We did it! We took our first-born to college and left her there. We came home in an empty van without her and, even though John knows that she's not here, I think I caught him peeking down the hall toward her room and looking for the light underneath her door. To call it a "difficult day” seems somehow quite inadequate. The first tears came when Joshua got into the van after his hug instead of heading back to bed. (I think that unexpected move even got to Kaitlyn a little!) Watching her hug Jacob good-bye wasn't easy, either. Then my brother texted this sweet note: I’m suddenly nervous, excited, and sad for you. You’ve raised an exemplary child; now let her go illuminate another venue for a while. More tears. My friend Carol chimed in that she was sending hugs and I got choked up again. And again when Michelle sent her message, once more when Nancy's nice note came through, but thankfully never a floodgate, probably ‘cause I’ve been crying off and on since May, right?
So we dropped her off for her band picnic and clinic and she was met with opened arms by a high-school friend who's also going there. Who doesn't LOVE that for their girl? We went to buy her books for her, to eat lunch at her favorite place, and to shop for a few fun items for her first care package, something I’d planned to leave with a note under her pillow. We even managed to find a Culver’s Frozen Custard and grab some comfort food; there's NOTHING like a turtle sundae to cheer you up!
We grabbed a curbside parking spot after we checked her in and picked up her key, around 5:00 pm like the dorm scheduler told us to. There, we were met by some seriously cool kids, boys in the KKY,a Band Service Fraternity. They swarmed our van and her stuff was unloaded and in her big corner room before we knew it. We helped her unpack just a couple of things, then her roommate’s mom took our picture before our last hugs for a while. Here’s our last shot.
On the way home, I thought about how to blog today’s events without getting overly sentimental, dramatic, or emotional. I decided that I’d share what I wrote in her care package card, since it was pretty much my last shot at parenting her for a while. Here’s sort of what I said:
Dear Kaitlyn –
It’s so fitting that we’re eating lunch at your favorite café while we write you this note. There’s so much left to say, but we’ve almost run out of time, for now. Here's my hope for you: Be faithful. Be honest. Spread cheer. Work hard. Play even harder. Stay in the moment, but keep your eye on the future. Seek out challenges. Accept failures and celebrate successes; they’ll both serve you well in life. Serve others. Give back. Live. Laugh. Love. EnJOY and have fun! We are so proud of you and we’re rejoicing with you as you live your dreams at UT. I love you so much. Mom
John wrote on the note card, too, then we put a Kerby Lane Café gift card in there, and we sealed it up. As we drove home, we talked about how proud of her we are and we wondered if she was sad, too. Interestingly, we felt empathy for the pain our parents went through when we left them; when we got back to the house, we hugged our boys just a little bit tighter to make sure they were okay and to draw from their strength. John and I agreed that this was the hardest thing we’ve had to do on our parenting journey so far (we can talk about the tears that fell when we pulled her FHS band sign out of the yard some other time). For now, suffice it to say that we're officially survivors!