My wife and I had prepared 18 years for the day we would drop off our oldest son at college and were ready for all the emotions that would go with it. Well we thought we were. Nothing can really prepare you for that day, yeah he`s been away at football and basketball camps for a few days but this was much bigger.
The only thing that had me thinking that I was ready for him to fly the coop was he was such a pain in the neck all summer long with his, "I`m an adult now I can do anything I want" and the fact that we argued over every little thing. I just figured that was his way of saying I need to get out of here and be on my own, when in reality it was his way of saying I`m a little nervous, anxious, excited, and all the other emotions he was going through.
When the day finally came me, my wife and our younger son all were there to help move him in. There was some chaos with all the other freshman moving in, it was fun to see the faces on the kids, the looks when from sheer terror to complete adulation and my son was somewhere in the middle. We got everything unpacked, bed made, clothes put away, mini fridge set up and all the other minor necessities. All of us knew we weren`t ready to leave just yet so we figured how about going to lunch? " We went to a local restaurant and in another effort to stretch this out we made a quick stop at the store for some more necessities like a throw rug and chewing gum (couldn`t live without that).
Well it was back to the dorm to set up the rug to make sure it fit, which it did. Now we knew this was it there were no more reasons to stay, if we stayed any longer we might spend the night. We took a few pictures and then our son looked at us and said ok you guys need to go so I can get settled in." He was right, it finally was time. That`s when the emotions really hit us, my wife was first with tears and a hug and a kiss.
Then it was my turn, I gave him a big hug and a huge kiss on the cheek which surprisingly he didn`t mind at all. Then the biggest surprise was when our younger son went up and gave him a big hug as well. We were shocked. It`s not like they didn`t get along but they have always been complete opposites from the time they were little kids. Being only one year apart they were joined at the hip at first but as the teen years hit they went their separate ways and had complete different friends. With one being a big fan of sports and the other a musician was just the obvious difference to everyone but they are so different in many other ways. That didn`t stop one of the best parental moments of my life to see that big hug, yes it was priceless. We made our way out to the car and left our older son to do his thing, a feeling that I cannot put into words but proud, nervous, sad and happy can give you a bit of an idea.
We thought that was going to be the hard part but it really wasn`t, it was the next few days of firsts, first dinner without him officially being here, first night he didn`t sleep here, first breakfast, and the firsts just continued. Walking by his room and seeing it so clean, bed made up, it was impossible to realize he was not here. Now was the real test, a few weeks earlier during college orientation the professors, deans, chancellor and other speakers all said the same thing to all the parents, time to cut the cord. They were emphatic about not calling all the time to check in, don`t let them come home all the time especially the first weekend, they must make the college their new home and if they didn`t they would not survive.
This would not be easy, the speakers had given our generation of parents a nickname helicopter parents because we hovered over our kids their entire life and now we must STOP! We knew they were right but that would not make it any easier, we needed to know was he getting enough to eat? Sleeping ok? How was his roommate? So many questions and without answers we knew we would just die. Well we didn`t die, we didn`t call every 10 minutes either but we did text a little we figured that wasn`t hovering was it?
During that first week when we did call we told him we loved him, missed him and would see him soon. He did the same which made us feel better but that was a long week. Interestingly that same week our younger son went off to a music camp at another university so we had several days of preparing for being empty nesters, not so bad. But I have some advice for those approaching this timeframe, you better have a lot in common with your spouse, do things together now or empty nesting will be rough.
My wife and I run together, walk the dog together, go on long bike rides together, enjoy a glass of wine together, go out to lunch periodically together and yes we even have meaningful conversations together. We`ve heard all the horror stories about empty nesters and even had good friends divorce shortly after the last child moved out. They realized their whole life revolved around the kids and when they were gone they looked at each other and said now what? They had nothing in common any more, the kids were the bond but it all vanished just like that. So I guess my recommendation is if you don`t know your spouse now get working on it before the kids go to college. Find things to do together even if you don`t like it, learn to like it, face it marriage is about sacrifice and give and take.
I conclude by saying, yes we miss our son a lot and he says he misses us. We will survive just like the millions of parents before us did and the millions after us will but it`s not as easy as I thought it would be. I admit I talked a big game about how I can`t wait to get his butt out of here, he`s driving us crazy. That was just that, talk, I miss him more than I thought. Now I can`t wait for his first visit back home I have a feeling it`s going to be great, when it`s time for him to go back to college I will give him that big hug and kiss again and plan on doing so each time he visits. I know if my younger son were to read this he would dread the thought of that hug and kiss, that is until it was his time and I know he`ll love it and appreciate it just as much as me and my first son did.