The Real Reason Kids Go To College
by Hannah Keeley
I’m pretty sure there was a time college didn’t even exist. That is, until one mom got a clever idea and presented it to her husband. “How about we just send them…away,” she whispers in his ear.
“Away?!” he retorts.
“Just think about it for a minute,” she says as she slides in a little closer. “No more dirty dishes in the sink when we wake up in the morning. No more loud noises when we’re trying to go to sleep at night. No more wet towels on the bathroom floor. Plus, we could have the house all… to… ourselves.”
(Of course, she emphasizes that last part. She’s a smart woman. She knows what really appeals to men.)
Her husband arches one eyebrow and his face melts into a thoughtful gaze.
“Send them away?” He mutters quietly. “Hmm…let me get with the boys and see what we can work out.”
And, thus, the entire college institution as we currently know it was birthed.
As summer draws to a close and autumn sweeps over our globe, there is a mass exodus of adult children, leaving home and heading for that boarding facility we refer to as “college.” Kids everywhere are packing their bags and sorting through their belongings. They are sweeping up and down the aisles of Targets in every city, picking out comforters, lamps, backpacks, and plastic milk crates, which evidently is a required staple on campus, even if we no longer deliver milk.
And we all participate in this mass exodus, without really getting down to the truth of why it even exists. We sit through endless speeches and go on countless college tours, hearing all about how college will help our children learn to be independent and get a stable job in four years. We nod and smile. But none of us hear what they’re saying. Why? Because they’re all lies.
Here’s what they’re really communicating…
To the Parent: You can send your children to our fine institution, where they will be out of your hair. You won’t have McDonald’s cups rolling around in your car. You will be able to see the floor of their room once again. Your grocery bill be reduced by 75%.
To the Child: You can come be a part of our fine institution, where you will be out from under your parents. You can go to McDonald’s in the middle of the night. You can let your laundry pile up without being harassed. You can eat 75% of your weight at our dining hall.
As parents, we like the idea of them getting a nurturing education. But, let’s get real. It’s our own sanity we have on our minds. We just want to be able to reach in our drawer and pull out a clean pair of underwear or find socks that match. Or go for the cereal and find the box full instead of empty. It’s the little things. But the little things added up over time become a big thing. And that big thing leads to college. And we’ll gladly fork over a small inheritance in order to be able to go to sleep before 10 pm and wake up to an orderly house.
Don’t feel bad, parents. It’s okay that you’re secretly counting down the days until you can turn their room into a yoga retreat. And don’t be too excited, kids. Laundry doesn’t wash itself. Pretty soon reality strikes.
And when it strikes, it’s going to strike hard.
Kids won’t have anything to wear because their laundry all smells like popcorn shrimp and sauerkraut. They will be sick because the human body cannot recognize Ramen noodles as food. They will be stuck on campus because it actually takes money to fill up a tank.
Parents will enjoy the solitude of their home until the quiet becomes deafening. They will catch up on their laundry and then wonder what they did with all their time. They will go to bed and get bored with their fiction books.
And these two moments coincide at the perfect time–Parents Weekend. Why only a weekend? Because two days is all it takes to get back to reality.
College exists for one reason–adult people need their space. So disguise it as “an intellectually stimulating experience to broaden your horizons” if you must, but you know the real truth. And the truth will make you free.
I have seven kids and we’ve done every college experience under the sun–going far away to school, taking college courses at home, traveling away to do an internship. But I’ve learned when it’s time, it’s time. Our kids become adults just at the time when we’re ready for it to happen.
God does that on purpose. He is so good and so merciful. He brings our children to a point where they are longing to test their wings just at the time when we are longing to have food in the pantry. If we held that little bitty baby in our arms and someone were to whisper to us, “Hey, are you ready to send them away to college?” We would probably give them a roundhouse kick right to the face.
But things change. People grow. And milestones are reached. Before we know it, we’re helping them pack for college. And, somehow, some way, we’re perfectly okay with it.
Sure, there are those moments. Those heartbreaking moments when I realize that the volume level around my dinner table decreases with each passing year. When I come across old Mother’s Day cards that carry the hand-scribbled sentiment, “You’re the BEST mommy I ever had.” But those moments pass, and I grab a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. Why? Because I can. They’re in my pantry, safe and sound.
One of my friends has a child leaving for college this year and he’s struggling. He remarked, “I can only believe that the grace God gives us when we have a new child will be the same grace that sustains us when they leave home.” Yes, grace. It’s all about grace.
Grace, and cereal.
Parents, it’s going to be just fine. You’ve done a great job. So good, in fact, that you worked yourself out of it. After all, we invented college for a reason. Higher education? Don’t make me laugh! They need their space and you need your space, even if you don’t realize it right now.
The end of one chapter always opens to another one. The empty space will yield itself to all those projects that have been playing around in your head for years. The stillness in your home is the perfect opportunity to dance around like a tribal native. And that quiet car is just begging for you to blast, “Free Falling” at the top of your lungs. You’ll get through this. With enough creativity, enough grace, and plenty of cereal, you certainly will.
See that woman, hugging her child at the steps leading into the dormitory? See that one tear trickling down her cheek? Psst…she’s not sad. She’s thinking about her new yoga retreat.
Hannah Keeley was once in overwhelmed mom living in a cluttered house, deep in debt, out of shape, and barely hanging on. But one day, after finding herself sobbing uncontrollably into a pile of clean laundry, she realized God has bigger and better plans for her (just like He does for each one of His children). Beginning that day, she began making changes in her life that took her from overwhelmed to overjoyed. Today, she’s helping moms do the same. Hannah, her husband, Blair, and their seven children live in Richmond, Virginia, and are having the time of their lives!
Check out Hannah’s Website Here!