By Cheryl Boxer
I’m experiencing an unsettling sort of calm.
Could it be the calm before the storm? I mean, this time last year I was a frenzy of anxious activity. Lists of things to purchase were scrawled on a rainbow hue of sticky notes that covered every surface of my kitchen. A teetering pile of plastic IKEA bags stood in my living room like a bright blue sentry to my impending heartbreak. And every time I looked at my son I was making a concerted effort to put to memory the angle of his jawline, the flecks of brown in his hazel eyes.
After all, this time last year I was sending off my firstborn for his first year of college, hundreds of miles away from home. And my flurry of activity could scarcely hold at bay the stealthy advance of grief and fear overtaking my heart.
But this is not that summer, and I am not that mom.
A College Sophomore
This summer there are no lists. My son is returning to campus for his second year of college with his same, unopened (thank God) first aid kit, 3 worn towels, 2 sets of faded sheets, a lot less clothing than he brought freshman year, and a newfound confidence and maturity that eases my worries and softens the edges of my sadness.
Now I am sending off a sophomore, and it is, as they say, a whole different ball game.
Sending off a college sophomore means knowing that:
My son is returning to a place he has grown to love and fondly refers to as “home.”
They come back to us. A lot. And our family will invariably stretch and expand to accommodate this season of transience.
They will forget things. Many things. And it’s not the end of the world. An item ordered on Amazoncan be in the campus mailroom by 8 am the following day.
Underwear and a toothbrush somehow get forgotten, but they never forget where they came from and where they’ve put down roots.
You will likely cry at some point during the trip home after move-in. And you will most definitely bawl when you first walk into your child’s tidy, barren, and all-too-quiet bedroom.
A Whole New Ballgame
There will be many days when you’ll welcome that quiet. You will finally have a little more time to devote to your own hobbies and interests, and the energy to explore some new ones.
That moments of grief will return, suddenly and unexpectedly. Like when you’re standing in the frozen aisle of the supermarket and remember you no longer need to buy your child’s favorite foods.
This melancholy passes quickly when you discover how much less money you’ve spent at the register.
The distance is hard, and the miles will feel very long when you’re returning home after Parents Weekend.
The ability to text, Skype, and Snapchat with your college student will make that distance so much easier to bear. All the technology you fretted over for years is now your new BFF.
But most importantly, sending off a sophomore is knowing things are all right. They are exactly as they should be. Any sadness you feel will be tempered by such overwhelming pride and so much boundless joy for the journey ahead. A journey you and your child will surely find a way to share together.
Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer resides in New Jersey, where she micromanages a husband, her teenage children, and a confounding cockapoo. Her writing has appeared in The Mighty, Grown and Flown, Her View From Home, Kveller, Parent Co., Motherly, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and CollegiateParent. You can follow Cheryl at www.cherylgottliebboxer.com.and on her blog at