As I shopped for school supplies for my soon-to-be sixth grade grandson at Target last week, I passed by a mom and her daughter doing what looked to be the “stocking the dorm room” shopping trip. The young woman was eagerly scanning the aisles for just the right towels. The mom was pushing the overflowing cart behind her, watching every move her daughter made as she readied for her big launch.
There are lots of nostalgic articles and reflections at this time of year written by parents who are preparing to send their child off to college. Some report hopefulness, as they look forward with anticipation at the adventure and discovery that awaits their child. Others express concern. Will their baby be safe? Will he or she make good choices? Will they flourish? But almost every parent expresses wistfulness, if not high-octane grief, at the way in which this passage marks the end of their years of day-in, day-out parenting. Though we never stop being parents, and may see our launched Millennial need to return to the nest at some point beyond college vacations, we can’t know what the future will hold for our children or ourselves. This is a transition as dramatic for most of us as the day we brought that child home from the hospital a couple of decades earlier.