According to my countdown timer, my daughter will be home in 14 hours and 51 minutes!
She’s in college now, and it’s her second trip home since we left her at her freshman dorm on Labor Day weekend. And I am so excited – I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this excited. She’s one of my favorite people, and she’s coming home!
I can already tell that the person who is returning is not the same one I watched walk alone to her college dorm 2½ months ago. We talk or text daily, and I have sensed her transformation through all of these encounters. But I’ve also sensed my own.
In the first weeks, there were tears. Did she choose the right school? Would she make friends? Should she have stayed closer to home? I consoled her and convinced her to stick it out, all the while wanting to cry along with her.
Just a couple of weeks in, she wasn’t feeling well. I thought it was allergies and told her so. She texted me on the way to class to tell me she took the allergy medication I put in her first aid box. “Wait a minute,” I said. “Was it the Benadryl? The pink box?” It was. I smacked my palm to my forehead. Did I forget to tell her that Benadryl will knock you out? I must have, and I felt bad. Then I realized that this is how you grow up: When your mom isn’t there to hand you the right pill, one way you learn to read the instructions on a medication is by struggling to stay awake through a 300-person lecture. (A difficult enterprise when you’re not knocked out on Benadryl.)
The food in the cafeteria was “horrible.” She was eating poorly. I put in an Amazon Fresh order to stock her dorm fridge. She missed homecooked meals. So on her first trip home, I planned a menu of all of her favorites. And I loved the effort of it, resented none of the work, and bathed in her satisfaction and appreciation.
She missed her boyfriend and lamented to me the challenges of a long-distance relationship. “It’s all of the work and none of the fun.” You got that right, kid. And I loved that our relationship was in a place where she would tell me something like this, and that I had the life experience to give her sound advice. My husband and I also went to separate colleges, and so I can commiserate while also offering hope that yeah, it’s rare, but if you put the work in and the love is real, you can make it work. (For the record, they’re still making it work.)
One morning she called to say there was an unknown charge on her debit card. Minutes later, there was an unknown charge on our shared credit card account. When she looked for her wallet, it was gone, likely pickpocketed while she was shopping the day before. I frantically figured out how to shut down all of her and our accounts and lock her credit. I worried about her having no access to money, and as a result learned how to use Apple Cash. Even from afar, I was able to be supermom. And it felt really good.
I sometimes woke at 2 am on a Saturday and tracked her phone to see where she was. Interestingly, I never worried about her being out. At home I would, because I never could settle down until she was snug in her bed. But with her far away, and I’m sure with a group of friends, I somehow was able to disassociate. And be happy for her – how great it is to be in college and own the night?
It will be interesting, learning to live with an offspring who is used to doing whatever she wants while in college but is now back in her childhood home, where the rules haven’t changed much, nor the expectations. But I’m sure we’ll figure it out – with challenges at times, but we’ll get there. After all, I’ve gone from being the mother who wanted to cry with a homesick child to one who sleeps soundly knowing her child is going to be alright, even though every single choice she makes these days is on her own.
The truth is I’m really enjoying this semi-adult she is becoming. Every time she calls or texts me, she asks how I’m doing. Which sounds like a small thing, but in the 18 years of raising her I don’t recall her ever coming home from school and asking how my day was. Now she asks and truly wants to know. I tell her my funny stories as well as my boring work ones, and she consoles me. She even gives good advice. Are tables turning? Or just leveling out? Whatever it is, I’m enjoying the metamorphosis.
Every once in a while I get flashbacks of what life was like when the kids were little. One night my husband, son and I were at the dinner table, an empty chair beside me, and I remembered how for years I’d start every meal cutting my daughter’s meat. I hadn’t done that in a long time, but the reflex came to me and made me smile. How far we have come!
And in 14 hours and 28 minutes, she’ll be home. She’ll need me to do even less for her than before, and that is absolutely okay. Instead, I’ll be able to do the things that truly fill me with joy. We’re going to have a girls day and watch a Gilmore Girls marathon. She’s excited to help with Thanksgiving preparation. And I warned her: I am going to sneak into her bedroom in the morning and snuggle into bed with her, and hug her and hug her and hug her. Because it’ll be the morning, and she’ll be here, and that will make it an amazing day.
She’s coming home!