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Hit Submit: When we start letting go of our kids


Autumn means applications — and letting go (AP)

When it was his turn to jump out of the nest, our son applied early decision to the college of his choice. “We” did not apply to the college of his choice, as I’ve heard some parents refer to it.

But we really hoped we’d get in.

The good thing about the abbreviated, early decision (ED) application timeline – a frantic period that squeezes September, swallows October, and requires the applicant to gather transcripts, sit for the last SAT, line up letters of recommendation and craft the most significant experience of his 18 years into The Essay – is that there is little time to think about what comes next.

That is not what October is for.

October, the shortest of all the 31-day months, is about “helping” your early decision (ED) applicant get ready for college until the only thing left for him to do is hit “submit” and go out with his friends while you reunite with your sense of humor and sunny disposition. It is not about shorter grocery lists, or empty laundry hampers, or headlights you don’t have to watch for. It is not about that afternoon 10 months away when you will go to the airport, hug that ED applicant goodbye, and feel like saying to those young parents, “Sure, now they’re having tantrums and spilling juice on your shoes, but blink and you’ll be dropping them off at college.”

No, October is about Post-Its on the refrigerator and saying “did you” and “don’t forget” until you are on your own nerves. It is about SAT tutoring, SAT scores, reading the first, second and third pass at The Essay, and asking questions like, “If I have to bug you to (tedious task here), what will happen when (thing that befalls you)?” When really, you both know what will happen.

October gets your teen ready to apply to college.

November gets you ready for the airport.

November is for musing over the path that has led you both here, and the discoveries you have made, that flawed as you each may be, you are perfect in the roles you occupy for each other.

November is for the moments when, on your own, in the breezy dark, you will look into the sky and say to God, “If you keep him safe next year, I promise to compliment the first unhappy stranger I see each day.”

November is for letting your eyes rest on your ED applicant’s face a little longer than necessary, to the point where he says, “What? What’s wrong? What are you doing? Is there something on my face?” While you smile and say, “Of course not, you’re wonderful,” and finish memorizing the moment.

November is for making very sure that the next nine months are like the ones before you met your ED applicant–joyful and not stressful, both full of trepidation and anticipation. November is for making sure that every conversation, even the candid, not-so-nice ones are valued because they all reflect the honesty of your relationship.

My son and I had lunch on one of those last October days.

“So it’s done! All you have to do now is hit ‘submit’.” I said to him.
He looked startled.
“I should look at it one more time,” he said.
“Sure, if you want.”
“There might be something missing,” he said.
“There’s nothing missing,” I said.
There was a beat. A blink.
“You’re right,” he said, “I am ready.”

If you are about to step into the windstorm that is the month before the early decision deadline, take heart: October will soon be behind you.

Come November, you’ll be ready to start your journey to those dorm steps where, after thinking for days about how much your ED applicant means to you, you will hug him goodbye and offer two parting words that might be as important as the other three:

Thank you.

Susan Bonifant is an essayist and novelist from Hopkinton, NH, who blogs about life after the last college drop off at Worth Mentioning. You can follow her on Twitter @SusanBonifant.

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