The house is quiet. No guitar or banjo strumming. No pool balls knocking around. We drove our son back to college this afternoon. It took two cars because he has so many instruments! I realize I don’t worry about him nearly as much as I used to, and that is a huge change for me. Now it’s just a gentle tug of the heart, knowing that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and a big part of that is leaving the nest.
Seeing as how I haven’t been able to get my thoughts together enough to write a coherent blog post for weeks now, I thought I’d share some of Greg’s writing. This is a post he wrote the summer before our son went to college. We had just returned from summer orientation.
Spreading His Wings
All across the country this summer, parents are accompanying their offspring to college orientations. These programs are designed for parents as much as for students, giving us practice at the next step in “letting go” of our kids.As a psychologist, I have counseled many families in making this transition. I have frequently used the metaphor of birds building a nest, raising their young, and then watching them leave the nest.A few years ago, we had a pair of robins build a nest on the basketball hoop right outside our breakfast room window. We watched the entire process unfold over a few weeks. It was bittersweet as we watched the youngsters fly away. The last one seemed determined to stay in the nest, but ultimately, he too found his wings.
For two steamy days this June, my wife and I accompanied our son to the University of Missouri. We tromped around campus in large groups, with parents and students separated for some programs, reunited for others.
It was hard to believe that, in just 8 weeks, this would become our son’s world. We alternated between excitement and anxiety. We flashed back to all the milestones over the past 18 years.
We attended programs on alcohol and drug abuse, student privacy rights, health issues—each session reminding us that our child is now considered by others, to be an adult. This same child had rarely even spent a night away from our home.
As the day was winding down, we felt some trepidation as our son would be spending his first night in the dorm. Both Barb and I felt unnamed and ambiguous emotions, but we did not speak about it, not wanting to bring forth these feelings.
As we walked with our group toward Jesse Hall, we noticed a tiny, seemingly helpless creature on the sidewalk.
This baby robin looked like it had a serious case of bed head. Its wings were small and undeveloped. It squawked at us and clearly did not even know how vulnerable it was. Barb looked at me and asked, “Shouldn’t we do something?”
I remembered reading that the mother bird stays nearby and may even continue to feed the little one.
I responded, “No, he’ll be okay.” Silently, I repeated that to myself.