August 2011 — Car packed up to take Dear Oldest Son to college in Montana:
Last week, August 2014 — Car packed up to take Dear Middle Daughter-Child to college in Montana:
It was the same car, the same pretty drive (Highway 15 through Vegas, Utah, Idaho, Montana), the same lovely “big sky” of Montana, the same five of us traveling together. There was the same beauty to Montana, the same school, the same dorm-room layout, the same classic good looks of the university campus.
But a few things were different this time.
For one, I knew things were going to be okay. When we ambled along the road to drop off our firstborn, I had no experience with being a mom of college kid and I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to feel like I had a missing limb forever; I didn’t know if the mobile of our family would feel broken and bobbing; I didn’t know if it was going to be weird to have only a family of four at the dinner table; I didn’t know if he was going to drift away. …
But this time, as I stared out the window at the scenery going by, I already knew. I’d learned that you create a new normal. As you become a family of four, you create new traditions, new places to sit at the dining table, new conversations, new roles with each other (when my oldest left, my daughter took on the “oldest” role, the worrier; while my youngest suddenly opened up and became the talker). And your role with your college child changes, too — it becomes much more of an adult-friendship feeling. There’s more common ground, more shared humor. He’s tackling real-life problems that you can both discuss on equal ground. Yes, you do become aware that you know less about his life in general because you’re not sharing the everydayness of life and friends, but you trust that he’s telling you the parts you want to know and he’s leaving out the parts you don’t want to know anyway. 🙂
I had learned that it’s all okay. And I knew that it was all going to be okay this second time, too.
So we settled our daughter in at her new dorm room in her new university. (She’s at the same school as her brother, so there’s a little less worry — I’m so happy she has him there.)
We ran back and forth to Target, we decorated the room, we unpacked her desk supplies and shower caddy and towels, we made up her bed. We went out to a last dinner, we said goodbye, we gave her hugs and kisses. We cried a little (mostly for the end of a very fun era, being the mom and dad of a little girl), but then we smiled and told her to have fun, and please text and Skype about her new roommate, her new classes, her orientation, everything. And then we left.
We drove back as just me, Superman, and our youngest.
And now it’s time to create another new normal…