I got up before the sun did this morning, a rarity on a Sunday, but I wanted to make breakfast for my daughter and her boyfriend before they left. I miss cooking for her. I don’t miss the mess she left behind in her room…wet towels on the floor, every item of clothing she wore in the last few days that didn’t go back to college with her was on the floor, the bed, the dresser…anywhere but in the closet or drawer where it belonged. I have seen so many positive changes in this, her second year of college. But the messiness…well, I’m just glad her roommate really likes her.
But this was a good winter break. We skied together, had many meals together, cuddled and watched movies, and had a lot of great conversations. It feels more and more like the old H, before she pulled away her senior year, in anticipation of leaving the nest. When that happened, I was devastated. As an only child, she and I had an incredible relationship. Friends warned me that when she left for college I was going to have a really hard time. In actuality, after going through the “fouling the nest” period that we did during her senior year of high school, by the time she left for college I was almost ready for her to go. My dreams of spending her last summer at home shopping together for her dorm room, having late night conversations about what she was about to experience, well, let’s just say, it didn’t happen. I was not prepared for the eye-rolling, pulling away, and basically being completely shut out of her day to day life. As she mentally prepared herself to move across the country, she had to mentally separate from me. Although I understand that now, I didn’t then. I recently received a phone call from a friend, a single father to a high school senior. He remembered what I went through and is starting to go through it himself. All I could really do was sympathize, and tell him that it WILL get better.
I don’t know if it’s that she has matured over the last 18 months, or that she is more confident now that she is in a serious relationship, or more likely, both, but we really enjoyed having her around. It’s a big transition for J and I, sharing her with her boyfriend, but seeing the way they look at each other kind of warms my heart. She is experiencing all kinds of new things, and it’s fun to watch from afar. I think spending more time in Aspen/Snowmass has been good for our mother/daughter relationship. She loves Aspen/Snowmass almost as much as I do: skiing, hiking, the cool Explore Booksellers, hanging out and doing schoolwork at coffee shops like Victoria’s Expresso Bar or Ink, concerts at Belly Up… there is always something to do and she seems genuinely happy to be here, and even invites me to come along every once in awhile!
But when your only child leaves, your paradigm shifts. It’s useless to worry about how much sleep she’s getting, whether she’s doing her homework, studying for tests, eating right, sleeping enough (or too much), taking care of herself, having fun, etc. Not that I don’t worry about those things every now and then, but my CONTROL over those things is pretty much gone. I could nag her about them, but that would only drive a wedge between us, and wouldn’t make much of a difference. I have learned over the last 18 months that my little girl is pretty responsible. And if she’s not, she has to pay the consequences. What that has done for me is give me enormous peace of mind. Instead of a coach, I’m now a consultant. When she needs my advice she asks, but most of the time she does pretty well for herself. And with that, I am free to enjoy this empty nest with my husband….who always picks up his dirty clothes!