You’ll see them on highways and byways all across America this week — college kids with their cars packed to the gills, heading back to campus after a long winter’s break.
You’ll see them in airports, lugging their hastily packed bags and looking maybe a little bummed — at least compared to a month ago when they first strode home, a fall semester behind them and a month of free, unstructured time ahead to enjoy Christmas, New Year’s, their friends, their parents, a little home cooking, and a lot of downtime.
If we’ve got tears, let’s apply our care and concern to our veterans, young and old.
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Two of those kids traveling back to school this week are mine. (If you run into them, please look kindly on them!)
But what you won’t see, as you eye the hordes of college kids, are the moms back home, looking a bit weepy after releasing their young things back to the wilds of campus. You won’t see a mom staring at her son’s empty bed (unmade, of course), already missing the kid who just departed after a month back home (but not missing all that extra laundry). You won’t see the mom who sits down on her daughter’s bed reviewing, over and over in her mind, all the hours they spent together talking and laughing (when her daughter wasn’t online, that is). You won’t see a mom reflecting on how much her sons have grown in just a few short months, how their faces are newly angled, their shoulders broader, their beards a little thicker, their steps a bit more purposeful, and their smiles deeper.
These moms are taking a deep breath and trying to be brave. If they’re smart, they will also be realizing how good they have it compared to so many others in America.
All good parents everywhere know that deep emotions come with the parenting turf. But the truth is — if we’re being honest — that it’s time to pull ourselves together. Let’s leave that pity party behind. There’s a lot more we should be crying about than our precious children’s departure for college after a month at home. (Among other valid points, they’ll be back for spring break in no time … )
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Moms and dads, if we’ve got tears, let’s shed them over the increasingly leftist leanings of today’s college administrations, faculty, and initiatives, which we must keep tabs on and be vigilant about combating. Our kids need to think for themselves and grow into strong, independent, resourceful young people. They don’t need agendas. They need education.
If we’ve got tears, let’s shed them over the soaring cost of college in this country and the heavy student debt that many of our kids and parents will be straining for years to pay back.
If we’ve got tears, let’s worry about the addiction issues among so many of today’s young people. They need practical, accessible help to break their bad habits before those habits become life-threatening.
If we’ve got tears, let’s apply our care and concern to our veterans, both young and old, who have come back from deployments broken and hurting, scrambling to get back on their feet and be well again. They deserve all the support this country can give them for their selfless service and dedication. Their dependents deserve a helping hand, too. The pain and desperation of our veterans must be acknowledged and addressed.
If we’ve got tears, let’s get going to combat hunger, poverty, crime and loneliness in whatever way can in our neighborhoods, our states, our country. Our elderly who live alone need us. Our struggling young families who live near us — they need us. Our disabled and hurting — they need us.
Of course we love and miss our college kids when they return to school. The pangs of parenthood are genuine and last throughout their lives. As soon as I got home from saying goodbye to both my sons as they respectively drove away and flew away, I cried for nearly an hour — deep, heaving sobs that shook my chest. Missing them because you love deeply — that’s part of being a mom. But then I got busy. That, too, is part of parenthood.
Let’s keep it all in perspective. We can reach out to others, even for an hour a week, who might benefit from our deep well of emotion and attention. We can help a neighbor. We can make a donation. We can lend a hand. We can volunteer. And by doing so, we’ll be teaching our young ones what it means to live in this world as a connected, caring citizen — the kind of person we want our kids to be, the kind of person we may one day need ourselves in our older age.
The author is a mom of two in New York.