To all my friends getting ready to drop your babies off at college, I want you to know it will be alright. Yes, you will cry your eyes out as you drive away and more than likely you will hear every sad country song ever written about babies growing up on your lonely drive back home. You may even torture yourself that first night by digging out old photos and reminiscing about chubby cheeks, first steps and first days of kindergarten. You’ll long for the days when all of your ducklings were safely tucked away in their beds each night under one roof. You will question if you even appreciated those times or did you just take them for granted? How does the saying go? “You don’t know whatcha got until it’s gone”? And now those times have slipped away and are gone for good. You can’t get any of it back and that is such a sad thought, but you will be alright.
I’m not going to lie, the first couple weeks are hard. Little things like the empty place at the dinner table and walking past their bare bedroom may reduce you to tears. All the arguments over setting that damn table…ugh… and that bedroom, the same room you spent countless hours nagging them to clean, is now so…well, clean. That’s a good thing, right? So why does looking at it make you feel as if an actual piece of your heart is missing? Listen to me, I promise you, you will be alright.
Some of you will have to deal with your child being homesick. Ah, that really sucks. What’s the right way to handle that? Tough love? Just tell them to “Suck it up, kid”? I mean, how long should you be expected to just sit idle repeating comforting things before finally giving in to your parental instincts and driving out there to rescue your baby? Knowing that your child is struggling will break your heart. Believe me when I tell you it is temporary, and you will both be alright.
Then there will be those little brats who seemingly forget your very existence. Forget about that nightly phone call they promised you. They won’t even answer your texts, let alone call you. Meanwhile, you’re home lying on their bed, in their empty room sobbing into their little stuffed doggie-woggie(the same doggie-woggie that they couldn’t sleep without for the last 17 freaking years btw) imagining them beaten and left for dead in a frat house basement. When they finally get around to replying it will say “k” or “nmhbu” or “good”. You know they always have their phone on them so why can’t they just have the decency to reply in a timely manner with actual words and sentences? This not only hurts but will make you feel furious at times, but you will be alright.
Like everything else, you will get used to all the changes. I promise, you will. The sting of the transition period will gradually ease up and you will all discover a new “normal”. Days will turn into weeks and weeks into months. Your baby will come home for breaks and you will begin to see them in a new light. Then one day they will do or say something that will make you realize that they are growing up! MY realization came one day when our oldest daughter was home on a break and we took all 4 of our kids into NYC for the afternoon. With the exception of my hubby, we are NOT city-folk. We have always been content with our quiet suburban life and our quiet neighborhood with open starry night skies and dark backroads connecting us to other quiet neighborhoods. But Taylor went to school in a city and was suddenly able to navigate us around NYC confidently and effortlessly. Yep, my girl was growing up and she was doing it beautifully. We were both alright.
Now, as for you empty nesters, you may need to look for another writer to comfort you. That is a different category entirely. I still have a full house. Thankfully, my 18 year old has decided on pursuing a 3 year certification at community college and my 10 year old twins are still years away from leaving the nest. So, I can only speak to first timers. Honestly, I will probably need heavy sedation to get me through the empty nest phase. But the one thing I have learned for sure through all that life has thrown at me is that even the darkest nights eventually see the light of day. I’ve always let myself feel the emotions, even the most painful ones, and I’ve always been alright.