Leaving the nest can be hard - for both college students and parents

While sending your first child off to college may seem like one of the most "bitter-sweet" moments in a parent's life, Eugene Field Elementary teacher Michelle Whanger warns sending the second child off doesn't get any easier.
Whanger and her husband, Ron, are the parents of Jordan, 22, and Kyle, 19. Jordan, a 2009 Mexico High School alumna, is preparing to graduate in December from Missouri State University, do a 10-month internship and then go to graduate school. Kyle, a 2013 MHS graduate, chose to attend MSU with his sister and left last week for orientation.
Looking back, Whanger said her daughter's departure was a little more involved than her son's because she was the first child and a girl. But, Whanger added, both had emotional moments when they left.
"Jordan was a little harder because she was scared. Kyle was easier; he was ready to go," Whanger explained. "Jordan took weeks to pack and ended up filling two cars with her stuff. Once she got there, we texted each other every night, to make sure she was okay.
"Boys are different that way. Kyle packed the night before he left and I labeled all his stuff and where it was and then told him to look before going out to buy more — because he's a boy.
"He's texted us a couple of times, saying he wishes he was home, but that he's doing fine and meeting lots of new people."
On the emotional side, Whanger said Jordan cried and hugged her parents as they left, pulling even more at "mom's heart strings."
Kyle waited until his parents left and then sent them both emails, thanking them for being his parents, for their guidance, support and encouragement. He even touched his dad's heart and brought a tear to his eye.
"Kyle and his dad are very close. They hunt together and truly enjoy each other's company," Whanger said. "We were driving back home when Ron got his email, and after I read his, I even choked up. It was totally unexpected and heartfelt."
Whanger said though their children are different, they both have big hearts.
"I love them both for who they are. They both have great, positive attitudes and are Godly people. I believe they both will be very successful."
Whanger added, "and, them being on the same campus makes me feel better. I know they will protect and help each other."
Whanger said she and her husband have their own ways of dealing with the absence of their children.
"He goes to the farm and has his time, and I take my 11-mile bike ride to clear my mind," she said. They also have family friends, who just transitioned out of the military, who will be staying with them through December. Whanger said the couple has a young child who has brought life back to their household.
Patrick and Judy Kelly also are going through the first-child leaving experience. Their son, Sean, 19, left for college this morning, headed to Edgewood College and University in Madison, Wisc., for his ROTC training. Freshman orientation starts Saturday and his classes will begin Aug. 28.
His mom said Sean started preparing for college as soon as graduation was over. He got a checklist from the internet on what he needed in his dorm room and went to town. Knowing he would not work his first semester at school, Sean worked as many hours as he could this summer trying to save as much as he could.
He's the couple's first out of four to go off to college.
"As parents we try to raise our children to be independent and not rely on us. Going off to college is our ultimate test to see how well we did," Judy Kelly said of her son. "Sean has always been independent, outgoing and would set goals for himself. He purchased all his supplies and packed with very little help.
"Right now I'm wishing he still needed us just a little bit. I know with my mom it took going off to college to realize how much I really needed her and I hope that will happen with my son."
Kelly said when parents go from seeing their son almost every night since he was born to him living 6 1/2 hours away, that is a big adjustment.
"Detaching from his family will probably be too easy for him. Our fears are that he will be too busy to be able to return home for visits," Kelly said. "You give them wings, say lots of prayers, and then let them fly."
As the first of four children, Kelly believes her son will do well on his college venture. As for the Kellys, there are three more kids at home to keep them busy.