Ready or Not Here Comes the Empty Nest, Meanwhile Chocolate

Three days ago I practically boasted about how ready both my son and I are about him going off to college. I was sure to include a disclaimer, “unless something sneaks up and hits me.” Sure enough, karma arrived this evening to sucker punch me and make me eat my words.

Ready or Not, Here Comes the College Drop-Off

The day began with arriving and registering. The students were quickly whisked away to begin bonding with their new fellow students. The guests/parents were informed of all things campus related. We were reassured that our children would be well cared for and supported. The college staff explained how not to be a helicopter, lawn mower, or bull dozer parent. They gave us permission to relinquish our parental reigns.

This was all welcome news to me. My son required a lot of hands on parenting. There were times I was exhausted nearly to the point of needing to be hospitalized. That’s not an exaggeration. But, I continued devotedly mothering my children, trusting the parenting process, knowing that every one of those trying moments was worth it. He was worth it.

In the afternoon, we were split up once more to later reunite for dinner. We had agreed to meet in the dining hall. By the time I arrived, he was seated with a new friend. I asked if I was allowed to join them. He smiled with a sparkle in his eye and said, “Yes.” I sat down, making sure to leave a seat between us. I finished my meal and chatted with my son, his new friend, and the friend’s mom.

During dinner he sent his roommate a message/snap/tweet/#whateverthekidsareusingthesedays. He was nervous about meeting his roommate, but excited for this new life chapter to begin. His eyes shined as he smirked and joked about living the college life away from his mom and dad. He is so clearly, obviously ready.

He is the full embodiment of vulnerability and bravery in these moments. Despite any rumbling nerves and hesitations, his heart is open to receive the awaiting opportunities, joys, and disappointments. I’m so grateful for his readiness and terrified all the same time.

His evening continued with scheduled social events. My evening consisted of shopping at the nearby department store and then retiring to a peaceful hotel room with a book. It’s not often I have extended time to myself, and I was determined to make the most of it. We said our farewells and I was careful not to make a scene, although I did toss in some jazz hands just for the obligatory ‘mom you’re embarrassing me effect.’

He couldn’t wait for me to leave. So I did, but not without first taking one last look at him on his own.I hesitated, waiting for him to catch my stare, but he didn’t notice. I walked away with a lump in my throat and pride in my heart.

He was SO ready. He IS SO ready. Which is a wonderful blessing. And then it hit me. I’M not ready. I am not nearly as ready for this next chapter as I first thought.

Chocolate to the Empty Nest Rescue

I held off my tears as I shopped at the department store and then at the grocery. I knew I would need a snack and treat for my evening alone. I considered a bottle of wine, but passed on it as I knew nothing good could come from that given my unsteady state. I settled on a bag of popcorn and a bar of dark chocolate. Because, chocolate. Thank God for chocolate.

This is the letting go. Childhood, really does go so fast, especially the first 10 years. There’s too much I don’t remember, and now it’s gone. There’s so much I would do differently now, but I can’t go back. I see now, after a week of doubting my parenting skills, that I must have done something right given how he is facing everything awaiting him with an endearing blend of apprehension and fearlessness.

My heart is equally full and empty at the same time. I’m not sure how that is even possible. I am sure that he knows he is loved. I know that he may falter, but he will figure it out, just as we all do. Today he bravely took his first steps into an unknown with such admirable courage. I know that I’m thankful for every ounce of him and his readiness to part from me. As Brené Brown taught me, I mentally repeat an unending cycle of, “I am grateful, I am grateful.”

In a few weeks, we will help move him in and drive away. I will be armed with tissues as the feeling of giving my child to the world rips through my heart. I will repeat my mantra of gratitude until the sting wanes. I have a plan and deeply hope that karma is now satisfied.

Until then, for tonight, I am escaping my sorrows by turning the pages of a salacious, newly-released novel. These are our next steps, ready or not.

You Might Also Enjoy:

21 Things You’ll Love About The Empty Nest

headshot Laurie BarretAfter her father’s passing, Laurie Barrett began to write in order to process her grief. Writing became a creative and therapeutic approach to process her journey through life’s experiences. Laurie lives works, writes, and plays in western Pennsylvania with her husband, children and dogs.

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.