Roger Marolt: Roger This
August 23, 2012
Lend me your shoulder this week. I need to cry on it. I took my oldest child to college.
Although in the weeks and months, even the years, leading up to this point, I tried to convince myself it’s true, the fact is that it is of almost no consequence that millions of families have gone through this process before I did, and billions more will in the eons to come. It didn’t help. My heart is broken anyway. The best I can say is that I am wiser and a more sympathetic person.
It’s the craziest hodgepodge of emotion. I am about as sad as can be while being as happy as possible at the same time. It’s painful to see my baby go, but I cannot think of one thing I would rather she be doing. I couldn’t be prouder. I couldn’t be hurting more. Hopefully this dichotomy is indicative of a deep wound that will heal quickly, but I doubt it.
If I may humbly offer advice to parents still double-digit years away from Move-in Day, it would be this: Make two lists. The first one is for things to do of the highest priority. The only thing you should put on that list is “Live for your children.” Everything you do, work and play, should be centered on getting to know them and making sure they know they are loved deeply and are the most important thing in your life.
The second list will be much longer and be titled “The things I will do in my spare time.” This list should include things like aspiration, dreams and accomplishments. Make sub-categories for travel, entertainment and recreation.
Yes, I know it sounds like I am saying that you cannot “have it all” in life, and that is exactly what I am saying. Ironically, this makes life better.
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Every young parent has heard from older ones that “it” will be here in the blink of an eye and that time with your children passes more quickly than comprehension can follow, so cherish every moment of it. I heard the advice a thousand times – maybe a million. I took it to heart. I embraced it. I practiced it with gusto and wore the squash spit-up on my shoulders as a sergeant wears golden stripes on his sleeves.
But I got a big part of it wrong. I approached it as a traveler at an oasis preparing for the time when I would have to set out across the desert alone. I gulped at the spring every chance I got. I immersed myself in the water. I thought I could drink until satiated, fully quenching my thirst for when the time came. This would make the departure easier.
While I wouldn’t do anything differently, I am convinced the advice I got was good and the preparation for separation was appropriate, the result was not what I anticipated. When the time came to set out, my mouth was bone dry, and I couldn’t for the life of me swallow the lump in my throat. The water hadn’t quenched my thirst. To the contrary, I wanted even more.
Spending time with my daughter, getting to know her all those years of childhood, sharing, caring and preparing for the time of separation, served to make the whole process of dropping her off at college all the more painful. The more time you spend with someone you love, the harder it is to let them go. I miss her a lot. Duh.
Another surprising thing that happened with all those other things on the second list I mentioned, devoting only the sparse amount of spare time a young parent has on them, is that they became more enjoyable, too. You’ll never appreciate a powder day more than when you have only a concentrated hour to devote to it. It’s not enough, so you seem to almost notice every flake of fresh snow thrown up into your face. It’s the same with the travel, careers and dreams. None gets fulfilled completely, and yet you end up feeling satisfied.
It’s no wonder I feel mixed up, and yet I understand now what people meant when they told me about children making your life rich. Right now I am swimming in the texture of it. Over the past week, we have upgraded quality time into luxury time. It hurts like hell to drive away and in the rear-view mirror see a child you love blossoming into an adult you will love, but man, it is a beautiful kind of pain. I have few regrets in raising her, and she has forgiven me those parts of being human. I know it was all worthwhile. I will certainly have more time with her, rarer and more precious than gold because of this.