Last weekend we dropped our youngest off for college. We’re not quite empty-nesters yet, since our college-grad daughter is living with us, but the house definitely has a different feel. There are no “kids” for me to manage and prod and schedule around. There’s no boisterous talk describing video game action, good or bad. In fact, maybe for the first time ever in our family, there’s more female energy in the house than male energy!
I must admit, I feel unsettled this week. We have been building up to that move-in moment for so long, with a lot of work on my part making lists, shopping, dealing with the college to-dos and hoops they wanted us to jump through (always confusing), helping pack, etc. The move-in was something to accomplish, dread, look forward to and worry about.
And then, suddenly, there we were, in the dorm room, helping him set up.
He didn’t have a lot of stuff, so it didn’t take much time at all. We took a few hours to drive around the town, shop for a few more items, have some lunch, and then we left. I’d wondered how emotional I’d be (since I’d already been feeling a lot in weeks previous to this), but I was okay. It was good energy, exciting even, to be at this juncture. (Though I did yuk it up for the camera, just for fun:)
I know this is a Big Transition for him, for me, for all of us, so I’m taking it slow, allowing the waves of feelings to come in on the tide and retreat. It’s all a mixed bag, too– how can you feel both happy and sad about something, excitement and dread, anxiety and little wisps of trust and hope, all at the same time? I guess that’s Life in general, and parenting in a microcosm. If we’re open to the feelings, oh yes we will FEEL, a lot, and to the extremes. The joy of having these wonderful baby creatures come into our lives, mixed with the sorrow and excitement when we really know it in our bones that they are going to grow up and leave us one day. (Yeah yeah, I know they never truly leave us, but they will never be as wholly and truly ours as they were when they were little, sigh.)
For now, I’m getting through the first week, watching my anxiety subside as I hear from him that he’s getting up on time (not easy for him), getting to classes, meeting people… he’s finding his way, so far so good. Part of my excitement is for him, as he gets to explore being more independent and learn more about his chosen career. But it’s also been for me as I enter a new phase in my life, the not-so-hands-on mom phase, the one where I get to explore my creativity more and figure out the path I want to take.
As I’ve talked to other parents about experience in the last few weeks, I’ve had the head-nods from those who have been-there-done-that (or are doing it now). And I’ve seen the bewildered look of those with younger kids, all saying the same thing: “I can’t imagine it!” I wish I had great insights to share, but some things you just have to experience as it comes in the great forward march of Time. Nothing prepares you, and everything prepares you. You just do what you have to do and step forward, into a whole new world, and let the feelings come.