When my daughter went to college for the first time I cried like a baby.
I didn’t cry in front of her, which is good, but that was only because she was nervous/crabby when we were moving her into her dorm, and that made me eager to say goodbye to her. But when I got home I felt it. I felt the loss. Something was missing. Our house would never be the same again. The kid I’d given birth to and who had lived with me day in and day out for eighteen years would never live here in the same way again.
I should be happy for her, I thought. I should be excited she gets to have this experience. I should embrace this change. What’s wrong with me?
I walked upstairs and went straight to her room, stopping at her open door. What a pigsty. The clothes she didn’t take with her were strewn everywhere.
I closed her door, deciding I didn’t need to go inside right now. “I guess I’ll be cleaning that up one day,” I told myself, turning away from the mess. I felt exhausted, heavy, like I had just run a marathon.
I went to my own room and shut the door, then sat on my bed, not knowing what else to do. I opened my drawer and removed the card my daughter had given me a few months ago. With my finger I traced the writing on the envelope; “Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I Love You.” She had even drawn little pink hearts around the words. I looked up to find her framed two year old face smiling at me from its place on the wall.
My baby. My baby. Where did all the years go? How did we get here already?
I let the tears flow then, although I’m not sure I had much of a choice. I guess I could’ve talked myself out of feeling sad, but I didn’t. When I was done I wondered what I would do on this first night as a mom whose kid had moved out of her house. I surprised myself by realizing that I wanted to celebrate.
I drove to my favorite grocery store (the more expensive one) and bought the ingredients for one of my favorite meals; fresh organic chicken, sweet potatoes and homegrown corn. When I got home I fired up the grill and set the table for three. That’s four, minus one. I uncorked a bottle of wine and let it breathe while I prepared our meal.
Just before we called our son down to dinner my husband picked up his filled glass and raised it towards me.
“To us,” he said.
I gingerly picked up my glass and repeated bravely; “To us.”
Our glasses clinked as, in unison, we said good job to each other. After all, we were officially the proud parents of a child in college. One who has her whole life in front of her. One who will have experiences all her own. She will live, learn and love independently from us, and maybe (probably) teach us a thing or two. Isn’t this what we raised her to do?
But…but…like my good friend Kim DeWaal reminded me; she will always have a wing man. This is true, mostly. But my husband can be the wing-man, I prefer to be the wing mom.