Wow. It is mid-August. How did we get here? I have been dreading the end of August all summer. I have never been fond of August. I prefer July. For me, July is like a Saturday – full of potential for fun, excitement, and distraction from the stress of the weekdays. August is like Sunday – I begin to realize that what recently seemed like an endless expanse of freedom and fun actually has a looming expiration date. Like the image in the side-view mirror of my car, the end of summer is closer than it appears and my heart quickens as the adrenaline courses through my blood and brain in anticipation of the stress of real life.
This particular August is like a super-August. This is the August that my daughter heads off to college. Now, I know that this is what we have been working and hoping for over the past 18 years and I am incredibly proud of who she is and what she has achieved thus far. There is so much to celebrate. At the same time, I am in mourning. I am mourning the daughter-shaped-space that will be in our lives once she goes away to school.
It is very easy for me to imagine the many ways in which I will miss my daughter. I will miss our morning routine together, eating peanut butter and bananas on toast while listening to our favorite news podcast. I will miss when she comes home from school and sets up on the couch to do her homework while I sit across the living room from her at my desk, working. I will miss when she asks me to call the cat because he is trying to lie on top of her textbook. I will miss her asking me to get her a snack because she doesn’t want to get it herself (even though that drives me crazy). And while I will not miss doing her laundry, I will miss seeing what interesting items she finds when she goes thrift shopping.
I will miss talking to her about her friends and what is going on with them. And I will miss her friends. It seems like from 3 pm until after dinner, our front door is left unlocked because there is always a friend or two expected to drop by at any moment, or because she often runs to the corner to say hi to a friend traveling through the neighborhood.
What is harder for me to imagine is fit into our lives while she is away. I am guessing that for the first few weeks while she is adjusting to her new life, there will be lots of calls and texts asking for help and advice. Even now, I get the texts from her that simply say “Mom”, nothing more, nothing less (though they seem to me like a tacit admission that I am a trusted authority, a reliable source of wisdom and comfort). When I get those, I always respond, “Yes” (confirming my role in her life) knowing a request for help is forthcoming. And, I am sure there will be phone calls – lots of them at first and less as she adjusts to life on campus.
I remember when I was in college my mom was surprisingly accommodating when it came to picking me up and taking me back to campus during breaks. She said she did it because it was the only time she would get to visit with me. I can now see the wisdom of my mom’s decision and imagine I’ll be doing the same for my daughter.
While I am very much focused on my own mourning, I realize everyone in the household will have their own experiences of loss too. My husband recently used the word “heartbroken” to describe his feelings about our daughter’s impending departure. Before she was born he could not imagine what he would ever do with a girl, having only had brothers. But within 5 seconds of her birth, he was absolutely smitten and utterly convinced that she was the most awesome baby ever born anywhere on the planet. Those feelings have only deepened over time.
I think the change is a little hard for my son to process. He knows that when his sister is gone he will miss her, but I think it is harder for him to imagine what that really means. When they were younger my son used to really look up to his sister as many younger siblings do. They also used to fight a lot and they could really push each other’s buttons. Now that they are teens, their relationship is more even-keeled. They have very different interests and very different types of friends. However, they have found that they can have fun together and make each other laugh. They definitely enjoy the time we spend together as a family. Now, most of the time, it will just be the three of us – me, my husband and our son.
I even know that for our cats, this will be a big change. They will miss her, especially Malcolm, who likes to sit with her on the couch. He loves to curl up against her, or even on her lap, as soon as she sits down to do her homework or watch TV.
As we all get used to her absence, we will develop new patterns and habits. I hope my son will spend more time out of his room now that the living room will be a lot quieter. I also hope our cats spend more time with the rest of us. And my husband and I have decided that we will focus all our parenting energy on our son (which he may or may not appreciate).
My older sister assures me we will be used to our daughter’s absence by October and that we might even find that her visits back home upset the new balance that has taken hold while she was away. We shall see. All I know is that for the next two weeks, I plan to hug her as much as possible.
PS: Did I mention my 2e kiddo goes back to school in September? OMG!!! He is a rising junior and he is excited about the challenges ahead – PSATs and college visits! I can’t even think about all that until we drop off his sister at college. More to come on my parenting adventures with my son when the school year starts. (Cue dun dun dun dun music.)