What to expect when your only child goes off to college or: The misery of realizing you are old!

I only have one child. An amazing daughter who inherited many of my personality quirks and who also took that shared DNA and molded it into something even better than I could have ever imagined! She’s bursting with potential and I am trying my hardest not to fuck anything up for her as she moves into her second year of college and finally away from the home nest for good.

Today, I walked into her nearly empty bedroom and the instantaneous sensation of tears welling up in my eyes took me by surprise. I felt the tell-tale tightening of the chest, that vise grip around the heart feeling and I wanted to crumple into a ball on the floor and cry. The realization that this was most likely the last summer she would “come home” and from here on out I will only see her on brief visits over the holidays struck me hard.

Where did the time go? How could the years fly so fast? How did I get so damn old?

Well…I can and do sit around and talk about pooping ALL the time. The kid does it too. Kinda our thing much to Manly Man’s utter chagrin but, come on! Everyone poops, everyone gets old and if we can’t talk about it then why are we even here?

So, back to my sadness over no longer being the one getting asked, “Hey Mom? Where is my charger, book, this. that and the other?” No, wait…I just got a text from my daughter asking me where her Airpods are. And…now another asking me where her flatiron is. Mind you, I’m over 400 miles away but damned if I don’t know exactly where those things are! Mom’s know…everything!

I am thankful for the age of constant digital connection, the FaceTime era where you can see loved ones, often just in weird angle, poorly lit shots of their nose, eyes and forehead while they are lying in bed or lounging on the couch. It’s not pretty but its connecting and I’ll take it!

I’ll take any type of communication now because I know the “little girl” days are over and that is painful. So painful I now have a daily slideshow of memories from the past floating around every corner of my mind at any given moment. I see her room, in our new house and I flash back to an image of her crib, in our old house, with its cute bumper pad and mobile attached to the rail. I see the rocking chair I used to sit in, rocking her to sleep each night while listening to lullabies. I see the stack of favorite books and toys and I long for that again, with her.

Now, mind you, those days included some very irritating moments too which involved an ex-spouse and ex-in laws but I am able to freeze frame the good parts, the laughter and joy I shared with her. I know I will have many more opportunities to experience happiness within her current orbit but those sweet, silly and free moments from her childhood were so satisfying to remember! And, also so, so very sad to look back on now!

Damn it Buble!!!!!!

It’s hard knowing you can’t go back, ever. You can’t get a piece of that bliss, just a small sliver to carry with you now as a reminder that you did something right and your life actually had many amazing pockets of success hidden amongst the bitter experiences. I made it out intact and she made it out as well so now…I just want to focus on the amazing things and let go of all the garbage.

Yes, I made many mistakes with her father but in the here and now I want to move forward new and clean. She doesn’t have to worry about me because I am with a devoted partner who loves her as well and is so very proud of her just like I am. I am OKAY! I just need to learn how to remember wonderful moments with her without the twinge of regret or second guessing myself. I SHOULD have done a lot of things differently but the one thing I did right was having her. That will always be my greatest accomplishment in life, hands down.

https://grownandflown.com/empty-nest-kids-leave-me-behind/

And now I sit alone thinking about her and struggling to find my new path in life. No one really tells you that after your children grow into adults and take off to live their own lives you will be left with an aching void. You are left with a feeling of confusion over what to do next. Am I still a parent or has that chapter concluded? Do I get to go back to being a woman, partner, friend, coworker now or have I always been these things all along it’s just that society told me I could only pick one to be at a time? I was never told what to do with myself once that job was done. Is this a mid-life crisis or a no-life reality?

We give up a lot of our former selves to be parents but what happens when we forget where we left the person we used to be before our children came along? I think I remember where she is…but, do I really want to find her again? So many questions and to think our college age offspring are contemplating who they want to be at the very same time we are trying to remember who we once were. It’s a bit freaky right? I literally want to ask her where I left all my shit now! “Hey, newly adult child? Where did I leave my dreams, my ambition and my sanity?” I just need to know what my role is now.

© 2019 L.A. Askew

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