What Your Youngest Child Doesn’t Know About College Drop Off
I am all too familiar with the phenomenon of ‘soiling the nest.’ Soiling the nest happens in the run-up to college drop-off when our kids make terrible decisions, pick fights and, in general, become real pains in the ass, subconsciously making it easier for them to leave for college and making it easier for us to let them go. I’d been through the college drop-off drill before. Three times, in fact. I’ve been through the squeeze of college drop-off before. Three times, in fact. When our twins left for college ten years ago, my shoulders were stronger. I could bear the weight of their emotional baggage, their fear and their uncertainty. The same was true two years later when our middle son left for college.
But our youngest launched at a time when I am emotionally and physically drained. Fate, uncertainty, the pandemic, and life in general have aged me. I no longer have the bandwidth (or the desire, quite frankly) to carry the big emotions my son chooses to offload onto me.
It is messy work becoming who we need to become. No matter what our age or stage. What my youngest didn’t take into consideration is that I, too, was facing a new chapter. He was not the only one with big emotions. I was determined to let him have a glimpse into my world in the hopes we could joy more and soil less. He just had no idea what was lurking behind my watery eyes, so I wrote him a letter.
I want this day to be about you, but be gentle with me. I see your milestone through a lens streaked and clouded with memories. You see a car packed with dorm essentials; I’m feeling , once again, the flood of relief when they placed you in my arms for the first time, your warm, sweet breath on my neck. You think about new friends and fitting in. I remember first days of school, birthdays, and those innocent days when your cheeks flushed with fever, and I was the only thing that soothed you.
I want this day to be about you, but only yesterday, your arms squeezed my legs, your little self pleading with me not to leave you at preschool. I can still feel my heart swell when I witnessed your first acts of compassion. I can still be blinded with mama bear rage when I think about you being bullied in grade school.