“Now, Shall We Begin?” Sending Your Kid to College

10363122_710232289035650_5305226270778594940_nThis weekend marks a significant watershed moment in the life of the Kaylor family. Our daughter Hannah will be leaving with her mom on Sunday to fly from Denver to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she will begin her freshman year as a Film Production major at Calvin College. The bags are getting packed, the first semester bill has been paid, and the flights are booked. As Hannah’s favorite actor Benedict Cumberbatch puts in one of the Star Trek movies: “Now, shall we begin?”

I’ve actually been ambivalent about this moment since the day she was born. On the one hand (the most important hand), I’ve been looking forward to seeing her come to this point in her life. I think every parent has a sense of anticipation about the day that our work is largely done and we send the child we’ve nurtured for 18 years out on a great adventure of discovery and a new life of her own. On the other hand, it’s also heartbreaking in that she won’t be here to make me laugh with her hilariously sarcastic comments about dumb TV shows and to say goodnight to us in French in the easy and pleasant way she does so every evening. I already miss her.

Oh, she will be in good hands. The college selection process is nerve-wracking and sometimes disappointing, but I really believe that God had a hand in guiding her to Calvin (which is an interesting theological conundrum for this Wesleyan-nee-former-Calvinist). It’s a solidly grounded and open-hearted, Christian community that will help her prepare to use her wonderful gifts for God’s kingdom and I’m really excited to see where her education and college experience takes her. She’s smart, capable, and very gifted. She has been a marvelous daughter and the perfect big sister for her younger brother. We couldn’t be more proud of her and I’m so excited for her future to begin.

But I’ll admit that I’m struggling a bit. This is all new ground for me, so there are few reference points. When I went to college my parents were out of the picture. I lived with my best friend from high school’s family for the last few months until graduation, after which I left immediately for Army Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. A few days after graduation from Basic, I hauled a couple of Army duffel bags up the steps in Scranton Hall at Indiana University of Pennsylvania to begin my freshman year. There were no emotional goodbyes, no parents fretting over getting my room together–just me and those duffel bags.

So, I’ve probably hovered over this process more than I should have. I want Hannah to have some things that I didn’t, while also wanting her to make adult decisions on her own. I took her on the college visits, went to battle with financial aid offices, filled out the forms, collected the correspondence from the mailbox. My lovely wife Jennifer just patiently watch me do all this–too much of this–with a knowing smile, realizing that I was trying to make up for what I really didn’t have at our daughter’s age. In fact, I even went down to the Army Surplus store and bought her a couple of green canvas U.S. Army duffel bags to cram her own stuff in for the journey (but, hey, in my defense, you really can fit a lot into those bad boys!).

But now it’s time for Hannah to do it on her own. She is no longer a kid, but a former kid–a budding adult with a limitless future. I feel like we’ve done a good job as parents, leaving our kids with what I hope is a minimum of things to share about us in therapy one day.They still like us and they still like each other, which is all a parent can ask for. Then again, she’s not going on her own. God is going with her and will care for and lead her in ways that I can’t imagine. That’s what I’m counting on.

I’ve read a lot of advice about what to do when kids are at college. Let them call you when they want, don’t get involved in working out their academic challenges, refrain from trying to figure out where they are all the time–that sort of thing. It’s good advice, some of which you can find here. The best advice I’ve found, however, comes from the Scriptures: “Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 CEB). We’ve done our best at that, with God’s help.

Now, shall we begin?



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