As we fly down the highway at 70mph I strain my neck to peer into your jam-packed car. I don’t know what I am expecting to see, a dad white-knuckling it as the packed down u-haul sways in the wind or a mom sobbing in the front seat? Of course, I don’t see much for fear that I will side swipe you and quickly direct my eyes back to the road.
Knowing you are off to the dreaded college move-in day takes me back to the emotions I felt as my parents and I dropped my older brother off at UW-Madison back in ’92. Times sure were different then, but I am sure the emotions are the same. For as much as my brother and I fought, I couldn’t deny the pit in my stomach as I helped to make his bed in that steamy-hot dorm room. For the love, how was he to survive in that sauna?!
Driving away and watching him out the back window of the SUV was like a Hallmark movie moment. My mom was stoic (shock, probably. The tears would come later for her). While my sappy father just about ran over a surprised bike rider as his shoulders shook with raw emotion. I felt nauseous. I don’t know why or couldn’t describe the feeling other than that a monumental shift that had just taken place. It was just the three of us now. As much as I counted down the summer days that were filled with pointless arguments waiting for him to go, I felt dread as we cruised down the highway toward home.
Fast forward two years to my move-in day. While wrapped in a thousand emotions, the scene repeated itself. Dad sobbed, Mom was teary but ever strong so as not to make me think she doubted my ability to take the leap. The excitement of those days were forgotten during the night hours the first few weeks when I would call in the middle of the night asking my parents to come get me and bring me home. Thankfully, they were strong and helped me stick it out: best. parenting. ever.
Thinking back, I am not sure how they survived this weird phenomenon where parents go from being a part of their child’s every day life to dropping them off and waiting, waiting, waiting for a phone call or text update on how they are surviving.
So, as I nosily peer into your car as you barrel toward your destination I wish you strength, courage and hope.
Knowing I will be doing the exact same thing in a few short years makes me panic but also reminds me to be present.
So, in your honor, parents of those leaving the nest, I will:
- Pick up yet another pair of socks off the family room floor without complaining for I know that one day my family room floor will be sans any signs of the other humans that inhabit this place we call home.
- Pack their lunches with rare gusto, including some of their favorites and perhaps a note to embarrass them because at some point, this job I despise will not be a part of my daily job description any longer. In fact, I will wonder and worry about what they are eating or if they are eating at all.
- Flush the toilet after their departure without shouting some phrase like, “You have got to be kidding me. There is a flusher on the toilet that works. I no longer need to inspect your poop like you are a baby!” For I am sure they will be razzed enough if this same unfortunate event occurs in their communal dorm bathroom.
- Fold their laundry without complaint in hopes that they see that it must be folded within a relatively small time span before it looks as if it was the found in the bottom of the closet. And, let’s be honest, I will just hope they are doing their laundry at some point in time.
Thank you, grieving parents of college freshman, for these most important reminders.