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Anyone who has had a child knows “the bag” the one that sits, at the ready, for days or even weeks waiting for the “big event.” The one that contained symbols of the new roles that husband and wife would be taking on — the first outfit, the knitted hat, the snuggly blanket, as well as all the mom stuff that the new mother would need while she was being overwhelmed by those first hours of motherhood.

Here’s that bag for me.


It’s a great bag that my sister bought for me for the baby shower. It not only still exists but it has taken many journeys with our expanding family over the years. Somehow, it seemed appropriate that the bag that brought everything to the hospital when he was born should be the bag that went with us when we delivered TJ to the next big phase of his life. And so, “the bag” accompanied us to Burlington — a symbol of what had been and what was yet to be.

We were off, truck packed and the five of us enjoying a ride through the mountains to TJ’s new home for the school year. It didn’t take long for us to get him unpacked and for him to turn the contents of  those boxes, foot lockers and duffle bags into his new digs. By the time we returned with lunch in hand and perishables for his new fridge, he had transformed the stark space into a very comfy spot, very “TJ”.

Everyone says that saying goodbye and leaving your child at college is hard, but the goodbyes weren’t very different from goodbyes when we’ve dropped the boys off elsewhere. Hugs and small talk. Last minute thoughts, a heartfelt “I love you”. Despite the admonitions from everyone including the parking attendants “Mom, no crying!” when we first pulled in, there were no tears. I am very proud of TJ and all that he has accomplished. He deserved to enjoy that day without a blubbering mom in the background or the foreground and I delivered. What was difficult is the coming home to TJ not being here. When we pulled into the driveway, my thought was “oh TJ’s home” when I saw his truck sitting there…only to realize that “no, he wasn’t home, that’s just his truck”.  So, the long and short of it, is while TJ got the “no tear” send-off from his mom, the rest of the family hasn’t been so lucky since we’ve been home.

I’m mopey, I admit it. No one but another mom understands that it’s hard to share your life and for the better part of a year, share your very body with another person occupying the same space without feeling sad that things will never be the same. Will things be different? Yes. Will things be better? Maybe. Will you be proud of your child and their accomplishments? Absolutely.

But your family will never be the same configuration and chemistry and you will never be the same person as you were when you got in the car for that ride to college. We all know it’s coming. It might as well be printed on that bag that accompanies you to the hospital for the birth. It’s implicit in the very definition of parenting. The process of promoting and supporting the physical,emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. From the second we are “officially” parents at the birth, it is a process of independence, of teaching another human being to be self-sufficient and in so doing, tearing yourself away from that person that you have created.

Leaving TJ at the door to his dorm, there was not a cell in my body that wasn’t happy for him and confident that Tom and I had done the best job we could in the preceding 18+ years in preparing him for this next journey. There wasn’t a part of me that wasn’t swelling with pride at the young man he has become. At the same time however, there are just as many cells yearning to freeze time and protect the familiar part of my life.  In the days that follow “drop off” there will be adjustment…contrary to the “how to” books, it won’t be so much for the college student as for the college student’s mom.


Motherhood or parenthood, certainly has its ups and downs. I had to be “mom the cheerleader” again tonight when I went to visit my boys at scout camp. Our youngest son is having some terrible homesickness going on and following last night’s phone call, tonight’s visit was not high on my list of favorite experiences. It is heartbreaking to see this little boy with tears in his eyes, actually streaming down his face, telling you that the only thing in the world he wants to do is come home and snuggle up with you. Dear god, I just wanted to cry. Instead, muster up “mom the cheerleader” who has to tell him to be brave, to stick it out that he is more than halfway done and that we are very proud of him and he has both his brothers there and lots of friends and friendly faces. Then, in true spirit, he attempted to be brave, at the end of the evening, gave me a hug and kiss and wandered off with tears in his eyes. OH MAN, talk about bumming. Then I had to get in the car and drive an hour plus home alone just thinking about that face. Geez, for all the wonderful ups to parenthood, this is definitely one of the bummers. “Mom the cheerleader” is most positively one of my least favorite mom roles, ’cause it usually entails me trying to talk one of them into doing something that I would rather not have to be a cheerleader about. They are growing up so fast and are not my little boys anymore, so it is heartbreaking to have to push aside those last remnants of little boy/mommy interaction when I know that they will very soon be gone forever from my life. All in the name of growing up… growing up all that great, anyway? Sometimes, I don’t think so myself. Hard to be a cheerleader about that. 

BTW, just read in the online paper that there is some armed and dangerous felon on the loose nearby….great time to be alone in the house, don’t you think? Boy, if I stay up any later, I might not sleep at all tonight.

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