The college dropoff (freshman year version in particular) is a rite of passage as tearful as sending our firstborn to kindergarten and laden with plenty of meaning. Our kids are transitioning from the cosseted safety of home to the independence of young adult life. We're transitioning from controlling parents to advisory ones. In the moment of that dropoff, it's all about luggage and towels and how to find the dorm. Once we leave the campus it's all about their new life and ours.
In 2013, Michael Gerson, a writer for the Washington Post who passed away a few years ago, penned the feelings that coursed through him as he anticipated dropping off his son at college. Here's an excerpt but you can tear up through the whole thing here.
An education expert once told me that among the greatest fears of college students is they won’t have a room at home to return to. They want to keep a beachhead in their former life.
But with due respect to my son’s feelings, I have the worse of it. I know something he doesn’t — not quite a secret, but incomprehensible to the young. He is experiencing the adjustments that come with beginnings. His life is starting for real. I have begun the long letting go. Put another way: He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close.
There is no use brooding about it. I’m sure my father realized it at a similar moment. And I certainly didn’t notice or empathize. At first, he was a giant who held my hand and filled my sky. Then a middle-aged man who paid my bills. Now, decades after his passing, a much-loved shadow. But I can remember the last time I hugged him in the front hallway of his home, where I always had a room. It is a memory of warmth. I can only hope to leave my son the same.
painting: Lovis Corinth