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18

My Life Has Changed Forever

I was completely blind-sided.  I thought I was prepared, but I was so very wrong.  It was just going to be another step like any of the infinite others that define parenting and the relationship between a parent and a child.  A father and a son.  I’m so naive.  A few weeks ago and like a million other parents, we dropped our son off for his first year of college.  Moving in was stressful.  Loads to do and everything so new to all of us.  When the cars were unloaded and the new roommates met, we all gathered for the usual orientation stuff.  Parents and their sons and daughters listening to the college president talk about their choices and the next four years.  Then he said it . . . “it’s time to say good bye.”  What?  But . . . but . . . but, the schedule says that’s not for a couple of hours.  Then it all came down on me like a ton of bricks.  Nineteen years of hand-holding, watching his every step, waiting up for him at night, worrying if he was happy, was he going to make the team, was he working hard enough, how was he getting along with his girlfriend . . . it all flooded in.  Tears welled up and, when I hugged him, I completely lost it.  I told him I loved him, would miss him and how proud I am of him.  I bawled.  And then he walked away.

As it turns out, he is completely ready.  It’s me who isn’t.  I was worried about how he would take it and how my wife would deal with it all, but it’s me who came apart at the seams.  I’m already missing him desperately.  I feel lonely and incredibly sad without him.  Stuff around the house reminds me of him or of something we did together.  I know this seems silly.  After all, I saw him just a few weeks ago and I’ve certainly been away from him many times in his life, even for prolonged periods of time.  But this is different.  My son has been my friend, my cohort, my sharer of common interests for so many years I can’t remember it any other way.  I’m just not ready for this change.  A permanent change.

Of course, he’s still my son and he and I will spend loads of time together in the future.  I’m even looking forward to our relationship maturing and being taken to a new level.  Man-to-man, adult-to-adult, responsible individual to, well, you get the idea.  But I’m already missing what we have had.  The spontaneous discussions of why one football player is better than another, how a single crease in the bodywork of a car defines the entire design or what the impact of the latest technology release will be.  I’ll miss our Sundays sitting in the stands at Gillette Stadium watching the Patriots and in a funny way, I’ll even miss only sleeping lightly until I hear his car pull up the driveway late on Saturday nights (well, early Sunday mornings, anyway).  And who am I going to watch Bond movies with?

Some of my angst surely comes from the fact that I want to make the diving catch to rescue him when he’s in a stressful or difficult situation.  I know that I’ve been an overly protective parent at times, but it was really obvious as I left him at school.  How is my 19 year old son going to do it all himself?  Stupid question of course.  He really hasn’t needed to be bailed out in ages.

I jokingly told my daughter (the younger of my two children) that I’m not going to let her go to college.  I don’t think I can take this level of emotional upheaval twice in my life.  But that’s still two years away.  I’m going to go and start preparing myself now.

Taylor, if you’re reading this, which I’m sure you’re not, I love you.  You are a terrific person and you will do great in college.  Always know that your mom and I are here for you.  But, while we’re not around, be safe and make smart decisions.  Have fun and work hard.  That’s the sum of everything I’ve ever wanted to teach you.

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 September 18th, 2009  
 Will  
 Misc Thoughts  
   
 30 Comments

30 Responses to My Life Has Changed Forever

  1. Hey Will,

    I’m quite a few years away from sending my own kids to college, but I can imagine how hard that will be when the time comes. Congratulations on surviving the process of getting your son this far through his life and still being able to let him go.

    -Nick

  2. Hey Will,

    I’m quite a few years away from sending my own kids to college, but I can imagine how hard that will be when the time comes. Congratulations on surviving the process of getting your son this far through his life and still being able to let him go.

    -Nick

  3. Nick,

    Thanks, but who says I was able to let him go? 🙂

    Enjoy the ride with yours. It goes by amazingly fast.

  4. Nick,

    Thanks, but who says I was able to let him go? 🙂

    Enjoy the ride with yours. It goes by amazingly fast.

  5. Will:

    To think I was about to unsubscribe your feed…you pulled me back in with honest and heartfelt writing. Similarly to Nick, I have another decade before my eldest heads out the door for college. It appears to me that building a relationship with your children is key. After all it is inevitable tat one day they will leave to strike out on their own, the real question is whether they come back. Seems to me you have that part covered.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Will:

    To think I was about to unsubscribe your feed…you pulled me back in with honest and heartfelt writing. Similarly to Nick, I have another decade before my eldest heads out the door for college. It appears to me that building a relationship with your children is key. After all it is inevitable tat one day they will leave to strike out on their own, the real question is whether they come back. Seems to me you have that part covered.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Awesome – brought tears to my eyes. As a son who’s relationship with his father gets better every year (from a superb base) I expect you’ve got a lot of great years ahead of you with Taylor.

  8. Awesome – brought tears to my eyes. As a son who’s relationship with his father gets better every year (from a superb base) I expect you’ve got a lot of great years ahead of you with Taylor.

  9. Peter,

    Sorry to hear that you’re thinking of unsubscribing, but I suppose I can’t blame you – I haven’t been posting much. Thanks for the kind words about the post. Emotion is a funny thing. I wrote this right after I returned home from dropping my son off. I was so emotional about it, I had to sit on it for a couple of weeks before I could look at it again.

  10. Peter,

    Sorry to hear that you’re thinking of unsubscribing, but I suppose I can’t blame you – I haven’t been posting much. Thanks for the kind words about the post. Emotion is a funny thing. I wrote this right after I returned home from dropping my son off. I was so emotional about it, I had to sit on it for a couple of weeks before I could look at it again.

  11. Thanks, Brad.

    I’ve always been envious of the relationship that you have with your dad. I don’t have that with mine. I can only hope that my relationship with Taylor is more like the one between Stanley and Brad. In fact, I strive to achieve it.

  12. Thanks, Brad.

    I’ve always been envious of the relationship that you have with your dad. I don’t have that with mine. I can only hope that my relationship with Taylor is more like the one between Stanley and Brad. In fact, I strive to achieve it.

  13. Outstanding perspective. As one who has a daughter who entered her senior year in high school this fall, I recognize that time is short. You have reaffirmed our thought that “she is prepared, it is we who are not”. Her mother and I are very excited about her next phase in life, but it will definitely be a major shift. “Always our daughter, no longer our child”.

  14. Tim,

    It sounds like you already have a good perspective on things. Best of luck with the final year of this stage. Enjoy it. I love “Always our daughter, no longer our child.” Perfect way of thinking about it.

    • I was thinking about your story over Christmas holidays (last Christmas before my daughter goes off to school…). I hope your sons first semester went as smoothly as both of you had hoped.

      • When asked about how school went during his first semester, my son says: "I had a lot of fun." That about says it all. Grades were clearly not a focus for him, not that they ever have been 🙁 I'm glad he had fun though. Hopefully, he gets the whole achievement thing eventually.

        As for me. Things got better. Some of it through the rationalization of what was going on and perhaps more of it from the fact that he was around way more than I thought. As an avid Patriots fan, he did everything in his power to share Dad's (my) season tickets as often as possible. Between a few games and holidays, I don't think I ever went three weeks without seeing him. That was really good for me since this coming semester will be a lot different. I'll see him late in March and then, not until May. Yikes. At least I didn't make an emotional fool of myself when he left for school the other day.

        I'm feeling better about things in general, too. I realize that we have many strong connections between us and while he's leading a new and different life now, some basic bonds will remain strong or, at least will remain in some form.

        Thanks for checking in. Good luck with your daughter this year and with the transition in the Fall. Cherish every moment.

  15. Tim,

    It sounds like you already have a good perspective on things. Best of luck with the final year of this stage. Enjoy it. I love “Always our daughter, no longer our child.” Perfect way of thinking about it.

    • I was thinking about your story over Christmas holidays (last Christmas before my daughter goes off to school…). I hope your sons first semester went as smoothly as both of you had hoped.

      • When asked about how school went during his first semester, my son says: "I had a lot of fun." That about says it all. Grades were clearly not a focus for him, not that they ever have been 🙁 I'm glad he had fun though. Hopefully, he gets the whole achievement thing eventually.

        As for me. Things got better. Some of it through the rationalization of what was going on and perhaps more of it from the fact that he was around way more than I thought. As an avid Patriots fan, he did everything in his power to share Dad's (my) season tickets as often as possible. Between a few games and holidays, I don't think I ever went three weeks without seeing him. That was really good for me since this coming semester will be a lot different. I'll see him late in March and then, not until May. Yikes. At least I didn't make an emotional fool of myself when he left for school the other day.

        I'm feeling better about things in general, too. I realize that we have many strong connections between us and while he's leading a new and different life now, some basic bonds will remain strong or, at least will remain in some form.

        Thanks for checking in. Good luck with your daughter this year and with the transition in the Fall. Cherish every moment.

  16. Will,
    Congrats!!!

    Our kids are our real startups in life and college probably is their firs beta version (for the lack of any better analogy) when they face the real life but still without full liability. But you’re there forever to provide back-office support for him. I guess when he gets married and brings offsprings we can say that you’ll play a customer support role too:-)

    My oldest is a school junior and her “release” is scary for me too:-) Your point of getting ready is vital! Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  17. Will,
    Congrats!!!

    Our kids are our real startups in life and college probably is their firs beta version (for the lack of any better analogy) when they face the real life but still without full liability. But you’re there forever to provide back-office support for him. I guess when he gets married and brings offsprings we can say that you’ll play a customer support role too:-)

    My oldest is a school junior and her “release” is scary for me too:-) Your point of getting ready is vital! Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  18. Hey Will,

    I remember going through the same thing last year. Now my boys are sophomores it is totally different and my relationship with them has changed a lot. Just wait until Thanksgiving when he comes home and you see the way he carries himself. You will be so proud as your son has grown and matured. After all it is our job to nurture them to the point where they have as many opportunities as possible. Once they are “launched” into college your job is mostly complete. The next time he will ask you for advice, just like many of your subordinates at many of your previous companies. He will have a new respect and appreciation for all that you can offer and your relationship will move to the next level.

    Best of luck.
    Dave O.

  19. Hey Will,

    I remember going through the same thing last year. Now my boys are sophomores it is totally different and my relationship with them has changed a lot. Just wait until Thanksgiving when he comes home and you see the way he carries himself. You will be so proud as your son has grown and matured. After all it is our job to nurture them to the point where they have as many opportunities as possible. Once they are “launched” into college your job is mostly complete. The next time he will ask you for advice, just like many of your subordinates at many of your previous companies. He will have a new respect and appreciation for all that you can offer and your relationship will move to the next level.

    Best of luck.
    Dave O.

  20. Dave,

    Thanks for the guidance. To your point, I’ve already seen a huge change in my son. More maturity and poise than ever. We’ll see if that translates into effort in the academic area sometime soon 🙂

  21. Dave,

    Thanks for the guidance. To your point, I’ve already seen a huge change in my son. More maturity and poise than ever. We’ll see if that translates into effort in the academic area sometime soon 🙂

  22. I completely understand how you feel Will. My wife and I already dread that day and our daughter is only 11. We’ve already jokingly discussed moving to wherever she goes to school… man, that is just wrong!

  23. I completely understand how you feel Will. My wife and I already dread that day and our daughter is only 11. We’ve already jokingly discussed moving to wherever she goes to school… man, that is just wrong!

  24. Outstanding perspective. As one who has a daughter who entered her senior year in high school this fall, I recognize that time is short. You have reaffirmed our thought that “she is prepared, it is we who are not”. Her mother and I are very excited about her next phase in life, but it will definitely be a major shift. “Always our daughter, no longer our child”.