Some of you are facing a new reality, in fact a life change. Some of you are packing and buying and ordering U-Hauls or plane tickets for your son or daughter to go off to college. I will see such kids in my classes at the end of this month, and about 99% do just fine. There are lots of transitions for them and for you, but Father Time’s clock keeps on ticking and this is what happens next. Our kids grow up and we see them drive down the road.
Kris and I experienced this differently. I thought it was cool that the kids were going off to college and what I most grieved was not enjoying it with them. We would be here in Libertyville and they off at college and we’d just not know most of the time what was going on. But, I was happy for them and wish I could have watched the fun.
Kris, with Laura, was fine. She went to Wheaton and, because Kris worked at the Meier Clinic not too far away, she didn’t feel so separated. Not that we saw Laura much; in fact, we didn’t see her hardly at all until Thanksgiving. But, still she was close. We took Laura to Wheaton, and by the time we got home, Lukas had taken over the bathroom they shared (Laura had “hogged” it in his opinion) and he gradually spread things even into her room.
When we took Luke to Kansas, Kris started crying at the local gas station and cried for miles (all the way to Naperville if my memory serves me right). I think Luke was stunned; as a husband, I was just hoping it would all go away. The day after we dropped Lukas off, Kris called him. Luke’s response: “Mom, why are you calling me so soon?”
There are lots of norms here: if they don’t call you very often, that’s a good thing. They’ve learned to be independent. If they call you, that’s fine, too: they want to chat. Neither of our kids called much. E-mail works fine. So do cell phones.
As a professor I can tell you that 99% of these kids will be fine. Be thankful you don’t know all they are doing because they make lots of goofy decisions. They come to class tired because they don’t go to bed at the right time. They don’t always eat well. They don’t always manage their time well. By the time they are sophomores they are better at the independence game. By the time they are seniors they are about ready to act like adults most of the time. You really don’t want to be next door to your kids during all this change and growth. Let us professors live with it — we’re used to it. In fact, we know it so well we just ignore it as what happens when your kids come to college.
Every now and then they stop in just to be with a fatherly figure. I can say that nearly every time they talk about you. And most of the time — surprise, surprise — they say very nice things. They miss you, but are probably not going to say that.
Well, we got over our kids going off to college. It surely didn’t take long to enjoy the quiet home, and it was really fun not to have to pick things up. Nothing ever got out of place. Besides seeing the kids, touching them and talking to them, what we most missed was the commotion that comes with teenage kids: phone calls, kids stopping by, running in the back door one minute and out the next (“I’ll be back later”), and leaving things around — that sort of thing. Everything just came to a middle-aged hault. Life moved at our pace, and only at our pace.
That meant it took a little getting used to when the kids came back at vacations and summers; and it was a little easier (I’ll be honest: sometimes it was a good thing) when the kids went back to school. Ah, that quiet empty nest is a good thing for folks our age. I wonder sometimes how we kept up with all the hub-bub.
So how are some of you doing? I suppose some of you have children who will become high school seniors and are already beginning to dread this process. It’s good on the other side, too.