Senior Year, that magical time when you embark on a journey with fellow parental spirits through the mysteries of Testing, Applications, Graduation, Parties, and the Evil Empty Nest. You swear allegiance to Facebook support groups, start Pinterest boards, and run daily Google searches for “dorm room must-haves” and “coping with college.” You go on quests for bedding and clothes, and weave sacred spreadsheets for fees and food and living without a car.
Along the road, you encounter the Nights of Worry, the Revolving Door of Roommates, the Discovery of Ex-Boyfriend Attending the Same School, the Fears of Bad Behavior and Sleeping Through Class. You worry, can she handle her own paperwork? Will she eat proper food? And, ultimately, how am I going to mother her from 400 miles away?
Fast forward and the big day is finally here. Her dad and I got to spend 2 hours with her in her new dorm room, assembling, hanging, and setting it all up. We eventually ran out of things to do and found ourselves standing in the middle of the room, staring at each other in silence. Finally, my daughter said, “I’m in college now. I can’t believe it. I’m in college now.” After a beat, I said, “I know. This is where we leave you. But I don’t know when to leave!” To which she replied, “Now is probably a good time.”
And that was that.
To answer the burning question, no, I did not cry. Despite all those months of worry and fear and stress and anticipation, I did not shed one tear. People don’t believe me, they keep asking me, “Were you just a mess?” and I feel guilty saying no, but it’s the truth.
Maybe I am just dead inside. (not really!) Or maybe, we were all ready. Maybe over the last 18 years, we have faced all the challenges, battled all the demons, and finally were able to pull the sword out of the stone. My daughter was truly excited to start a new life in a new city, make new friends, and learn new things. And we were excited for her to experience life this way.
We miss her terribly, but talk to her every day, and have been regaled by stories of Uber adventures to find lost dorm keys and a toilet paper stand-off with her suitemates. She is living her best life right now, and I just can’t be sad about that.
There is no one right way to deal with your little bird leaving the nest. I just hope I did right by her as a mother, that she has my voice in her head when faced with tough decisions, and that she comes home often for some real food and lots and lots of hugs.