They walked down the road from the lake about 100 yards ahead of us, bouncing off one another shoulder-to-shoulder about every three steps, in animated conversation. Nothing new—Katie and Nathan are almost always in conversation. I feel sure they were talking about nothing particularly deep or important at the moment, but they were continuing the step-by-step farewell that occupies our family right now as our daughter prepares to leave for college.
We are parents of five, with births spread across 16 years and four presidents. But for the last eight years, we have been parents of two, the classic one-girl/one-boy family of four. Easily seated in cars and at the dinner table, evenly matched in our ability to tease one another, we have had a delicately balanced ecosystem that has served us well. We have grown together as our last two kids have grown up, and we have a drawer full of common experiences that are not shared by our older kids. We are the Shaubs, Updated Edition.
But all that is about to change, and I find myself wrestling inside with what it means for my life. I have three more years to invest in Nathan, and I am excited about the things still ahead of us. But the sun is setting on our parenting days the way it does at the beach, when you watch that orb disappear like liquid into the water in a matter of seconds. I wonder what comes next.
The little lake house is one thing that comes next, a place to write, to play golf with Nathan, to read, to spend time alone with my wife. It is a place to walk and to bring grandkids, or at least we hope it is. It is a place of the later years. If God grants good success and economic stability, it is a second home; if not, a first.
My investment in students, and my search for wisdom, continues. I have a group of friends with whom I can be honest, and I have the woman I love close by me. I hope for 15 productive years as a professor, perhaps 20.
But Katie is leaving. Leaving. Parents understand what that word means, and it does not mean what it means for the kids: freedom. For parents, a child leaving brings a mixture of pride and loneliness. It leaves a sense of accomplishment and despair simultaneously. There is absolutely nothing else I can do to get her ready for this. And there is absolutely nothing else I need to do.
I have done this three times before, so I thought I would be practiced and poised. In my job I watch parents go through it year after year with bemused detachment. But it is my turn again. And it is my Katie who is walking out the door.
We will regain our equilibrium. The gyroscope is spinning a bit out of control, but we will calibrate again. There will be a new norm, with one side of the dinner table empty. And with my son as a new driver I will sometimes be in the back seat.
In fact, that’s how it feels. It feels like, after all these years of being the Dad in the driver’s seat for all those family trips, I am being relegated to the back seat. You can’t see as clearly back here, and other people seem to be making the decisions about where we are going.
For many years, particularly with Katie and Nathan, we sang at the beginning of each trip out of town, “We’re going on an adventure, and we don’t know where.” Today, for me, we are. But with one seat empty.
It was a seat that held giggles and baby dolls. I will look in the back seat and see Amish romance novels and adventure stories, a cheerleading outfit and a megaphone. I will see an iPod with one ear bud in Katie’s ear and the other in Nathan’s.
And then, I’ll turn around, face forward, look out the windshield and drive on. We raised her to leave that seat empty some day. And when some day comes, driving on is all there is to do.
Beautifully spoken, Mike. Thanks for sharing your heart.
From the perspective of a little girl that left home a short few years ago, it is bittersweet. I will say this I am so thankful for my dad and think of his everyday. I look forward to seeking his approval on a spouse, watching him hold my children, and seeking his wise advice in the years to come. Thanks for being such a great father to your children and to your students!
This to me showed something I have never thought about before. Moving away from home when I started college was something new, exciting, and totally different. Not having someone to tell you when to be home, ask where you were, and you who are with was totally different. Being the baby in the family, my parents were reluctant to let their youngest go away to college. They had done all they can rasing me, instilling me with values of kindness, sharing, telling the truth, etc. and now it is all up to me. I never saw it is my parents were having trouble letting me move out, until I lived at home for my internship. I don’t think my parents were ever more excited to have me around. I used to see it as them hovering and not letting me have any independence, now I see it was out of love. Now as I am older, my relationship has changed with my parents. I feel free to ask them advice on many subjects and it is more of a friendship, as I feel I can confide in them more now that I am older and have had to grow up since moving out.
I never thought of how my parents felt when I left for Texas A&M. Actually, looking back I seemed far more upset than they did! I was the one crying when we finally unpacked my dorm because I knew that meant they were going to leave soon. They just smiled and said, “We’ll miss you,” as they got in their car to drive back home. Were they just being brave so I wouldn’t become even more upset? Did they really feel the same way I felt, like things were never going to be the same? And I was right, things weren’t ever the same again, they were better. Our relationship has grown even stronger. Partly because we don’t have to live together, but mostly because we don’t take the time that we do have together for granted. Now I’m getting married the summer after I graduate, and I’m starting to have the same feelings that I felt four years ago. Will things ever be the same? I’ve already started to think about changing my name, and I’m having mixed feelings. I love the fact that the last name symbolically binds you to your husband, but do you ultimately lose the symbolism that binds you to the first man you ever loved, your father?
This entry brought tears to my eyes Dr. Shaub.
I am the oldest of three. I am also the emotional one. I cried when every single one of my friends left to move to their respective colleges. I also sat in my dorm room with tears in my eyes when my parents left me there almost four years ago. My mom called me sobbing when they left to tell me that she loved me. It was an emotional time! So, I can understand the emotions that come along with going off to college.
Leaving home has made me value my relationship with my parents so much. Every second that I am with them I think about how thankful I am for that moment. There’s no more arguments as to petty things. It’s all about a friendship that is deeper than any other.
Now, my sister is here at A&M and my brother will be joining both of us in the Fall. My poor mother doesn’t even speak of it, because she just doesn’t have any idea what she is going to do with her time without PTA meetings or soccer games, etc. However, I know that she will find something that she is passionate about and our family will just be that much closer.
I really enjoyed this blog! I am one of three, and I never really tock the time to think about how my parents felt as each one of us left for college. In a way I always thought they were excited; because they knew we were going on to do bigger and better things with our life. But I guess I never thought about how lonely they must feel, after all I’m sure running the streets to get us to all of our activities probably became a part of their everyday routine after 20 years. I am truly thankful for everything my parents have provided me with and make it a point to call them and catch them up with the stuff going on in my life. Even though they are not running me to all of my activities anymore, I still want them to know they are a huge part of my life and have greatly influenced the person I am today. 🙂
I couldn’t help but think about the day when I left for college when reading this blog. It was one of the most exciting, yet scariest days of my life, and I’m sure it was the same for my mom, who had to watch her only daughter leave the nest. I couldn’t help but tear up thinking about all the values and life lessons she instilled in me to prepare me for that very moment when I stepped out on my own for the very first time.
Now, she is about to have to go through the very same thing again for the last time with my youngest brother. He is about to graduate high school and embark on a new chapter of his life. I can only hope that when he leaves home, he will also take with him the same morals and values we were taught since childhood, and will have the courage to make the right choices in difficult and challenging times.
This post really hit home for me, Dr. Shaub. My little brother will be graduating from high school in just a few weeks. To me, he is still the 8th grade kid that was annoyed by my habit of driving us to school in the morning leaving him only a couple of minutes to get to class before the tardy bell. Every time I come home these days I’m surprised by how much he’s grown up. Of course he has been taller than me for a number of years now, but his attitude and perspectives on life mature and grow each time I see him. He’s not an immature middle schooler anymore. He’s an 18 year old young man with goals, dreams, and ambition.
One thing that excites me the most for the next chapter of his life is the new appreciation for our parents. It seemed as if the day my parents dropped me off at the Texas A&M dorms freshman year, my appreciation and understanding for them increased exponentially. How is it that the parents that knew absolutely nothing in high school were all of a sudden these wise and extremely valuable people? I now realize they were those people the whole time. Soon, I hope my brother will also learn that lesson. Once he does, he will begin to see how lucky we truly are. My relationship with my parents is one that I truly cherish, and I hope that my not-so-little-anymore brother will follow his older sister’s example in that area!
Reading your entry really brought me back to when my parents helped move me into my apartment and left me and my best friend (and roomate) all by ourselves ready to experience college. Both my mother and father are very emotional people which usually puts me in a place where I have to be the strong one telling them it will be okay. Although that day was hard as I watched my mom, step dad, and step brother drive away in one car and my dad and his girlfriend drive away in another, I knew they had all influenced and prepared me for my college life to come. What I feel like has happened to most of my friends when it comes to their relationship with their parents after they came to college, it seems like everyone has become so much closer. It may be part of finally growing up and finally appreciating all the things our parents do for us, or it may be the long distance relationship. I know from experience that although being in a long distance realationship is a lot of work, it makes the time you spend together so much more precious. I still talk to my parents at least every other day as we both still like to be in the know about what is going on in eachothers lives. Even though theres such a strong bond between parents and children, letting your child go and learn and grow on their own in college is something to cherish. Its important to trust that the many years you have spent teaching them and shaping them into the person they are today will prepare them with what they will face in college and they will spread your values and integirty to those around them.
This post was great for me as a student. I left home looking forward to the freedom, but also nervous about what the “real world” would hold. Lucky for me, the real world was not too bad, and I seem to have found my place in the accounting profession (at least for now). I am only able to see glimpses of what it is like as a parent when I go home for short visits. Thank you for helping to give us a better understanding of how it feels on the the other side.
Because I grew up in a family that has always been very close, this post brought tears to my eyes. I am the oldest of three children, and it has always been my perception that when I left for college, my parents’ focus shifted off of me an onto my two younger brothers. It did not register with me that my leaving would have such a huge impact on the family. Or, maybe it did register but both parties knew that was the course that had to be taken and so nostalgic feelings were pushed aside. Thank you for reminding me of all the memories that has my family so special to me.
This was a great article to read Dr. Shaub! I am the last of four children and I didn’t grasp the effect of my leaving until I overheard a phone call of my mothers as she talked in the next room. I was packing my last box for college when the telephone rang and my mother picked it up. She started off the conversation with the usual hellos and life updates. As the conversation deepened I heard her discuss how she was having a hard time coming to grips with my leaving. She explained that as the last child they were able to have 2 years alone with me with no swim team events or football games as distractions. It was two whole years of just them and me. They got to know me as an individual and see me grow and form my own opinions. I had never thought about it like that but as my mother spoke I realized that she was right, I was lucky enough to have two whole years with them. I got to learn about their lives and inner workings in more detail than any of my siblings before me. I received a gift when I was chosen as the youngest in the family, that gift was time.
This post is applicable to my life as my sister is about to leave home – the third one in a family of five to do so. While I am so excited she will be joining me in College Station, I know my family will be sad not to have her at home. It is such an adventure to leave home and a test of character. I am so thankful for what my parents instilled in me at home and still instill in me today, even as we are in different cities living out our own lives. This is how the rest of my life will be – I will be free and on my own. My family will continue to be “updated” as the Shaubs have been, but I am so thankful to know that I will always be a part and have a seat at the dinner table at home.
My mom has said that one of the only times she has ever seen my dad cry was when I left for college. I am the only girl among 3 boys so you can imagine the bond between my dad and I. Take comfort in the fact that Katie misses you just as much as you miss her. Sometimes freshman year, I would be studying and listening to music and the song “Butterfly Kisses” would come on and my eyes would just well up with tears. Butterfly Kisses is my dad and I’s favorite song, and I can’t help but cry everytime I hear it. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my college life and routine that I forgot to take a second and tell my parents how much they have meant to me and how our relationship is so rare in this broken world. Everytime I go home, I am reminded of that and I make sure they know it everytime before I head back to college station. I know my parents will always take care of me no matter how much I screw up and their unconditional love gives me an earthly glimpse of God’s grace and truly is a little piece of Heaven.
Being the oldest child in my family, I naturally was the first one to leave home. Like many others, I too, can still remember my parents driving off and sitting in my dorm room thinking, “what do I do now?” My options were limitless. My parents were driving away and wouldn’t be coming back to tell me yes I could or no I couldn’t. This was my first taste of true freedom and also my parent’s first test as to the results of their parenting. Luckily, I was brought up by parents who loved me and instilled important values which helped to guide my decisions, once given the opportunity to make them on my own. To this day, almost four years later, it is still those values that I learned during my first 18 years at home that I have choosen to try to continue to live out each and every day.
My little brother came 9 years after my little sister and he has had to watch each one of us go off to college one by one and it gets harder every time for him. It was easy for him when my oldest brother went off because he didn’t really understand what was going on, he was 2 at the time. It was a little harder when my next brother went off because he understood that he would only see Drew on holidays, that was when he was 4. Then when I went off he had a really hard time because, as my family joked, I was almost a second mom to him, he was now 6. He still cries when we go back to college after long breaks back home. Now, my younger sister is leaving, and she is his best friend. He is now 9 and we all have trouble leaving him because we all got to grow up together and he is going to grow up almost as an only child. I think it is just as hard for the youngest child to see their family grow up and move out as it is for the parents…at least it is for my little brother.
This blog post was so beautifully written. I can only imagine what it is like to watch your own child leave for college. I do know what it feels like on the other side of the spectrum. It is difficult and there is so much uncertainty that lies ahead. For me, being so close with my family and specifically with my mom it was even harder. I was ready to leave but at the same time I wasn’t ready to say good bye.
Even though I have never met your kids, I would imagine that they would agree with me when I say that you are a great father. I can see the truth and feel the emotion in your blogs and that lets me know that you do your best as a dad and are so sincere. One day when they are grown and sending their kids to college, they will know the emotion that you felt on these days, and that will recognize the great love that you have for them, even though I am sure that they already have.