We are seven days out from taking our twins to college. We’re about to be empty nesters, Steve and me. I expect a puddle of tears at the send-off: kids settled into their dorms, the hug goodbye, the long walk back to the car, and the even longer flight home. But what I didn’t expect were the times my eyes got wet during the months leading up to departure.
In another report from the family’s CEO (Chief Emotions Officer), I share five surprising times tears sprang to my eyes.
5 Surprising Times I Cried Before Drop Off
1. The Zip Code
I did not cry at their high school graduation ceremony. I did not shed a tear during the graduation party we threw. But I did have a moment at the end of June when we sat our twins down at the kitchen table to write thank-you notes. It happened when I picked up a few envelopes in the “done” pile and saw where they’d put the zip codes: on its own line, flush left, lined up with the name and street number.
Had I neglected to teach my children how to properly address an envelope? What other life lessons had I failed to impart? My eyes burned in frustration, worry, and guilt. I will refer to these as “have-I-parented-them-well-enough” tears.
2. The Tickets
Sophia and her twin, Liv, chose to attend the same university, a five-hour flight across the country. I bought four plane tickets for move-in week in early summer in mid-August. The United app separated the reservations because two tickets were roundtrip — and two were one-way. These were my “this-is-real” tears.
3. The Handstand
Sophia and I spent a day at the beach. The water was calm and warm, and my daughter felt weightless, carefree. “Mama, watch me do a handstand!” she said, diving down, shooting her legs up, feet pointed in handstand perfection. One beat, then two. As she tipped over, her rag-doll limbs started to flail, then disappeared one at a time. It was every handstand I’d ever watched at every pool we’d ever been to: “Mama, watch.” I let them pool, these “always my baby” tears.
4. The Reach
Same kid, same day. We’re in the vitality pool at a hotel spa, a hot tub with formed seats and relaxing jets. We’re soaking, reclining, heads tipped back, eyes closed, Sophia on one side of the stair railing, me on the other. I sense Sophia extend her arm under the silver bar, palm up in invitation. I reach too and rest my knuckles in her palm. Her hand closes gently. I don’t take my eyes off the azure ceiling tiles. I feel her hand cupping mine, breathe in deeply and blink. In the hustle and bustle of senior year events and summer activities, these were my “quiet-and-tender-moment” tears.
5. The Dirt Bike
I’m not sure whose idea it was. But one morning, Steve got out the hitch carrier for the back of the car and strapped in Liv’s mini dirt bike. The small motorcycle had been a gift six Christmases before, something I resisted. Still, my husband insisted upon tooling around the neighborhood because it had been his favorite high school pastime.
Liv had ridden it maybe once a year through middle and high school. Out the window, I saw two helmets sitting on the hood of the car, and my heart warmed for my husband, who cherished these elaborate outings and had been the one to plan and execute them throughout the kids’ lives. Liv and their dad were taking one last ride — nostalgic tears for the win.
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