In My Son’s Empty Room: How Did it Go By So Fast?

My son Seth left home today for his freshman year of college. My wife and I are excited for him, but of course there’s also a sense of loss and sadness. As for Seth, he appears to be experiencing euphoria. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile so much as he did while we packed the car this morning.

A parent thinks about his college son in his empty room

My wife and our ten-year-old son brought him to school. I didn’t go, because my back and shoulders couldn’t take the seven hour round-trip journey. The price of getting old, I guess. But thanks to technology, we talked several times during their drive and they Face Timed me from his dorm room. I’m not always a fan of technology, but today I was all for it.


While they were gone, I went into Seth’s bedroom. I haven’t been in there much in recent years. A teenager’s room is kind of like a bear’s den – it’s dark and often smells bad, and its inhabitant is usually in a bad mood. But today, as I looked around, it was a nearly empty room. A bed and nightstand, a few shirts hanging, and a couple of pictures tacked to the wall were all that remained.

I thought back ten years, when we first moved into our house. Back then Seth’s room was decorated with dragon posters, and our lives were consumed by homework and soccer and sleepovers and birthday parties. He still loved Halloween and believed in Santa Claus, and my wife and I were the most important people in his life.

[More on the 18-year bucket list for parents here.]

Over time the dragons came down, replaced by rappers that I personally feel are more dangerous than dragons. He pulled away, as most teens do. There were rough times, and we didn’t get along well for many of those years. It seemed like the problems would last forever, and I often found myself counting the days and years until he left for college or the military or anywhere else.

I’m pleased to say he found his way back, as we’d hoped he would, and graduated from high school with honors. Between work and going out with friends, he wasn’t around much this summer. But he was still here for the occasional meal, and I heard him come home at night. Even when he wasn’t here, this was still home to four people.

And now, in what seems like the snap of a finger, everything is over. Done. A quarter of our family has moved on. Sad, yes, but it’s as it should be. As parents, we are supposed to raise our children as best we can, until they become young adults and move on to start their own lives. Our work is done, for the most part. Unfortunately, as I’m already finding out, the worrying doesn’t end. Now we just worry long-distance.

[More on our favorite essays on the empty nest here.]

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I’m planning to move a desk into Seth’s room because my basement office can get quite chilly during the winter. Being able to work with natural sunlight in the room will be a welcome change. But this desk will be tucked into the closet area. The bed and everything else will remain the same, because we hope Seth will come home on holidays and during the summer.

My wife and I, while sad, both feel a great deal of pride about having a son in college. Our younger son can’t wait to go to college like his big brother. Right now he’s into Legos and Minecraft and superheroes. I am going to do my best to appreciate every day with him, because in a snap I’ll be standing in his empty room, looking around, wondering how it all went by so quickly.

More to Read:

How to Have the Best Family Weekend

18th Birthday Party Ideas for Freshmen

More by Gary Sprague:

How to Ruin Your High School Grad’s Last Summer of Freedom 

High School Graduation and the Heart-Rending Optimism of Youth 

GAry SpragueGary Sprague is a freelance writer who lives in Maine with his wife and two sons (until fall, when the oldest one is off to college). You can find him online at Twitter or Facebook.

About Gary Sprague

Gary Sprague is a freelance writer who lives in Maine with his wife and two sons. You can find him online at Twitter, Facebook and his blog, GarySpragueBooks.

Read more posts by Gary

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