I was prepared, I thought! Dozens of times, I had worked it through. I anticipated the loss and processed it in every possible way. We had more kids at home! She would come home occasionally. There would be less laundry. Nobody has been murdered!!
But, I wasn’t really ready. Saying goodbye was rough! Tears welled up in my eyes and I felt sad and empty inside. My daughter was leaving. Actually, she was gone now, away at college. Something I had always dreamed for her, to become her own woman, to launch successfully into the next chapter called college. Why couldn’t I handle this without the emotional upheaval?
We took her up on a late summer day, bags packed, spirits high! Check lists were happily scratched off and a roommate was secured. Our youngest joined us for the road trip. The trip up was lengthy, but beautiful. After six hours of driving, lush mountains greeted us as we approached the bustling college town.
Check in time was 9 am. After a brief, lousy breakfast at our motel, we headed toward the dorms to check in. We were all amazed at the energy of the upperclassmen who helped us unload the boxes. “Are your boxes labeled?” a young lady with an Appalachian accent asked. “Look at this mom! Not only are my boxes labeled, but they are numbered!” Regina tapped a confident finger right by the sharpie-written numbers. My daughter was prepared. She’ll be just fine here, I thought. Older, acclimated students came out of everywhere, it seemed, to help and to greet the new freshmen.
Her dorm building was nice. Nicer than I remember my dorm being in the mid 1980’s. Laden with hang ups and backpacks, we marched up four flights of stairs to see the ROOM! This would be our daughter’s home for the next 9 months. Regina knocked and an anxious, slightly giddy roommate opened the door with a smile. The two new roommates greeted each other with a hug. It was as if they had known each other for 30 years. All was well! This official greeting was followed by more greetings (there were suitemates and RA’s to meet) and unpacking, and a Wal-Mart trip and dinner.
Tomorrow was the day. It was the day we would have to say goodbye. Although I knew this day had to happen, I was dreading it. I could already feel the emptiness building up. My mind was already saying nasty things like, “Yeah! Go and have your good time while I go home, get old, shrivel up and die!” “Who is going to help me make salads?” and “Oh no! There is no one to ask if this matches!” She slept at the dorm that night while we slept in the motel.
Again, it was a beautiful late summer day. I think God was reminding me that life does indeed go on. It was decided that she would join us for a quick cup of cappuccino and then we would shove off. Hugs and smiles were exchanged. And then, a final picture. Off she goes. Then the tears! Lots of ’em. A week’s worth of sneaking off for a good cry before I could get myself together.
Then, life got busy again. There were other children to get ready for school. My hubby needed a woman that wasn’t a wreck. There were birthdays and baptisms to attend, dinners to cook. Finally, it got easier as life settled in.
Looking back, while sending my daughter to college was an emotionally challenging experience, it has given me a new perspective. Now, I have sent two children away to school! As parents, we spend so much of our time getting our kids ready for college and life after high school. We want them to be successful and to have options. But, sometimes, it is easy to get too focused on the future and not to live right now. Sometimes I can fall into that trap. Now, I try to spend a little more time just enjoying the kids that are still around. Just being with them…getting a cup of coffee or just talking. These days with children go quickly and I want to savor them while they are here.