Sending Your Kid To College Is Exactly Like Being Pregnant, But Different.

I never thought I would experience pregnancy more than twice, but I was wrong.

No, no, I’m not really pregnant again (bite your tongue!). I am, however, exhibiting many of the same symptoms.

When we found out I was pregnant the first time, the wheels started turning immediately. We started wondering about so many things:

Were we ready for this change?
Were we up for the challenge of raising another human being?
Could we actually afford this?

Of course, those were only some of the questions. And it was a little late to be asking those questions, anyway.

We put lots of time into figuring out our name choices. We did research in actual “baby naming” books. As we pored over them, we made a list of names whose meanings held some level of importance in our hearts.

As the pregnancy went on, we had bouts of anxiety over whether we were ready. It was an emotional time. I was a little moody sometimes, a little snappish, and a little prone to tears. And it was a little bittersweet, admittedly, as we slowly, really came to the realization that our days of having privacy (or sleep!) were quickly coming to an end.

It was thrilling when we finally chose a name for him: that was one less thing we had to worry about, and it gave us freedom to move on.

When we were within arms’ reach of my due date, preparations intensified. We went to the hospital and took a tour of the labor and delivery floor. We met some of the nursing staff. We watched videos and received handouts on what to expect from the hospital.

We had to think about getting the nursery ready, and filled shopping carts full of things that this little guy would need. We figured out which pieces of furniture would work in his room, and got some of it from the store, some from relatives, and some from other parts of our house.

Sitting around together at night, we (like all pregnant couples) talked excitedly about what we thought our child would be like. Would he be cute? (Don’t act like you didn’t wonder the same thing about your future children.) What would he be like as a teenager? What might he be when he grew up?

Gradually, everyone I knew began asking me, “Still no baby?” as they shook their heads and looked at me with pity-filled eyes. “Nope,” I’d say, annoyed that they were asking a question whose answer was obvious, but also annoyed that this kid hadn’t arrived yet. I liked him already, and was excited to spend time with him.

When he finally arrived (late!), it was a huge adjustment, naturally. At first, I still shed random tears. Though I cried, I was so happy to have brought this little guy into the world. Eventually my hormones returned back to their normal state and we threw ourselves into parenting this adorably cute (Yes! He was SO cute!) little baby who we adored. That’s how the three of us started our journey as a family.

Now it’s time for that adorably cute little baby to go to college, and the process has been very similar. At the beginning of the college search, it was an exciting prospect to help him figure out what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. At the same time, the reality that our job, completing Parenting (Phase I) was coming to an end. We started to ask ourselves lots of questions:

Were we ready for this change?
Were we ready to be “minus one” in our day-to-day family life?
Could we actually afford this?

Of course, those were only some of the questions. And it was a little late to be asking those questions, anyway. That train had already left the station.

When the three of us started researching colleges, we really researched. We pored over books which profile various schools, mostly in the Midwest but some that were out of the area. We made note of the ones that offered his desired major, and focused on those.

As time went on, we’ve had bouts of anxiety over whether we were ready. It’s an emotional time. I’ve been a little moody sometimes, a little snappish, and a little prone to tears. And it’s been a little bittersweet, admittedly, as we slowly, really came to the realization that our days of having NO privacy (or sleep!) were quickly coming to an end. (Well, sort of: there IS that other kid in the house. But you know what I mean.)

When he began to narrow down his college choices, we went on a couple of fact-finding missions so we could tour the schools. We were shown the classrooms, labs, cafeterias, and dorms. We met some of the professors and support staff. We watched videos and received handouts on what to expect from the schools.

It was thrilling when he finally chose a college: that was one less thing we had to worry about, and it gave us freedom to move on.

We’ve had to think about getting his dorm room together, and filled shopping carts full of things that this big guy would need. We figured out which pieces of furniture would work in his room, and got some of it from the store, some from relatives, and some from other parts of our house.

Sitting around at night, Jim and I (like all parents of new college freshmen) have had lots of conversations about what kind of college student he’d be. Would he still procrastinate? (I’ve got one guess.) Would he make good decisions? Would he get along with his roommate? Would he enjoy the college experience?

Suddenly, everyone I know has begun asking me, “You haven’t taken him to school yet?” while shaking their heads and looking at me with pity-filled eyes. “Nope,” I’ve answered, annoyed that they were looking at me that way while asking me that question, and then I’ve sighed heavily while filling them in on the fact that he’s due to leave much later than everyone else.

When he finally goes (somewhat appropriately on Labor Day weekend; we move him into the dorm this Sunday), it will be a huge adjustment, naturally. (For all of us.) Will I cry? Yes. But not for the reason you think. People say that “good parents make themselves obsolete”. I know without a doubt that Jim and I have done a great job raising this kid from baby to young man. I don’t have a problem with him “not needing” us as much. I know he still needs us, just in different ways from before. (And by the way, we are here for whatever his new needs are.)

So why will I cry?

Because I like him, and I will miss him.

The thought of not seeing him daily after eighteen years of doing so–complete with all of his silly jokes, interesting observations, thoughtful acts of kindness, responsible behavior, contagious laughter, and everything else that is a part of his whole being–feels physically painful to me…but of course I will adjust. He’s not leaving the family, just the house. Our relationship is moving into a new phase, and this is a happy time. It has been an honor to raise him to this point, and it will be an honor to watch him get his future going. We are so proud.

So if you see me cry or hear my voice quiver, it’s not because I’m really upset. There’s a little bit of sadness on the top layer, but underneath, it’s happiness. Just as it was so joyful to bring him into the world, it’s so joyful to be able to send him out in it.

A few extra hugs might be helpful, though.

©2010 Suburban Scrawl

29 Comments

  • Meagan Francis

    You are so right–there are a lot of parallels! We aren't there yet but as my son is on the cusp of teenagerdom, I can feel the years speeding up, and we're headed in that direction sooner than I feel ready for. Having a child move out–who's always lived with you his whole life is a huge transition! I'd cry, too. (and I will, I'm sure.)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the wonderful sentiments (and the morning cry!). Sending lots of hugs your way & wishing you all everything you wish for yourselves….

  • WeaselMomma

    This is beautiful and an apt analogy that I would have never thought of.

    I sure am glad that that he and all his most important belongings don't have to leave your home the same way that he entered it.

    Love you lots.

  • Tara R.

    I'm holding your hand through this. I know that sadness/happiness feeling. You both will be great and the reunions that much sweeter.

  • Lisa

    a very thorough analogy!!!!

    i can't even imagine dropping my babies off, but i know that as much as it seems an eternity away it will be here in the blink of an eye and I only hope that what we're doing today leads me to the same feelings you are having of knowing we've done well but simply missing them for the people they are and what they mean to you day to day.

  • Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog

    Shit. Now I'M crying!

    I hope the adjustment is smoother than you foresee and that his first year at college is awesome.

  • PJ Mullen

    That's it! No college for my kids. I went through the pregnancy thing twice, I'm not doing it again 🙂

    Good luck to you, I can only imagine how difficult this weekend will be for you.

  • Patty@NYC Girl at Heart

    Aw Melisa! I want to hug you. This is such a lovely post! I know it will be hard but the new phase of life will be exciting for both of you. Good luck this weekend! xoxo

  • DaddysFishBowl

    This was an awesomely written post, I definitely enjoyed the analogy. Great Job!!!

    Although I act all tough, I'll no doubt be feeling the same as you when it's time to move the boy onto the next phase of his life.

  • kat

    I hope parting won't be too hard for you guys, I can't even imagine what it must be like for a mom to let go. I would cry like a baby, I just know it.

    Heck, I only got to know him (you) for a week and when you guys left I almost cried at the airport.

    But you guys have strong ties and things will be different but you're still going to have this deep connection. Sigh.

  • Heather

    Aww, I am sorry hon. But so excited for you AND him. This is such an awesome time in his life, and I think it's wonderful you are embracing it with him!

  • Mom24

    So, so true.

    I know she'll be fine. I know college is going to be great for her, but I really like her, and I'm really going to miss simply having her here.

  • Anonymous

    You have done a great job on both the boys and you should be very proud. I know it will be different at home but he was raised in such a great way by two great parents I know he will have a life of ups and downs but he will know how to handle it or know he can always go to you two for guidance. (Or even to us)

    Love Always
    Grandma W

  • Michelle

    Awww… I love this post!

    And if you need a hug, I'm happy to give one. Here's hoping it's a great four years (six if we could the Younger Boy)?

    And where are the pics of this excited college freshman?!

  • As Cape Cod Turns

    Excellent!!!!!!
    It's better than you hoped it would turn out! Nice job. Please remind me of it in 5 years.
    I am holding your hand and squeezing it every once and awhile!
    🙂

  • Mrs4444

    Mr.4444 cracked tonight, all worried that he hadn't done enough to prepare Kyle (of course, he has!). He said (through tears), "I know we had to push him out of the nest, but damn–There are a lot of hawks out there!" Of course, Kyle's going to be fine, and so is your son. They say parenting doesn't stop when they turn 18, and it's so true!

    Oh, Congratulations!! 🙂

  • BLOGitse

    Like Mrs 4444 says: They say parenting doesn't stop when they turn 18 – true. Whatever age your children are they are your children. Relationship changes…you're more equal – children and parents are all adults…until adults change to be children again and their own children will be adults and take care of the parents…
    SS greetings from Casa,
    have a great weekend!

  • Kristen

    My kiddos aren't old enough to be heading off to college yet-but if it's like you say I'm sure it will be a very emotional time for me as well. It's funny all the dreams you have for them as they grow up and how happy they make you-only to have them actually grow up and it be such an emotionally charged time. Loved this post!

    Came by from Saturday Sampling!

  • Karen MEG

    Melisa, what a great post! There are so many parallels… this post made me cry, it was so sweet.

    You should be proud, you've raised a wonderful young man… and he should be proud of his parents that they've done such a wonderful of parenting him.

    Hugs!

  • Emily

    What an amazing comparison and post! Congratulations on raising a fine son and the best of luck to him (and you) as he starts his college years.

  • Kirby3131

    I didn't have any children, but I've watched so many parents go through this process. I really enjoyed the way you connected the baby and the college student. Cool

    Kristin – The Goat
    via Saturday Sampling

  • Colleen - Mommy Always Wins

    This IS a great post. Love it!

    You know he's a smart boy who will do (more than) fine…plus, once you come up to visit him, I can drive *my* half of the way and come see you for lunch! 🙂

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