
    I'm sending my oldest off for his 2nd year of college, and it's just as you mention! Still a lot of rubbermaid containers taking up space in my house though, at least for another week.