Sep 1, 2012
My husband and I walked towards our car in the dorm parking lot. We had pulled onto our son’s college campus just two days before with all of his belongings in the back of our van. Now the van looked empty which actually matched what was going on inside of me. We had given our final hugs and I was trying to be strong….”yeah, right, like that is going to happen”, I thought. I was a mess. I turned around to give one last wave. Our son was standing in the second story window of his dorm waving goodbye. Our eyes met. I saw that smile of our little boy from years ago, now a young man off on his own. How could this have happened so quickly? This whole “giving wings” thing is just too darn hard I thought to myself. My husband signaled me to get into the car. I had prolonged it enough. I could tell by the look on my husband’s face. After all, we needed to listen to what we were told in parent orientation the day before. “Do not prolong your goodbyes. Get them settled in and allow them to begin their new journey of getting to know new friends and a new environment.” New, new, new…..this word was not just for them but for us too!
I think our son was trying to be strong. He was excited and ready but maybe deep down a bit unsure of this new season of life that he was stepping into. We were all unsure. As we headed out of that little mountain town, the tears began to fall and they didn’t stop for 150 more miles. To this day my husband calls our road home the trail of tears. In fact, if we mapped it out, there are now three “trails of tears”; one for each of our sons in three different sections of the country.
This particular son was our last to leave home. I cried for several miles as my husband gave me words of support. At about 5 miles out of town with tears still falling, my husband asked in a rather jovial way if he could now turn on the radio. The radio, did you say the radio? How can you listen to the radio when I am in crisis mode of just letting go of our last son to college? Aren’t you emotional about this I asked him. Well, yes, he said, I let go of a few tears when I saw him waving to us through the window but I’m pretty O.K. now. Well I’m not I said and for 150 miles I cried.
Someone said to me not long ago that they were afraid they would just sob endlessly when they said their final goodbye. So what if you do, I said to them. Go with it, get it out and then start taking one day at a time. Life is made up of all kinds of changes and transitions. They’re not meant to be easy but there is a healthy way to walk through it and reach the other side in one piece. This is why we gave our children roots for so many years, only to then give them wings. Maybe as their parents we’re being given wings too. If we embrace this new stage of life who knows what empty nest adventures await us. Jump in on the discussions of moms and dads answering these questions below. It just might help you to know that many others are going through the exact same thing.
“What was the most difficult part of taking your son/daughter to college?” What was the best part of taking your son/daughter to college? “What adventures are you looking forward to now that you are empty nesters or on the road to becoming one?”
Tips and Take-a-longs
(please add to these from your own experiences in the reply box below)
- Give yourself time to grieve. You are used to having your child around the house and seeing them every day. It will take time to get used to this new dynamic.
- Please remember, everyone grieves differently. Be patient with one another.
- Send a care package as soon as possible.
- You might get calls of homesickness from your child. Just listen first and let them talk. Give words of support and let them know that this is normal. Be sure to also let yourself know that this is normal.
- If your child complains about his/her roommate (unless there is something illegal or they are in danger) encourage them that this can be good. This helps to open up their world and get new perspectives on life.
- Spend time talking with someone who has also been down this road.
- Be careful not to call your child too often in the beginning.
- Plan an outing with your spouse, family or friend in the days ahead.
- Know that what you are feeling is normal and you will get through this (millions have travelled this road before you).