For Steph, Who Asked What It Was Like

What's it like to have a kid in college? Far away, not-living-at-home college (that's the only kind I know so far)?

I can only describe my own experience, obviously. First of all, it has not been a constant, daily pining ache, which the comments on a recent Facebook article indicate that it is for many mothers. I'm torn between feeling like I'm a less attached or devoted mother for this reason, or that those other mothers maybe need a hobby. There's also the fact that he had a very busy school and sports schedule the last few years he was at home, so maybe those mothers were used to seeing their kids more on a daily basis.

Mostly it feels like he's just away for a baseball tournament. Often I just forget that he's not actually downstairs in his man-cave. Our usual schedule was that he would come home from school and sit on the arm of the couch while I made him a snack and we would talk about a variety of things, and then he would go off to workout or practice, or down to the basement to do homework. We rarely had dinner as a family because it didn't fit into the schedule - admittedly, when we did I wished we could do it more often because the conversation would often go off on weird and entertaining tangents. What I miss most of all is the random moments in the evening when everyone would end up in the kitchen/family room area for a few minutes, and Lucy was happy to have her pack all together and it was a good feeling. The corollary, though, is that we all go down to visit him now and he and Eve are actually really happy to see each other and talk about all the stuff that's happened while they were apart, and we have a short, intense time together that is basically like twenty family dinners at once, and it's very nice.

Every now and then I'm in the kitchen and doing something innocuous like reaching to turn on the faucet and I suddenly miss him acutely and have to stop and take a breath. It is a strange, bittersweet feeling to think that him living here full-time is over forever. When he was home last week, I went down to say goodnight and we hugged, and for a brief moment I wished fiercely, painfully for him to be little again, that I was about to bury my face in the neck of a two-year-old before picking him up to carry him to bed. But it passed. This is the proper order of things. We know that. Bittersweetness is the very lowest price we can hope to pay for the joy of having children, right?

There's also the considerable trade-off of the happiness and pride of seeing him succeed at something he really wants, apart from us. I really thought he might have more trouble settling in and being on his own, which would undoubtedly have made this harder. We also have texting, which makes it much easier to still feel connected than it was for my parents.

Also, to be perfectly honest, having him not live here makes some things quite a bit easier. I don't have to worry about having my car home on time for him to go to work out three times a week plus practice. I don't have to buy as many groceries. I don't have to cook as much meat - when Matt was in Asia for October Eve and I could survive the week on one batch of curried chicken and a quiche. Again, this is something that has the potential to be sad (and a little guilt-provoking), but sometimes it's just... easier.

Finally, there's the fact that he's been home twice for five days to a week, and he only left three months ago. After Christmas, all his breaks are taken up by baseball travel. We'll go down to visit and watch him play, but he won't be home for a full five months. So, I guess, ask me again at the end of May?

So there you go. Nothing earth-shattering or terribly profound. My son moved away, and I'm sad and happy. Next year when Steph's son Noah goes away I'm hoping it will be somewhere close to Elmira so we can meet and talk about being sad and happy over tea and some kind of vegetarian snack.


This is such a good post, Allison. I love how you say that bittersweetness is the lowest price to pay, and that this is the proper order of things. I think sometimes nostalgically about when the boys were little, but this time is GOOD too, in a different way. xo
StephLove said…
Thanks, Allison. I think it may be different for me because Noah's such a homebody. He's basically always home when he's not at school and unlike his sibling who's been going to overnight camp since the age of 9, we had to basically force him to go to computer camp last summer. And the kids and I eat together most nights if North's not at rehearsal in which case Noah and I wait for Beth to come home and we eat later. So I eat with him every night, and Saturdays we cook together... You get the point. It's even going to significantly change my reading life because we read together at least once a week, often several times a week. I just re-read King Lear because he was reading it. And we're reading Six of Crows for fun.

But I'm genuinely excited for him to find a place where he can grow and learn and begin the next phase of his life. I think he has great options. And I am also looking forward to tea with you in upstate NY sometime next year.

p.s. I kind of know what you mean about measuring yourself against other people's reactions. On North's first day of preschool a lot of moms were crying in the parking lot when they dropped their kids off and I was most definitely not. More like about to dance a little jig at the idea of having a couple hours to myself. And then I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me because I wasn't crying.
Julie Leclair said…
Oh my heart aches already for the eventuality of Max leaving the house. But it sounds like it won't be so bad, right?

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