Our “Don’t Unpack Your Suitcase” Summer

. August 1, 2017.

We didn’t go on an expensive vacation. We didn’t go to Europe or backpack through Central America. We didn’t even leave the state except to visit family.

We visited colleges. Seven of them. Without trying we did the scenic tour of Ohio. A few visits were day trips, but most required an overnight stay. I tried to space them out, but there were a few weeks where we got back from one trip only to turn around and get ready for the next.


A year until college

So, the suitcases stayed packed and ready to go. But that’s nothing compared to my feelings, which are ready to come tumbling out at a moment’s notice during this, my oldest daughter’s last year at home.

This summer, it hit me. She will be in college this time next year. I knew it would happen eventually, but until you start visiting schools it doesn’t sink in. But those visits, and the college application process in general, were to prepare me as much as to prepare her.

She spent much of her summer getting ready to apply to colleges. We gathered all the requirements for her seven schools from essay prompts to applications. Volunteer hours? Check. Teacher recommendations? Check. Mom ready to send her off? No way.

I know I have nearly a year to prepare myself. I know I have nearly a year to savor the big and little moments, from the last ballet performance to seeing her walk down the stairs in the morning for breakfast. I know I have nearly a year to talk about packing, meal plans and roommates.

But nearly a year doesn’t seem nearly long enough.

I’m sure my own mother felt the same way. Like my daughter, I entered high school with one foot out the door. Tired of my hometown, I was ready for something different. The thought of moving away got me through high school.


Lessons for parent and child

I enjoyed my college years, which opened my eyes in ways my hometown never could. It was a good balance of doing what I should have, and a few things I shouldn’t have. Without cell phones, FaceTime and instant access, my mother managed to survive my being three hours away in a major city.

My daughter needs to leave for both our sakes. I suspect that I will never fully see her as an adult until she leaves home. She will never know she can fly until she tries and does it. And our relationship will not grow until we both experience the change.
At least now we will have texting, FaceTime and Snapchat to keep in touch. I’m not looking forward to the day I will wake up and she’s not here. But she will be where she needs to be, and I will be here for her no matter where she is.

Summer is almost done and the suitcases are safely tucked away in the closet. Soon, however, they will be packed again for our journey as a family– escorting our oldest out of the nest. I think, however, I will pack a few boxes of Kleenex in those suitcases.