At new faculty orientation today, I sat with a table full of young professors just beginning their academic careers.
“I just sent my oldest child to kindergarten,” one of them told me, his eyes filled with sadness.
“I remember those days,” I say. And I do, especially today, because today, I sent my youngest child to college.
I remember my son’s first day of kindergarten. How proud I was that he could count past one hundred, how happy I was that the teacher greeted him with a big smile, and the little girl next to him with a big hug. Happy butterflies flitted across the wall in between cheerful ABCs. The room was an altogether happy place.
Still, I walked from that room with tears streaming down my face and an ache in my heart.
Today, I didn’t get to meet my son’s teacher; I didn’t get to walk into his classroom. I didn’t get to meet his classmates.
I realize that my son is perfectly capable of being happy and successful in college.
But my heart aches. Just as it did thirteen years ago when I left my chubby faced cherub in kindergarten that first day.
I want to say to this young professor siting across from me, relish every moment.
When you drop your child off at kindergarten, the years stretch before you, and you can’t even imagine high school graduation, and certainly not this first day of college.
But you blink, and it happens. Your blue-eyed baby boy turns into a strong, smart, handsome young man who stands head and shoulders above you.
This should have gotten easier for me. I’ve already sent four children to college. Yet each leaving rips a little piece of my heart.
Yesterday, my best friend and I leafed through pictures of when the children were little with cone-shaped birthday hats on their heads, their happy smiles stained bright blue with birthday cake icing. We laughed and cried together.
My best friend sent her youngest child to college today, too.
The Bible tells us to give thanks, and it’s times like these that I must.
And I do. I give thanks for all the joy this child has brought to me. I give thanks for the times he made me laugh, the fun I had making friends with parents at all the little league games and Vacation Bible Schools, the football games and the band concerts.
I trust that God’s gentle hand will ease my grief, and the grief of all the other mothers who on this day are sending their babies off to school.