Merridith Frediani ponders the motherly mixed emotions she felt upon bringing her kids to college this fall.
A few months ago I wrote that it’s OK to be OK with your kids going off to college. It’s a natural progression and I stand by that statement but I need to share that it’s also OK to not be OK with it because this past August I realized that once again, I was very much not OK with this plan to send another child far away to further his education.
When we deposited the lad in Kansas, it was my first time visiting a state known for being flat (in 2003, researchers from Texas State and Arizona State used math to determine that Kansas is in fact flatter than an IHOP pancake) but the University of Kansas is built on what is optimistically called a mountain. I scoffed at this initially. I’ve seen mountains and this is not one. 21,463 steps later I’d traversed the campus four times and both my legs and I now agree with its mountain status. This is not a campus for the weak-kneed.
The move in experience was new to us, having sent the other two to the much smaller campuses of the University of Mary and the University of Dallas where one simply pulls into a parking spot near the residence hall, unloads, and calls it done. The system at KU is designed to handle the arrival of thousands of kids in a smooth and orderly fashion, staffed by hyped-up RAs who are impossibly happy, given the 86-degree, high-humidity day.
After a few digressions, we found ourselves in the correct car line and waited patiently in our tin can rental car, thankful that even though it had roll-down windows reminiscent of the 70s and the locks weren’t automatic, it did have air conditioning.
It became clear that we were likely going to miss our flight home. This was a long slow-moving serpentine line whose point was to afford people the chance to park near the building to unload. The realization struck us. We flew here. We had three rolling suitcases, three backpacks, and three people. We did not need to avail ourselves of this helpful line. Thanks to a kind Kansan, we slipped out of the queue, drove to a lot, and trotted over a bridge to the dorm. Check-in was quick and we were off to the cell that is a college freshman’s home.
Then it was time to rip off the band-aid. This is the part that gets easier but is never easy. After another haul across the mountain, we left him at an ice-breaker social for one of his classes, said good-bye and hugged.
Then I did what I always do and should never do. I looked back. I saw my son walking toward strangers at a strange university in a strange state ... and I cried.
It’s OK to be OK when kids go to college, but it’s also OK to not be OK with it. This is not the last time I will leave one of my kids in a place far from home. Each time I’ve looked back and each time I’ve worn a crumpled crying face as I see my darling begin the next phase. I’ve comforted myself with the knowledge that this is what they are supposed to do. This is them becoming independent adults.
But I’ve recently begun to wonder if it needs to be such a painful rip. I see the merit in going far away for school but there is something that feels wrong about leaving my child nine, twelve, or fifteen hours away in Kansas, North Dakota, or Texas. It feels like that’s not how it’s supposed to go. But that’s how it has gone -- at least in this family.
My prayer continues to be that they will enjoy living in a different place and then decide to return home to stay. My fear is that they will not and that hurts my heart. So I pray for them. A lot. I wonder if God ever tires of hearing me praying for good holy people to surround them and be their friends, for them to grow in holiness and love for Jesus, and for them to return so we can all live life together. The Bible tells us to be persistent in prayer, so I will persist because when half of my favorite people are flung far across the country, it’s all I can do.
I’ll be OK with all of this in a month or so but now, today, after doing this twice in the past week, I’m not OK with it. And that’s OK. I am, however, OK with having less laundry to tackle.
Copyright 2021 Merridith Frediani
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About the Author
Merridith Frediani loves words and is delighted by good sentences. She also loves Lake Michigan, dahlias, the first sip of hot coffee in the morning, millennials, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids. Merridith writes for Catholic Mom, Diocesan.com, and her local Catholic Herald. Her first book, Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Adoration, is available at Our Sunday Visitor and Amazon. You can read more at MerridithFrediani.com.