When I sent my daughter, Emma, off for her freshman year of college a few years ago, I found myself overwhelmed by an incredible feeling of melancholy. I was sad down to my bones.
Clearly, I'm not alone. Just last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 90 percent of colleges offer some sort of programming for parents of incoming freshmen - programs that barely existed on campuses 20 years ago - to help moms and dads who are "struggling with the transition." According to the article, schools are conducting special orientation seminars, appointing administrators to hold the hands of parents through the process and taking other steps to deal with what one university official described as "the most over-involved generation of all time."
显然，我不是一个特例。七月底《华尔街日报》(The Wall Street Journal)报道说，超过90%的美国大学开设了专门为大学新生家长设置的项目来帮助那些正在“转变中挣扎”的父母。而这些项目在20年前是非常罕见的。据这篇文章称，各个大学在开展一些特殊的入学培训，由专门的人员来手把手领着父母们度过这个阶段；学校还采取了一系列其他措施来应对这个被世人称为“史上最关心子女”的一代家长。
Indeed, this is the season when countless articles are published admonishing helicopter parents to stop hovering so much. But based on what I can tell from Emma's college schedule - as well as that of her friends at schools across the country - "helicopter children" may be more accurate.
Between October recess (don't ask, I have no idea why they get time off barely a month after classes start), Thanksgiving, winter holiday, spring break and summer break, the first one out of my nest has come fluttering back home nearly every month of the year since she has been away.
Good friends like to joke that they see more of her now than they did when she was a senior in high school. I, for one, don't remember so much back and forth when I was an undergrad.
In the meantime, technology keeps our children connected far more than I was with my parents in the late '70s. I used to call home once a week from a pay phone (ostensibly to say hello to my mom and dad but mostly to ask them to send me a little money). Emma calls, texts or e-mails me almost every day.
Given all this, missing Emma seems kind of absurd; I've never really gotten the chance. So why, then, have I still felt on some level that I've experienced a profound loss?
All summer long before Emma left that first year, I cried constantly - at everything from a contestant's sob story on a stupid game show to the legitimately heart-rending moment when Andy leaves for college at the end of "Toy Story 3."
艾玛离家之前的整个夏天，我哭个没完没了。无论是一个愚蠢的游戏节目里参赛者的煽情故事，还是《玩具总动员3》(Toy Story 3)结尾安迪(Andy)离家去上大学时那个理所当然让人心酸的片段，都让我流下了眼泪。
I took Emma out for countless mother-daughter breakfasts, lunches, coffees and walks. I also uncharacteristically indulged her by buying an expensive comforter for her bed at school to make her feel cozy and comfortable, a somewhat extravagant furry hat to keep her warm and looking chic and a new Italian leather wallet to replace the $20 one she used all through high school.
At the same time, I was unusually critical. In my eyes, Emma had spent the weeks leading up to school going out with her friends too much, spending too much time at her boyfriend's house, staying out way too late, making too big a mess, not working enough 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 that my unhappiness and anxiety (which have abated but have not altogether disappeared) are not a reflection of how much time Emma and I spend together.
Regardless of how often she comes home, or how many times a day we chat or text, Emma is now gone in a far grander sense. She is well on the road to adulthood, and from this, she will never return.
I know full well, of course, that this is completely normal. And I take pride and joy in seeing Emma make her way so confidently and capably. She is, after all, doing exactly what she is supposed to do. She's going to be just fine. I know, too, that we will always remain close.
Nonetheless, Emma's going to college has signaled the passing of something that I cherished - her childhood and my relationship to her as a child - and I can't help being a little sad about that.