A father’s struggle as his boy goes to college

By David Boughter
Special to the PRESS

As this summer comes to an end my wife and I are anticipating our son Clay leaving for UT-Austin. Tears have been shed by his mother and me around here constantly — at everything from home improvement show sob stories, to watching the scene from the end of “Toy Story 3” when Andy leaves for college. Tears flow for any and no reason whatsoever.

I have taken Clay out for a few father/son breakfasts, lunches and boat rides trying to impart some last minute wisdom. We also, uncharacteristically, indulged him by bringing home a car for him from California, buying him a comforter for his bed at school (although I assume he will never make his bed) a somewhat extravagant pair of pants, a jacket and some new clothes and even new luggage for his adventure.

At the same time, I was unusually critical. In my mind, Clay had spent the weeks leading up to school sleeping too much, spending way too much time texting and talking with his girlfriend, making a huge mess of his room, and for goodness sake, certainly not spending enough time with me.

Although it’s taken quite a while to realize what was happening, I now understand my uneasiness and anxiety (which have abated but not altogether disappeared) are not a reflection of how much time Clay and I are spending together but more so where this all is leading.

Regardless of how often Clay will come home, or how many times a week we talk or text, Clay is going in a far grander sense. He is well on his way to adulthood, and from this, he will never return.

I know this is natural. I take pride and joy in seeing Clay making his way so confidently and capably. He is, after all, doing exactly what he is supposed to do. He’s going to be fine. I know we will always remain close and that his love for us will deepen as mine did for my parents.

Nonetheless Clay’s going to college has signaled the passing of something I cherished: his childhood and my relationship to him as a child. I can’t help but feel a little sad about this.

My wife Julie and I prayed for this from the time he was born. We prayed that our kids would have a relationship with Jesus and become leaders in this world. That they would be smarter and better than we were. We hoped that they would love and be loved as they grew up. We dreamt that other kids would look up to them and that they could be trusted and depended on. Really, as parents, our job is to become obsolete and for our kids to be able to stand and thrive on their own. So, Julie we have done it. Our job with Clay isn’t done it’s just changing from boss/employee to coworkers.

I love you, boy, and I will try not to cry as we drive away from your dorm room, but no promises.

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