Saturday, August 31, 2013

Missing Your Child...And Your Past

It's been eight days since that first tiny, yet natural, "fracturing" of our family took place. My wife, youngest son Ben and I drove the 40+ miles south to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to move our oldest son Josh into his freshman dorm at the University of Mary Washington. We know this needs to happen, that this should happen, and we're truly excited for Josh -- but that doesn't make the "letting go" of our firstborn any easier.

For our part, we all cried when we said goodbye -- I freely admit that, because I'm that guy, the one who pretty much wears his emotions on his sleeve. For Josh's part, I'm pretty sure he'll miss his mother, brother and I, but I know his excitement to begin not just his freshman year in school, but to start practicing with UMW's lacrosse team (whose recruitment he pursued vigilantly) likely exceeds any family-related emotions he might have right now.

And you know, that's okay...that's part of growing up and going to college, at least from my personal experience, and I am so excited for Josh that he is experiencing that kind of anticipation right now. I remember being in his shoes in the summer of 1984, and hardly being able to wait out summer to get started on my own freshman year at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. The mid-to-late 1980s of my undergraduate years at Ship were four of the most exhilarating, exciting and fulfilling years of my entire life so far. Yes, some folks use the same adjectives to describe married life, and to describe life after our kids come along, but those college undergrad years? Well, that's a special kind of magic right there. College is a place and a time where one makes some of the best memories and some of the best friends of a lifetime.

And actually, I find that a week after my oldest son has gone on to start his freshman year at college, that I'm almost...envious. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to go back and re-live those four years at all -- nor to repeat the years that have passed since. I'm not a guy who lives with regret, and I'm not about to start now. But the experience of living somewhere new, in a microcosmic (and somewhat shielded) environment where you're solely responsible for the choices you make regarding your schoolwork, meals, laundry, social life and -- to a certain extent -- your bills and fiscal situation, is incomparable.

It's a growing experience that you don't want to trade for the world. And I'm so glad that Josh is living it right now, and that Ben will get that same opportunity in two years. I love my sons as much as I do my good wife. I do (and I will) miss my kids when they're both off at college -- and I can't help live vicariously (just a bit) through their experiences, and to miss my own -- but I can't wait for them to experience the singularly enriching experience of living on your own for the first time. There's nothing in the world quite like that feeling...