And There She Goes…

by | Aug 31, 2023

My throat tightened and my eyes were teary as I gave her a final hug before we parted. In her brand-new black converse high tops, she ran up the steps of an unfamiliar building to meet with her freshman orientation group for the first time.  I watched and waited hoping that she would look back at her parents standing on the sidewalk– she did not. She is focused on this next phase in her journey. We need to drive home.

I think back to all the other points of separation along the way- we have been facing separation anxiety and practicing for this moment since she emerged from the womb (and physically separated from me) eighteen and a half years ago. We have practiced and practiced: when she weaned from nursing, when I dropped her at preschool, when she boarded the school bus on her first day of kindergarten, when she wanted to do her own hair, when she told me to stop picking out her clothes, when she told me to stop micro-managing her homework, when she took the car out for the first time with her new driver’s license, when she decided on her plan for college…

And with all this practicing, we both should be ready. She should be ready to navigate her new life in a dorm, make friends, choose classes, do her laundry (and change her sheets if she listened to my instructions to do it no less than twice a month). And I should be ready to tolerate not always knowing what she is doing, who she is hanging out with, whether she is going to class and/or doing the work.

But “should” is a funny word and perhaps, it is not an obvious conclusion that just because you have practiced something repeatedly that you are able to pull it off seamlessly. We are both going to make mistakes and experience frustration. She is going to oversleep (and even miss class) and I am going to text her a little too often. She is going to make some dumb choices and I am going to give her a few too many of my opinions. She is going to draw me in describing a problem and I am going to try and solve it rather than letting her figure it out on her own.

She has been away now for four days. She has texted a little and called once (ok, I asked her to call me “when it was a good time for her”). I am trying to focus on other aspects of my life including my work and my other two children. But I find my mind wandering- thinking about her and myself and our relationship, wondering about this next phase in my journey as a parent.

I have heard some advice about parenting:

If you do a good job as a parent, you are out of a job.

But are you? Maybe you are just in a new position—remote and part-time!