I had an overnight with my friend Karen in Rhode Island (my new fave state), and on Tuesday night, after some wine, we went out to dinner, and she, like me, has a daughter going off to college (her first) and we were, of course, talking about it in our typical non sequitur way, as in we would be discussing politics and then scoot over to dorm room comforters–every other sentence pertaining to this seismic shift about to occur, AND HEY, ISN’T THIS THE LONGEST SENTENCE EVER.
We started to talk about what happens when you go to college, and how you have to figure out being away from home, and that once you are away from home, it’s different when you go back again. (There may or may not have been some crying during this discussion, OK SOBBING, in the middle of a crowded restaurant.) And it so reminded me of my fortieth birthday when Peter and I left our kids for the first time, and were going away for the weekend to NY, and staying in a fancy hotel and seeing two shows and having dinner with a really good friend who lived there, (but got stuck on the runway because fucking New York was fogged in) and instead of giving up and going home, we went to the North End, ate at Pomodoro, got a lobster tail at Mike’s Pastry (one of the top ten contenders to be in my mouth at the time of death) and went to stay in a luxurious room at the Charles Hotel, where we binge watched movies.
I remember that I went to the bathroom at 11:45 and looked at myself in the mirror and thought, I DON’T WANT TO TURN 40. But in that moment, I saw the futility of there not being one thing I could do about it. That it was what was happening and not one item on the room service menu could change the fact that this was, in 15 minutes, going to be. I hated that realization–that not even ISIS could stop time. In the morning, I was fine. Once that moment was over, I was just fine. But being in the center of knowing there is nothing you can do to alter what’s happening, can be a painful moment.
But it’s that moment, when you understand that some changes have to happen, and nothing can prevent them, that you just have to Sheryl Sandberg into them. That’s what this college thing is, for parents, and for students. There is a change that happens. Your kid begins to have one foot in your house and one foot on his or her campus, and their legs keep getting wider, their body pulling apart, until they are forced to choose a place to stand. And the time leading up to that moment is confusing and hard. And sad. For both parents and children. It is the reckoning. It is also known as growing up.
And the thing about it, is that it is inevitable. Like the sun coming up, like the moon coming out at night, like something completely idiotic coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth.
As you say goodbye to your college children, know that this change will occur. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s slow. But remember, it’s what we raised them to do. To fly on their own. And while you may feel regret about their leaving, you know inside, it’s the right thing, and their time to seize the open sky.