In a week, my husband and I will take our older daughter to college. I've been readings blogs and columns about how upsetting it is for parents to let their teenage children go. I understand. I find myself staring wistfully at Maggie as she leaves crumbs on the table and her dish in the sink with food still on it. I moon at the dirty laundry pile on her bedroom floor. I sigh with anticipatory longing every time she says, "Five minutes," when I ask her to do a chore that wouldn't tax the energy of a slug.
Seriously, I won't miss the frustration and filth of living with a teenager (lucky for me, I have another one still at home). I will dearly miss Maggie's guitar playing, singing, smile, laugh, and her humor. We're bracing for the quiet that is currently filled with the cha-chung of Law & Order marathons and round-the-clock Skypeing with friends.
Sending a child into the world is a rite of passage for parents. Of course, I'm worried about her future and hate giving up the illusion that I can shield her from life's arrows. It's only natural to break out the baby book, and marvel at the swift passage of time. But while we're indulging in reflection, our children are majorly freaking out. "I wonder how bad it would be if I just stayed home and worked at the ice cream store for the rest of my life," Maggie asked me yesterday while doing the requisite pre-college binge shop at Target.
She's scared shitless. I almost didn't see it. I'd been preoccupied by my "How will I survive without her?" whining. I decided then and there, in the shampoo aisle, to shelve my conflicted feelings completely.
Our generation has made a habit of calling Millennials narcissists. We should be wary of falling into the same "It's all about me" trap during the college transition. Absolutely, this stage of life is hard for us. Yes, we'll miss our kids. Undoubtedly, we're getting older and confronting our fear of death. But college drop-off is their big moment. It's easy to suppress "When I was going to college..." comments if parents focus on their kids' experience. Otherwise, we fritter away our final chance to be parents.
So no weepy, chin-quivering sentimental haze for me. I'm smiling so hard, my crow's feet are getting deeper. I'm projecting confidence that this is the right move for Maggie. Hopefully, my certainty will ease her anxiety. The last, best role modeling I can do now is not to fall apart, not to act like a needy infant as my kid becomes an adult.
As soon as the last milk crate is unpacked in her dorm room, we will make a short goodbye. I anticipate crying in the parking lot. When we arrive home, maybe we'll crack a few brewskis and drink until we puke. These truly are good times for her -- and for us. Instead of grieving, we should celebrate.