The Elephant in the room is that thing which everyone knows but which is not to be talked about; that reality of which all are aware, but pretend does not exist.
Our family’s elephant in the room these past many weeks has been the fact that my son Ryan is headed off to Southern to start college. He will now live exactly 559 miles (less of course a stop or two for gas and Taco Bell!) from home. And he will be badly missed. But we’ve forbidden ourselves from talking about that emptiness that he’ll leave behind. Instead we’ve talked about dorms and roommates; class schedules and meal plans; the pretty campus and how many worships are required. And how nice it will be to drive over to grandma’s once in a while for some home cooking.
But we don’t talk about the void he’ll leave once he’s gone.
That we will miss so badly the gentle rhythms of his presence at home is a blessing in a way I suppose. One evening a few days before accompanying him up from Florida I mentioned to him that it’d be easier on us to see him leave if only he’d been less pleasant to be around over the years. His response implied I was perhaps to be congratulated for finding the only advantage to being mean: being difficult so you won’t be missed so much when the time comes to leave home.
An uneventful 2 vehicle drive up to Southern -- Ryan in his car with Mom and his sister, me in the SUV loaded with his stuff -- and we all seemed to know it was going to be harder to avoid the Elephant. Sunday morning found us busy buying books, getting IDs, and of course that grand act of separation from the nest of one’s upbringing: moving into the dorm.
In his opening remarks and welcome to us parents of incoming freshmen, Dr. Bietz (University president) first spoke about how natural and common it was for parents to find the separation from their children in this major step into their future so awkward, and painful, and bittersweet all at once. With this, he signaled that the Elephant could now be noticed briefly and talked about. From the laughter these insightful comments elicited, I was sure ours was not the only elephant being dealt with!
In the three hours of orienting and informative sessions that followed, the faculty and staff maintained that keen awareness that they understood their audience: freshman parents, committed to an Adventist education at Southern Adventist University, yet also dealing with Elephants in the room.
If Southern can be this sensitive to what we parents are dealing with, I’m offering an informed guess that they will be even more sensitive to the issues involved with my own son’s inevitable adjustments.