The First Big Good-Bye: When Your Oldest Goes to College #Blogust

Posted August 13, 2014 by jimhigley


This post is my contribution to Blogust ’14—Shot@Life’s month-long campaign to provide vaccinations for children in need around the world. I’m writing on the theme of “Happy and Healthy Firsts.”

Here’s the cool part: YOU can help change the life of a child by making sure they get vaccinated. All you need to do is either “comment” (with anything!) at the end of this post. Also you can “Tweet” this, “Like” or share on social media.  (Details at the end of the post.) Thank you for supporting this important effort! — Jim

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I was dreading it for months. Months. The idea of saying good-bye to my oldest child as I shipped him off to college was a milestone I didn’t look forward to.

The concept of not having – after 18 years parenting – all of my offspring under one roof was just downright weird. Uncomfortable. And a bit unsettling.

I’m an emotional guy. To know me is to know that. I get teary-eyed over something nearly every day. Someone’s Facebook post. An inspirational quote. There’s a new cereal commercial that gets me every time I see it.  That’s who I am. And I’ve gotten quite comfortable being that way.

But I felt that I owed it to my soon-to-be-in-college son to reel in my emotions as he transitioned to college. After all, it wasn’t about me, right? This was his shining moment. And while he was fully aware of my months of angst, I made a commitment to myself to get prepared for the inevitable moment I knew I needed to say good-bye. And let him go.

So in the weeks preceding his departure, I’d work on visualizing what life would be like without him. I’d imagine a home with two – not three kids. I’d picture his room, empty and clean. (The “clean” part being a bonus!). I’d imagine phone calls. Parents’ weekend. And more than anything, I’d imagine me not being a bubbling mess.

My strategy worked. Kind of. At least I got off to a great start.

The week before I drove my son to college was nothing short of joy. We spent a lot of time organizing the piles and piles of college-like stuff I had been collecting for him throughout the summer. I had read up on every tip, list and post on how to make a college dorm feel like home. And I missed not a beat. Including tucking in a newly framed photo of the family for him to take with him lest he forget what we all looked like.

It was a good week. And it was a good lead in to something I had feared.

Even the five hour drive to campus was fun.

I kept waiting for the bump in the road – but I was experiencing a newfound level of control. Not even the unpacking of his clothes in his new dorm room gave me a flicker of failing emotions.

All systems go. This dad was calm and cool.

As many parents know, there’s an awkward moment when taking your child to college where you realize there is nothing more to do. The car is unpacked. The room is set up. The bank account is funded. And you are out of place. With a child waiting to jump.

Jump into college.

New experiences.

New friends.

The world they have been dreaming of.

And you need to leave. You – the person who has taken care of every detail for this child for the last 18 or so years – you’re not invited to the next chapter. At least in the way you’re accustomed. Your common sense tells you this is good. And important.

And your heart feels as though it’s being ripped right through your skin.

When that moment came for me – the first time – there was no holding my emotions back. And all I really remember was holding my son, feeling the tears from my eyes drop onto his back. Sad. Not for him. But for me. Because I realized that a very big chapter of my life was over.

In a proverbial blink.

That experience changed the way I look at my every day with child two. And three.

A good reminder, I often think, that even through all the mud and crud that comes with parenting – we only get these children for a very, very short time.


This story is part of my commitment to #Blogust and Shot@Life. It’s my contribution to helping kids around the world get vaccinated. The truth is, while my own personal story about saying “good bye” tugs at my own heart, there are far too many parents who say the ultimate “good bye” to their children because they weren’t able to receive adequate medical care.

But you can change that. Simply by commenting at the bottom of  this post.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2014—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share stories about Happy and Healthy Firsts. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or share them via social media on this website, Shot@Life and theUnited Nations Foundation pages, Walgreens will donate one vaccine (up to 60,000).  Blogust is one part an overall commitment of Walgreens donating up to $1 million through its “Get a Shot. Give a Shot.” campaign. The campaign will help provide millions of vaccines for children in need around the world. 

Sign up here for a daily email so you can quickly and easily comment and share every day during Blogust! For more information, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.