I am not good with transition. Even though I am a forty-eight-year-old mom of three teenagers, once I settle into my happy place, it’s very hard for me to snap back into reality and follow a routine. This lack of resilience to change is only getting worse as I get older. I can blame it on my perimenopausal hormones going out of whack.
I don’t cry and throw a tantrum like a two-year-old being told to leave the playground, but I can finally understand and sympathize with a child who reacts like that. I get really depressed and despondent. I start dreading the day kids will go back to school. As they are getting older, I treasure spending time with them, now, more than ever. I like having them around. I wish time could stand still but it won’t.
Summer is my happy place. The kids are home from school, life is more laid back and leisurely. There are family vacations, relaxed mornings, trips to the bookstore, shopping, swimming, and lazing in the sun. Nothing is really rushed. The summer vacation is two and a half months long and yet it does not drag. It seems to go by so quickly and before you know it, you can see back-to-school displays in the stores and similar advertisements on television.
My mind wanders to the middle of May. My daughter came home from freshman year at college. The first night she was back, my mind was on autopilot and I lifted my phone to text her goodnight as I always did every night she was in her dorm. Then, it struck me that she is home and in her room. My heart soared with pure elation that I could go to her room and actually hug and kiss her goodnight. I excitedly proceeded to do so and was so grateful that she was home.
In June, I was reading messages on a Facebook group of parents whose children go to my daughter’s college. Most of the questions were from moms of incoming freshmen. It felt like déjà vu because one year back, I was in their shoes and I had the exact same questions. Does the room have a microwave? What size are the beds? What size rug would you need for the room? Are shower curtains provided? … and so on and so forth. Reading those questions, I thought smugly to myself that I’ve been there and done that. Preparations for sophomore year move-in will be easy. My daughter knows the campus now, she knows her way around.
She has everything she needs, she can just take back whatever she brought home from her room the first year there. What completely slipped my attention was that the new apartment my daughter was moving into had full beds instead of twin XL! My daughter looked at the new apartment and reserved it herself for sophomore year. I had never been to that place. So a week before move-in, my daughter says to me, “Mom, we need new full sheets, mattress cover, bed bug protector, and comforter!”
Panic-stricken, we made a last-minute trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought what we needed. Thankfully, it was not sold out! While there, we saw some more odds and ends which would be useful for her room and bought those as well. The move-in went smoothly and we helped her organize everything.
However, my heart felt really heavy. I did not cry but its heart-wrenching to say goodbye. My daughter had got her hair cut really short over the summer and it took years off her face. She reminded me of her five-year-old self. I felt like I was leaving my little girl behind even though she is 19.
For some reason, I could not eat the whole day even though I cooked her favorite foods which she could store in her refrigerator. When my husband and I reached home, we sat down for dinner, and then the pent-up tears flowed down my cheeks.
My husband was kidding with me, he said, “Is the food that bad that you are crying?” I was not impressed with his silly joke and his attempt to make me laugh went in vain. The house felt empty without her. It feels like a part of you is missing. I laid down in her room, looked at her picture collages and posters on the wall, and cried some more.
My sons complained that I don’t care that they are going back to school too, it’s always about the older sister! I told them that I will miss them too. My seventeen-year-old is starting senior year and I am going to cherish every minute spent together as he will go off to college next year.
The twin XL mattress paraphernalia, from my daughter’s freshman year, I have stored and packed all of it, my son can use it next year! My youngest is going into ninth grade, I am just so relieved that we have four more years with him. Four more precious years until our nest will be completely empty.
It has been a week and a half since school started, the kids have settled into a routine, they like their classes and their teachers and I am so thankful. The back-to-school blues have lessened and mostly vanished.
The other day, I visited Target and when I walked past the little girls’ section, a pang of sorrow engulfed me when I remembered shopping there when my daughter was a little girl. I remembered her twirling around the shelves and smiled at this bittersweet memory.
Other than these occasional pangs of nostalgia, I find that I am actually enjoying my free time. The kitchen is so clean during the day, I do not miss the array of dirty dishes and endless empty cups. Taking a nap without being woken up by noise or chatter is amazing.
The best part: my daughter came home for labor day weekend and all feels well in my world. It’s a blessing that she did not decide to go to a college too far away.
Now, I am eagerly looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas break!