Rob Lowe's newest autobiography, "Love Life" has been getting a lot of attention, mostly due to a chapter he wrote about "crying like a baby" before his oldest son left for college. Apparently this upset him so much he slept in his son's bed the first night he was gone.
The excerpt went viral and responses to his emotional reaction around this perfectly normal part of parenting life were quick...particularly from parents whose children were years, perhaps even a decade away from having to go through the process of sending a child away to post-secondary education. Many readers reported breaking down and crying and virtually hugging each other and vowing to cherish every single precious moment their young children still lived at home.
I've sent two kids away to post-secondary institutions. And yes, I cried too. But only when I was writing out the tuition cheques. Of course I have feelings, but the feeling of dropping my daughter, and then my son, at their dorms, was more of accomplishment than despair. For it's at that moment when you feel as if now, finally, you might be able to put a check mark next to "Raise a Kid" on your perennial parenting to-do list.
What the parents of younger kids (and I have two of those still at home as well) fail to realize is that the decade in between the times where your young son wants to marry you, and your daughter wants to be just like you when they grow up, they go through a stage that's called "The Teen Years." Anthropologically I believe this period of physical and mental growth is designed to have you want them to take a few steps away from you, every year. It's all good: It's harder to see scowling and eye rolling the further away they get, not to mention that Teen Spirit smell.
Two of my kids have their driver's licenses, and I've often heard said by friends of mine with younger kids "I just can't imagine my kids driving!" To which I normally respond: "That's because he's FIVE. I can't imagine a five year old driving either, you silly woman." By the time they're 16, you can imagine it. You can imagine, for instance, them driving themselves to the hockey arena and picking up younger siblings along the way. It's pretty much the same when they're 17 or 18; you can imagine them leaving your house and starting to build some much-needed independence. If you can't, you may need to land that helicopter, if you know what I'm saying.
You'll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can adapt to having your child outside your home.
Unless of course you're the type who really misses picking up crusty socks, dirty cereal bowls, errant sports equipment and crumpled up math exams. And just because your child is living outside your house, doesn't mean they stop living in your heart. And with today's technology, they pretty much live inside your phone as well. "MOM ANSWER MY TEXTS!!!!"
I purport that part of the reason Rob Lowe misses his son on such an extreme level is because he has been privileged enough, through his assumed success and wealth, not to have had to nag his son about cleaning up the basement the son messed up, while trying to find time to get the car in for repairs, that the son was responsible for requiring, and put away the groceries, that the son is eating right out of the grocery shopping bags before it even gets to the cupboard, while using his other hand in an outreached "I need money for the movies" gesture.
It's reported that Lowe's son is attending Duke, where the published tuition fee for one year is $45,800. Maybe I've misjudged him. Maybe he was crying about that cheque, versus the check mark, as well.
This column originally ran in Post City Magazines. Kathy Buckworth's column appears monthly. Her latest book "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business" is available in bookstores everywhere, and on Kobo and Audible. Visit www.kathybuckworth.com and follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyBuckworth. Proceeds from this column will go directly to the college fund. Sniff.