This is it. The time you’ve been thinking about since your child was born.
It’s what you’ve done. Burped, rocked, patted, cajoled, sang, reasoned, discussed, laughed, cried, yelled, hugged, listened, walked, drove, sighed, cheered, protected. And now here comes the big one…
No one tells you the intricate dance your heart does when it’s time to send your child to college.
Worry filters through during the application process. Hope digs its way in during the acceptance letters. Sweet discernment bobs up and down during the selection process. Fright takes hold at the thought of paying for college. Excitement thrills at the mention of the future. Reality engulfs at the thought of just a few weeks before classes begin. And then comes the big one…
Time to say goodbye.
There’s no word, no greeting card, no outlet for that moment. It’s just, “We love you. Call us.”
“You’ve done your job,” friends tell you.
“Let the beautiful bird fly!” others persuade.
“They’re ready,” family assures.
“Congratulations!” someone reminds you.
“It’s hard,” a friend whispers.
Yes. It’s hard. The family you’ve worked so hard to build, fought so hard to protect is changing…and it will never be the same again.
It’s exciting to see your baby grow into a blooming adult. It’s shocking to think that they won’t be sleeping in their bed, in your house, with your family. They won’t be sitting at the breakfast table, cranky because they didn’t get enough sleep, but they won’t be sitting at the dinner table laughing about their day.
There’s a hole. In your heart. No...a chasm really.
And no one tells you this.
Rob Lowe talks about sending his son off to college in an excerpt from his book Love Life. (You can find the article at Slate.) He says this:
“I have been emotionally blindsided. I know that this is a rite many have been through, that this is nothing unique. I know that this is all good news; my son will go to a great school, something we as a family have worked hard at for many years. I know that this is his finest hour. But looking at his suitcases on his bed, his New England Patriots posters on the wall, and his dog watching him pack, sends me out of the room to a hidden corner where I can’t stop crying.”
Yep. (Except the part about the NE Patriots...not in this Denver Bronco house...)
He sums up how he’s feeling with a great image when he writes, “I’m trying to remember when I felt like this before. Like an elephant is sitting on my chest, like my throat is so tight and constricted that I can feel its tendons, like my eyes are 100 percent water, spilling out at will, down pathways on my face that have been dry for as long as I can think of. I’m trying to remember: When was the last time my heart was breaking?”
Sums it up.
So why isn’t there a word for this?
The Latin root dolo means to "chop into shape, inflict blows." The Latin root doleo means "to grieve or suffer." The prefix con means "with." They come together to make the word:
Yes. Someone should wish me their condolences. But what about the good stuff?
The Latin word congratulatus means "to wish joy", the prefix con we know.
Yes. We are joyful at the prospect of our children starting new lives. So I propose a new word:
If you have a child going off to college, just know I understand how your heart is breaking. I understand the excitement you feel at their fresh start.
And I wish you congratudolences.