She’s off! We’re dragging a U-Haul behind us right now, moving our middle child to Chicago to start her first grown-up job since graduating from college last spring. She’s actually been working from home since early June, remotely from her high school bedroom where she hadn’t spent any significant amount of time in four years.
That was one of the few silver linings of this virus. She never would have moved home for the past few months had she not been forced out of University housing so abruptly and asked to quarantine.
I give our daughter a lot of credit. She made a solid effort making sales calls from the same place she’d once played dress-up and done algebra homework. Her employer was okay with her staying home through the end of the year. She would have saved a lot of money that way and spent more quality time with our family dog (and us of course, but the dog takes priority). But she was ready to go—she has been for a long time.
I thought I’d be depressed as we packed up her belongings (again), but I found myself simply grateful for the “bonus time” we had with her. We even got a glimpse of what she’s like as a working professional (yes, I eavesdropped more than once and enjoyed listening to her bust her butt to reach her daily sales numbers.)
Looking ahead, I’m way more excited about the new chapter in her life than I am sad about what our house will be like without her daily presence. I know I can’t forget to communicate that to her, so here are some things I’m going to constantly remind myself.
Here is what I will remind myself
1.This is HER time. It’s not about me.
Of course, I’m going to miss her, but the last thing I’m going to tell her is that I wish she would have stayed. She certainly doesn’t need to be dragging around a bag of guilt or regret for leaving me with a hole in my heart—that’s for me to deal with on my own.
When I wandered down the hallway on her final night in her childhood room to give her a kiss before bed, I realized it was the last time I’d be doing that. Not the best feeling! But I resisted the urge to tell her how much it hurts to see her go. She knows that already, and we’ve danced this dance before.
2. It gets easier.
It’s true when they say that each year you move your kids back to college, it gets easier—at least it did for me. Every year I saw how much more mature she was becoming, how much more determined she was to pursue her dreams, and it became more and more clear that we had prepared her well for adulthood. What a great feeling that is!
No matter how much we do as parents, it doesn’t always go as planned, and there’s no better sense of accomplishment than watching our children come into their own. That’s what I’m going to tell her every time I feel sad about not having her around.
3. Resist the urge to give her everything she asks for.
In preparation for the big move-out day, we logged several miles at places like Target, Walmart and HomeGoods. With each trip, my husband and I both found ourselves offering to buy her whatever she needed, whipping out our credit cards as if we had endless resources.
And guess what? Nine times out of ten, she took us up on the offer. Why wouldn’t she? Kids at this age are most likely broke, faced with looming college loans to repay, and they’re accustomed to having their parents pay for most necessities up until this point. Even when she offered to pay (which she occasionally did), we insisted on taking care of it.
We never could resist those bright blue eyes when they lit up over something on her wish list. That clearly hasn’t changed now that she wants things like pots and pans, a bed frame and a flat screen TV, instead of the latest Barbie doll, new soccer cleats or an electric guitar. In the moment, the urge to take care of our little girl as long as we could was too strong. Maybe pushing away and saying ‘no’ would have been the more prudent thing to do— clearing a stronger path toward independence. I’ll remember that next time.
4. Don’t question the choices she’s made to arrive at this point.
You might not be crazy about the location of her apartment, the amount of rent she’s agreed to pay, or the roommate she barely knows. Don’t say a word. It’s too late. Again, this is her life, including her apartment, her expenses and her roommate. Even more important, when she calls to complain about her landlord, her dwindling bank account or her roommate’s messy habits, bite your tongue before saying “I told you so.”
Trust me on this one. I’ve been burned before, and there’s no going back once the wrong words have been uttered out loud. It’s better to serve as a sounding board in most instances when dealing with a twentysomething ready to tackle the world—they know everything right now, and we just don’t.
5. Be prepared for the change of home “address.”
This one stings, but I went through it with our oldest. As time goes by, your children may start referring to their new place of residence as “HOME.” They’ll be visiting for the weekend and say something like, “I’m headed home tomorrow.” Or they’ll call to say, “I’m thinking of coming to your house for the holidays.”
What a sucker punch to the gut when you hear the kid who grew up under your roof refer to your family home as a place they’re not an integral part of anymore. But let’s face it. We all grew up somewhere, and unless you’re still living with your parents right now, that somewhere has earned a different title.
6. Aim for tears of joy, not sadness. I can’t always guarantee a positive slant to this one, and I have mixed feelings about whether it’s a good idea to let your kids see you cry as you turn to leave. I guess it depends. On the situation. On the kids. And on you.
I’ve always been a crier. I’m a sucker for a Hallmark movie, and there’s not enough tissue in the house when I hear a song like My Wish by Rascal Flatts. Therefore, my kids might be confused if I didn’t shed a few tears at the launch of a milestone journey like moving to a big city to start a new career. Before we left home, I watched as our daughter hugged her brother and sister goodbye. They all cried a little, then so did I.
And when she bawled while squeezing the dog farewell, I almost lost it. Those definitely weren’t “happy tears. ”We were sad, plain and simple. The key was to follow-up with a few words of encouragement.“We’ll come visit.” “She’ll be home for the holidays.”So what if I barely eeked those out—at least I gave it the ‘ol college try!
7. A little negative energy isn’t always personal.
Don’t be surprised or get angry if your child gets nasty or even hostile as the final moment of goodbye gets closer. For my daughter, that’s her way of coping—it always has been. When she nearly bit my head off at the suggestion of hanging a calendar over her desk or scowled at me when I decided on the “wrong” breakfast spot, I swallowed hard and let it go. If getting aggravated with me is her way of making it easier to distance herself, then so be it. It actually works both ways—a distraction that mitigates the pain.
Good thing I’m writing this on my way to drop her off. Right now, I’m feeling all the positive vibes. And when she calls after we’ve returned home to tell me she forgot her phone charger, her flat iron, or her favorite sweatshirt, I’ll make sure I reassure her that just because I miss her already, doesn’t mean I’m not thrilled beyond words about the adventure she’s embarking upon, and filled with pride over the guts it takes to branch out on your own to explore unfamiliar surroundings.
That’s what we raised her to do—to become independent, self-sufficient and filled with passion and purpose.
After that, I make no promises. Please check on me! You might find me curled up in her old bedroom, counting the days until my next road trip.
More to Read:
How to Celebrate Your Young Adult’s 21st Birthday – here are ideas for parents who want to make this birthday the special day it should be, despite the challenges of social distancing.