I Have Mixed Emotions About My Daughter Leaving for College

I know…I know we are all supposed to be offering odes to our college-bound children. I know, as we see the “time to move out!” pile grow taller, we are supposed to fully lean into our feelings of sadness and despair and question how, exactly, we will move on with an empty bed in our homes. 

And it’s not that I’m not having all of those feelings. 

It’s just that I am having other feelings, as well. 

mom and daughter taking selfie
I have different feelings about my daughter going to college. Twenty 20 (@maginnis)

I have mixed feelings about my teens leaving

It started with a Tupperware, those other feelings, and then sort of snowballed. I was sourcing a smell in the refrigerator when I came across a Tupperware holding a mostly unidentifiable item. Dear lawd, what was that smell?

It seemed to have started its life as potatoes and peppers but had since become a new strain of mold. I knew this wasn’t there before my husband had gone away for a week midway through the previous month. This told me the creation was likely made then, while he and I were enjoying some much-needed “couples time” and my daughter was enjoying some “I am without adult supervision time.” 

Truthfully, potatoes and peppers are her culinary earmark. If I’d found moldy noodles, I’d have tagged her younger brother.

And I don’t mind the creations (or the storage) until they enter this hazmat stage. This trick of it is, if I throw the contents out too soon, it is at risk of a one-star momming review that will begin with, “Did somebody throw out my potatoes and peppers I was going to eat those someday why didn’t you just ask?!! UGH!”

Yet if I leave them indefinitely, we land here, with a Tupperware exposing the rest of the refrigerator to a moldy, pungent, hardly recognizable brick of sludge. 

What I’ll love when my teens leave

I guess I am saying that, in these waning days of having our eldest home full-time, I am starting a second list. The first is of all the things that will tug at my heart over the next months, and the second is all those things that I might be okay with sending out the door with her.

Does that make me a bad person? Or does that make me a finder of a new coping skill?

I am looking forward to using toilet paper from the mounted holder rather than enduring a seek and find for the roll. I may never understand why the toilet paper exits the holder after my child exits the bathroom. Why it must live on the floor or the counter, on the side of the tub, or behind the toilet, but I am looking forward to the day when the toilet paper can be found exactly where it is expected — on the holder and in the form of a plentiful roll. 

I am looking forward to entering our shared cars knowing that there will be enough gas to get me to the end of the driveway, rather than having to pray that the graciously left fumes will get me to an appointment that I clearly should have left earlier for in case I needed to swing by the gas station to fill the tank that said child emptied. 

I am looking forward to, perhaps, finding the spare keys to those same shared cars. I mean, yes, I get it, “no one” used them, yet somehow they have gone missing. I suspect we may discover at least one buried underneath that growing “time to move out” pile.

I am looking forward to not taking dinner attendance each day, only to be met with sporadic claims of being over-controlling. No, it’s not that I care WHERE my adult child will be, it is that I want to know how many plates to set out and how many chicken breasts to prepare. I often wonder if this child’s elementary school teachers were given the same accusatory responses when the lunch count was taken each morning. “No, dear, I don’t actually care if you will be having the fish sticks or sneaking out to the jungle gym, but our cafeteria staff would like a headcount, please, and thank you…”

I look forward to approaching the washer with the confidence of a woman who will find it empty. No more surprises of a funky pile of wet clothes, long forgotten by their owner after a failed run at a completed laundry mission. 

I am looking forward to grabbing the coffee creamer and finding the coffee creamer in the container rather than in an empty bottle. Same with ketchup. Hot sauce. Brown sugar. Really, most anything in the kitchen. Somedays, I wonder if kids today think there will be a punishment for not only throwing out an emptied item but additional consequences for adding “mustard” (et al.) to the magic portal. You know the one where family members write a word on a paper or whiteboard and then, suddenly, days later, the item appears back in the pantry?

I am looking forward to sending our robot vacuum on his bi-weekly journey without having to sprint up the stairs to rescue it from chewing up trash, clothes, earbuds, or pens that always remain stored on the bedroom floors of teenagers. Wait, perhaps the robot vacuum ate the spare keys.

I look forward to opening the clean dishwasher and not finding dirty plates piled on top of the clean ones. No, the little magnets do not help.

I am looking forward to leveling back up to being one of the smarter people in the house rather than this outdated one with so little knowledge of the outside world that I have somehow transformed into over the last several months. 

I really am going to miss this baby adult. She has recently thrown in a slightly clingy twist which has been lovely and will, no doubt, makes move-out even harder for me. I am trying not to wish these sweet chats could have been our norm for years and just be grateful for the now.

Still, as we approach departure day, I also realize that several oft-repeated phrases will be retired, and I feel no shame in the glory of glee that comes from that. You shouldn’t either. There is nothing wrong with running parallel tracks of emotion when launching a bird from the nest. 

I mean, clearly, keep that list of “things I’m looking forward to” to yourself for a few years…at least until that child has their own teenager driving them bananas. 

And even then, maybe just listen, smile, and nod knowingly. 

More Great Reading:

100 Essential Life Skills Teens Needs to Learn at Home

About Jyl Barlow

Jyl Barlow is a best-selling author raising two baby adults with her husband in Virginia. Her book, What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting, is a humorous memoir documenting her step parenting journey. Jyl navigates life as a (second)wife and (step)mom with inappropriate laughter and near-perfect hindsight.

Besides writing, Jyl enjoys travel, fighting with her embroidery machine, and trying to convince her husband to let her have chickens. Jyl’s writing credits also include FunnyPearls.com, Today.com, and WhichWaysUp.blog. Get to know her at JylBarlow.com.

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