I’m a crier. I am a world class, quivering lips, ugly faced, squinty eyed, world. class. crier. My cry game has no shame. I frequently lose it over diaper commercials featuring sweaty, pink cheeked moms lying in hospital beds and being handed their newborn baby. And the flood gates easily flow open over sad songs, sad books, and sad movies all the time.
So it came as no surprise that when I left my first baby at college, I wept like a lost soul for the entire 250 miles of interstate home. My stoic husband sat quietly, gently reminding me everything would be ok, but I just blurted out statements between sobs like, “But what if he gets sick? How can we just leave him there? This is stupid, let’s go back and take him home.”
Fast forward to my second son. I didn’t even go to drop off. My husband drove him up, and quickly and efficiently dropped him (and all his stuff I graciously shoved into garbage bags just a few hours before) curbside and then hauled butt home. And the only tear I shed was the one that appeared as a result of the unadulterated JOY I was feeling at having successfully shuttled another child out the door and into their future.
But right now, social media newsfeeds, online magazines, and parenting websites are full of articles featuring crying moms and dads leaving their sons and daughters at college. Essays chronicling this inevitable transformational time between parent and child are mostly describing the situation only in terms of sadness and despair. As a matter of fact, one Atlantic Magazine article titled “Why it Feels So Terrible to Drop Off Your Kid From College” actually features the word “dread” in it 24 times. TWENTY FOUR TIMES.
For first time college parents, I can imagine seeing and reading about all this “dread” is probably pretty, well, dreadful. Imagine right before you had your first baby, all you read and saw were stories of the great sadness, sleepless nights, and “dread” the first six weeks of motherhood entailed. Luckily, we get quite the opposite when it comes to bringing babies home from hospitals. We see pictures of sheer joy and happiness, with only excitement on the faces of parents as they begin this new season of life.
And it can be like that with college send off pictures too!
Why? Because it is most certainly NOT a season of dread, and we need not treat it like another mile on the death march to the end of our lives. While of course it means our little ones are no longer lingering in the safety of our bosoms, and the necessity of cutting the old apron strings becomes inevitable (sorry mom, you really cannot move into the dorm room next door) it also means for the time being we’re free to begin to release a healthy chunk of parental obligations. Translation– moms, your work is temporarily done here, so it’s time (and very much ok) to start to get your life back!
Where are the photos of happy moms who are overjoyed to be relieved of their mom duties for a while? Where are the pictures of the moms who have given selflessly every morsel of their being, in every way mentally, emotionally, and physically for 18 solid years, and are practically ecstatic to taste those first drops of the deliciousness of freedom?
Moms who are jumping for joy after leaving a kid at college, I salute you!
I salute you, and join you in this glorious moment that feels like a simultaneous orgasmic release of all the minutia and details of 18 years of motherhood! I salute you, and join you in experiencing the ecstasy that comes with realizing you have no more school field trips to chaperone! No more PTA meetings! No more cookie dough school fundraisers!
I salute you in frolicking around your laundry room as you realize your loads all just got a little lighter, and twirling down grocery store aisles because your food bill just got cut in half! And I salute you when you soon find yourself at day’s end, and instead of thinking about and planning your child’s school day tomorrow, maybe, just maybe, for the first time in decades, you can begin to think about and make plans JUST FOR YOU.
Because Moms, you deserve it. And besides, you gotta fill up your now empty brain with something, right?
The best news about that is, you can fill it with whatever you want.
Now, what’s so dreadful about that?