Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whatever You Do, Don't Cry

Seven years ago when my first child was about to head off for his first year of college, I had already started my semester at SUNY Fredonia.  I was teaching ENGL 100 that semester, so I asked my class full of freshmen for advice:  What should I do or not do when I drop my son off at college?  They had a number of suggestions: "Don't hang around forever," "Don't try to introduce him to all the other freshmen," and "Help him get his sheets on his bed!"  But their biggest piece of advice was this: "Whatever you do, don't cry."  I promised to remember and even told my son what they'd said at dinner that night.  We laughed about it, and I promised again to again to heed the advice.  So when the time arrived, we loaded up the minivan and headed for campus.  When we got to his dorm, a troop of friendly upperclassmen were there to help us carry his belongings up to the third floor.  We helped him settle in, chatted with his roommate's parents, and headed off to the dedication service.  Then, all of a sudden, it was time to leave.  Ben hugged his dad and siblings goodbye, then it was my turn.  As I gave him a big hug, tears sprang to my eyes.  He saw them, and said, "Mom, remember what your students said."  I nodded and tried to smile, but I couldn't stop the tears from trickling down my cheeks.  I felt just as I did on the first day of kindergarten when I had to walk away and leave my precious child alone in a new place.  Sure, he was much older now and more than ready for college, but this was a big new place, and he wouldn't be coming home to me at 3:00.  In fact, he wouldn't be home until October break.  But it was time.  So with one more round of hugs and goodbyes, we climbed into the van and left our boy standing in front of his dorm ready to start his new life.  This week I have two first-born nephews and a last-born niece heading off for college, so they and their parents are in my thoughts as I write.  To my siblings and their spouses I'll offer the same advice my freshmen gave me, "Whatever you do, don't cry."  And to Drew, Anthony, and Mackenzie, three things: 1) Forgive your parents when they cry anyway, 2) Don't forget to call and text from time to time, and 3) Have a great year and remember how very much you are loved!

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