Saying Goodbye Part 2

So we just returned from dropping CG1 off at college. We are officially empty nesters. If you read my last post about saying goodbye, you know that when we get to this stage with an official goodbye, we are really saying goodbye to all of those other stages that we did not know we were saying goodbye to – that last time we picked them up, read a bedtime story, put out the Easter bunny candy and many more. That tiny baby who could not walk or talk, the kindergartener who soon was graduating from fifth grade or that confident high schooler crossing the stage for her diploma.

All of this was in my mind but I also realized that this milestone is reason for celebration too. CG1 and CG2 are in the right places, both ready to thrive and become the adults we have worked so hard to help them be.

Mentally we moms try to get ready. Packing the memory foam mattress topper, an extra set of Twin XL sheets, surprise snacks and maybe a pillow personalized with her zip code. It keeps us all busy and for us, this was so much fun. Both girls and I love to decorate and plan.

The day arrives, the car is packed and loaded to the top of the Thule. Mr. SB and I are ready right? We arrive at college. Lots of helpers to unpack. And, CG2 and I unpack and decorate the room. Her roommate is super nice, and the roommate’s parents are too.

Oh and CG2 is attending my alma mater. It sure has changed. Really hard to get into (am sure I would be rejected now:) but it is the same in so many ways. This makes it both easier and harder as I recall my own struggles as a freshman.

It is time to say goodbye. We hug, and yes, we are misty eyed. Of course we know that texts and Facetimes await us anytime we want but nothing beats being in person.

Mr. SB and I drive off. I see a dad giving his son a hug. It is an emotional day to say the least.

I call it happy/sad or sad/happy depending upon the day. Happy because seeing your children grow and achieve important milestones is one of life’s greatest joys. Sad, because frankly the day-to-day won’t ever be the same. The “What’s for dinner?” or “Mom I need new ballet shoes can we go after school?” days are mostly over.

I know there is also so much to look forward to. In our case, football games, tailgates and parents weekend in a few weeks. October break where both girls should be home.

And, in my empty nester new life, more time to work peacefully without interruption. Time to exercise (after work which I have not done since the girls were born). Time for new hobbies such as gardening, sailing/kayaking/hiking, skiing for two and more. Travels for Mr. SB and I (and not during summer or breaks when everyone else travels and it is expensive and crowded).

As the saying goes, if you have done your parenting job right, then you are out of a job at some point. We may not be quite there…but hopefully we are on track for that promotion. If not, we have not really done our job now have we?

And this was a fun day in spite of the bittersweet feeling. Decorating her college dorm and knowing lots of fun adventures and challenges lay ahead is a memory I won’t forget.

Decorating college dorm room at Boston College Sundays Bread

Saying goodbye

This morning, bright and early, College Girl (who I will now refer to as CG1) left for her junior year and a new apartment in Burlington, VT. I was fine. I really was until I saw high school girl (soon to be referred to as College Girl 2 or CG2 as she is no longer in high school) with tears rolling down her face.

You see, this year, CG2 will be embarking on her own college journey so I think we all realized at the hour of 6:30 a.m. that our little family won’t be the same…at least not on a day-to-day basis. Even G our 80-pound pile of Labrador love felt it trying to squeeze herself into the front seat:)

I am sure no one will notice me here…

The past few weeks have been a flurry of getting both girls ready for college. CG1 has a new apartment so she needs items like pans, cleaning supplies, silverware. CG2 is moving into a typical freshman dorm so the shower caddy, twin XL sheets and comforter, frames for pictures and all kinds of storage were on her list. So off we went to Ikea, Target and the girls even hit a local flea market for one-of-a-kind items. We have been busy, busy, busy.

Time Flies

Some of this is surreal. I mean it was yesterday that Mr. SB and I were looking at CG1 in the delivery room. We said her name, and she turned to look at us. There was no mistake she had heard our voices in utero and knew exactly who she was looking at now in the world. I mean this was yesterday, right?

Or watching the first time she ate real food, skied, rode and then jumped a horse, rolled over for the first time onto her stomach (this last one was with my mom which was so special). All of those school memories too. Getting on the bus for kindergarten (without a glance back), presenting at fifth grade graduation, having her girlfriends for a sleepover in middle and high school, earning National Honors at her high school, calling us from babysitting to tell us she was accepted at her dream college.

CG2 entered the world two years later – sleeping all day and up at night (threw out my strict schedule that I had for CG1 when she was first born). I remember she smiled so much even at a sick visit doctor appointment. The doctor was sure I was an inexperienced mom and she was just fine. How could she be sick with that beaming smile? She had a 102 temperature by the way – I was not inexperienced at all!

Or the day she was chosen for the spelling bee, read her essay on the danger of drugs to the entire fifth grade, starred in the fourth-grade play, went to her first dance, toured colleges in the south with me last summer, shouted with joy at her acceptance to her dream school, right up to walking across the stage for her high-school diploma? Where does the time go? It plays tricks on us for sure.

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

You see what has hit me is as we say goodbye as they embark on this new stage of life away from us (at least for nine months) – we are also saying goodbye to that baby, toddler, kindergartener, awkward middle schooler, confident high-schooler. We never said goodbye to those younger versions. They just disappeared as we unwittingly moved onto the next phase not really realizing that they had left.

Those early years of parenting had some of the longest days…but as they say, those years were also painfully short.

Of course, our kids come back. Of course I have, as of the time of posting this, had a Facetime tour of her new place. Of course, I will be sending a care package this week (complete with my care package chocolate chip cookies). Of course, we have so much to look forward to (including fall college visits to see them). Of course, empty nest hood will mean time for things that we have put to the back burner.

While this is all true, this time, I know the last phase is over and a new, exciting one is about to begin. I will hug them tight, shed a tear, allow myself to process it all. We parents have been so busy getting them ready to leave for college, it is now time to get ready for our next step too.

End of year musings

Before I get to a summer update and my recipe for fresh corn salad with lime vinaigrette (my next post) – a spring update is in order! I realize my last post was from our spring break in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. So much happened after that as it was high-school girl’s senior spring.

Senior year is a year of “lasts”, so each event was very bittersweet. Fortunately, I knew it would fly by, and so I made sure to soak in every second. With college girl, that was not an option as senior spring ended March 13, 2020 due to Covid.

First up was senior prom. All, heads up for you newbies – one starts shopping for the dress in February (no that is not a typo). This is far more complex than when I went to the mall with my mom to pick out a dress. Girls log their dresses on Facebook so no one will have the same one. After the stress (and a bit of drama) it all worked out. She and her date looked so great (lavender dress with lots of detail). We were fortunate to go to two beautiful pre prom parties and took dozens of photos. After no real junior prom, the kids so enjoyed themselves (and we did too!)

Up next was the last dance recital. Dance has been a fantastic outlet for high-school gal, and she started at age 3! After staring at her older sister’s dance class, the dance instructor finally let her in to the class! I don’t consider myself a dance mom but let me tell you every recital is like watching them grow in technicolor. I have loved watching her dance and am so glad she stayed with it (even after many other sports were tried). Dance introduces you to music, culture and of course is physically challenging (especially if you dance six days a week as she does!). I will miss the rhythm of the Nutcracker (camp begins in the summer with an intensive) and that spring recital too. Empty nest hood awaits – maybe I should start dancing again?

Next it was senior awards night. This mama was so proud as little miss earned the Civic Leadership award from the Social Studies department plus a service award for her involvement in Save the Children and two scholarships! That same week was the end of year Girl Scout ceremony. Bittersweet for me again, as I have been a leader for nine years and she has been a Girl Scout for 13. She was awarded another scholarship (more on this to come…Girl Scouts is a fantastic opportunity for college applications (in addition to being a great organization in general).

Lastly, before we knew it, she was crossing the stage for her diploma. Again, missing a real graduation in 2020 (and I am not complaining as I know so many lives have been lost to the pandemic so these events took the backseat to all of that sadness), we soaked it all in. Next thing you know it was the fourth of July this past weekend! As this post is rather long I will save my fresh corn salad, tablescape tips for the next post. Glad to be back blogging!

My Child Leaving For College

Hi there. I have been completely pre-occupied these last couple of weeks for two main reasons. First, I have a client in the political space (non-partisan, non-profit). With the events of January 6th plus inauguration, it has been non-stop. I am so happy that the inauguration was held without event. I particularly loved the poet laureate, Amanda Gorman. I will be re-reading her poem for days to come.

Second…drumroll…college girl left for actual (versus online in the dining room) college. So today’s post is about my child leaving for college. I promise to be back soon with organizing and food (so much to blog about!).

Getting ready for college (me not her!)

Folks, first, I want to say that the pandemic has made this experience so different than the typical send off. Through the years, I have read Facebook posts of friends who were distraught about their child leaving for college. They counted the days. They wept. I get it. My little pumpkin with braids in her hair who was just tackling her ABCs at the kitchen table is now off to college? What? Time plays tricks on us as those moments seemed like yesterday. So, yes, I had some sadness (and wait towards the end of this post for the full details). However, honestly after watching her not have a full life all fall term due to the pandemic, well I was happy that she could finally experience college life – in all of its good and not so good, but learning moments.

Getting her room ready

I was so excited to have her pick out a color palette for her dorm room (yes as a blogger it should not be a surprise that color palettes can be part of the dorm room!). We had fun, donning our double masks and equipping ourselves with plenty of hand sanitizer, as we hit Target, Ikea and Homegoods for just the perfect mix of throws, pillows, sheet sets and accessories. I also went into full mom mode, packing a first aid kit and “dorm doctor” set of medicines just in case. We picked out the essentials – electric tea kettle, Brita filter and of course some nice clothes too. I am not sure how we fit all of it into the car, but somehow we managed (with a Thule on top of course).

A walk down memory lane

At the same time, I was full into organizing her art going back to toddlerhood (yes, I did not throw all of it out…I had an art portfolio for my favorites). Mr. SB and I had a good chuckle at some of the cards with funny sayings, misspellings and portraits of us all drawn by our little artist. A favorite was one of the Disney princesses after seeing Disney on ice. Funny how those memories come rushing back to you. So come the day to drive there, I felt like I had fully gone through a walk in time but was generally happy to see her off on her great adventure.

Get ready for water works

Then came my youngest daughter’s video, which compiled special moments from all of our home videos. As high-school girls said to her sister, “I made it for you last spring but since you did not leave, I am giving it to you now.” She put together the sweetest mix of scenes of she and college girl when they were tikes. Yup, there they were dancing together on a vacation to Mexico. Hugging each other as little girls. All dressed up for Easter, Christmas and Halloween. Oh sure, I was ready to send pumpkin off…really, I am truly happy. I promise. Just fine.

Ladies (and gentleman if I have any male readers:) I bawled my eyes out…I had to head to bed early “to read a book” so I could cry by myself. I played that darn video at least ten times until I am pretty sure I had no tears left.

A few observations about my child leaving for college

When I finally pulled myself together I realized that you know what? It was a gift. Am I still happy that my gal is all grown up and in a wonderful university where I know she will thrive? Of course. Am I so happy that she can have a full college experience. Yes! But trying to pretend that time has not passed, that my own life will not be changing dramatically (even with just one out of the nest) or that life is frankly short, is not a good way to live. Appreciating all that she has become, all of those moments that make a wonderful life and make being a mom so gratifying, is not something to sweep under the rug so to speak. No matter how painful it can be! So maybe I did not do a month’s worth of Facebook posts, or document the drop off with dozens of photos, but I had my own way of thinking about it.

At that last moment where she had to leave, I gave her a big hug. I shed a few tears which I did wipe away quickly and drove off. My little girl flapped her wings and flew pandemic restrictions and all. Mom could not be prouder.

Did I text her a few hours later? You bet I did!