Why I'm Happy My Firstborn Is Heading Off To College

by Elizabeth Ewens
Originally Published: 

It is a generally accepted fact that I am going to be a hot mess when we drop off our oldest at college in the fall, and I’m pretty sure that my family is already developing contingency plans to wrest me away from her dorm room before I embarrass her. We’ve had a number of mini-milestones already: last first day of school, last school dance, college tours, signing a letter of intent and a hundred other moments—each of which ended with my daughter looking at me, rolling her eyes, and asking “Are you starting to cry again?” Sorry, honey, I can’t help it.

And so with the two biggies just around the corner—high school graduation and college drop-off—I decided I need a plan. A strategy to keep me focused on all of the positive things ahead rather than all of the sweet, precious moments that are now behind us. (Whimper. See, here I go again…)

So, my cherished daughter, in addition to obvious gratitude for the opportunities and experiences that will be afforded to you by virtue of a great college education, here are my top 5 reasons to smile and be glad you are graduating from high school and heading to college:

1. The Archaeological Dig—Your Room

Purging your room and packing you up for college is going to be the mother of all home projects, but, oh, the forgotten treasures we will find! The pictures, the notes, the plastic jewelry and worn ballerina tutus, the misplaced homework and childhood books, the stuffed animals (stuffies)! Like any archaeological dig, it may take a little work. Despite 18 seasons of spring cleaning, you still have managed to stockpile and tuck away all manner and kind of memorabilia. This is going to be fun.

2. Care Packages

I’m not sure why I am so obsessed with this, but perhaps it’s this: There are things I can do now to make your day a little easier, your stress a little less weighty—your lunch made for you in the morning, folded laundry on the weekend or a little R&R girl time. I won’t be able to do those things for you when you’re away. But I can surprise you with a little something that you know is from home and, most especially, is sent to you with love. The thought that those things or a note from your family might bring a little extra cheer to your day, well, that just makes me smile.

3. Kid No. 2 Will Get His ‘Only Child’ Time

The first four years were yours and yours alone as an only child. When it came to our attention, you had no competition, and you loved it. So this is really a front-end/back-end sort of thing. You had the benefit of the only-child limelight during your first few years of life, and now your brother will get full only-child time and attention during his high school years. For the record, your teenage brother thinks you got the better end of the deal and isn’t at all sure that he really wants to be the full focus of our attention for the next four years.

4. Halfway to an Empty Nest

See front-end/back end thing, above. Your dad and I wanted to start a family early, and we were lucky enough that it happened for us. That also meant that all of the married couple time—the travel, the nights out and, yes, the freedom that comes when you don’t have children to tend to—was put on the back burner with the hope that after we raised our family, then we would enjoy that time. And before you and your brother become completely offended by this, remember that nothing (NOTHING) gives us more joy, satisfaction or delight than the privilege of being your parents, and that will never change. We’re not ready for empty nest life yet, but by the time your little brother is on his way, your dad and I will be ready to explore new things together. Also remember this: The fact that after 22 years of marriage your parents still love each other and want to spend time together is a very good thing.

5. It’s Your Time to Fly…

…and you’re ready. Flying on your own is exhilarating, freeing, sometimes scary, sometimes bumpy, but it is also the greatest experience life can offer. It was what you were born to eventually do.

But also know that if you ever get tired and you need a safe place to land to catch your breath, we’ll always be here.

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