The Longest Ride Home

You’ve been anticipating college move-in weekend for months, and now it is officially here. You’re filled with pride and excitement for your child and hopeful for all the opportunities and successes that might come his/her way yet you’re overcome with anxiety, fear, worry, and sadness just the same.

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You’ve spent the last year hounding your child to finish college applications, you took off time to take the college tours, you cheered as your child collected acceptance letters and consoled him/her when s/he got a few dreaded rejections and waitlists. You celebrated the final decision when s/he chose the college that seems to be the perfect fit. You hosted a graduation party. And you’ve spent the last month frantically collecting every last item imaginable for moveapalooza. You’ve even stacked to the ceiling in the mudroom all the boxes, storage bins, crates, and shopping bags. The essence of their new home nestled in your home.

It’s all ready to be meticulously packed in the car. And, now your worry has turned to after the drop off. What will that long ride home feel like?

Your son was born and started stacking building blocks, making intricate drawings, and mesmerized by skyscrapers, and you noticed as his dream of being an architect gradually took hold.

Your daughter was born, and you drove home from the hospital at breakneck speed—10 miles per hour—so careful with your new bundle of joy, and now you tell her to slow down when she’s driving too fast. And, you fast-forward to thinking about the day that she’ll likely speed to a hospital since her dream is to become an obstetrician.

You remember taking your son to the beach the very first time when he was five and his fascination with seashells, sand and the blue crabs. It makes sense to you now why he’s headed to study marine biology.

You recall all the school plays and talent shows you’ve attended, how fabulously your daughter belted out the lyrics to “Tomorrow” in her school’s production of Annie and you hope she’ll get the parts she wants in her college’s shows.

You remember the birthday parties all throughout elementary school, the cupcakes you made with the little flags with all your son’s classmates’ names, and the parties at home in the yard and the outings to the aquarium, zoo and miniature golf. You realize that this year you’ll be trying to find the best bakery in your kid’s college town, to order a cake that will be shared with roommates and people down the hall.

You remember taking your child to story hour at the library and reading to your child every night before bed. And, then you remember your delight and surprise and amazement the moment you heard your child reading aloud in her room for the very first time. How is it possible that that same little girl, seven states away, will study at the library until midnight and walk back alone to her room?

You have made it to virtually every single sporting event your child has ever played in. You were heartsick when you missed a tournament because of an important business trip. And, now you can’t comprehend not being at all the games, cheering from the sidelines, and picking up pizza and ice cream afterwards.

You’re thinking about all the first day of school pictures. The fresh back to school clothes. The signs they held. The new backpacks filled with supplies. All the signals of readiness.

Readiness.

How might you tap into that readiness now? Both for your child and for yourself?

Here are some do’s and don’ts as you embark on that dreaded car ride home:

1) Take a scenic route, and observe natural beauty. Even if you don’t feel you have a lot of extra time, you can spare an extra fifteen minutes to see something—anything—attractive and fun.

2) Blast the music you love—ya know, the music you weren’t allowed to play in the car with your kids because they always rolled their eyes. Off key singing is permitted!

3) Stop and enjoy a meal at a favorite restaurant. Enjoy the fact that this time you get to pick.

4) Resist the urge to call or text your child to see how things are going. And, no creeping on social media either.

5) Call a dear, old friend, maybe someone who just went through all this last year, who might give you a boost. She or he is likely to reassure you that given all you have done to date, indeed, the kids are alright.

6) Call and schedule a massage. You deserve it after lugging around all that stuff.

7) Make a list—nope, nothing for or about your kid—this is the all about you list. The one with five hopes and dreams for what you want to do, create, and savor in the coming year. What conditions can you create to make this possible? Now, doesn’t a passion list feel so much better than the buying and returning list for Bed, Bath & Beyond?

8) Make a date. With your spouse. With someone you are dating. With a friend. Or, importantly, with yourself. Plan an entire day or evening when you can just relish in time to be, to stop all the rushing around for everyone else, and to enjoy your life as it is now.

9) Resist the urge to reminisce. No scrolling through baby pictures and childhood pictures. No pulling out photo albums and old art projects. Perhaps, you can have a day with your child during winter break to be nostalgic about that stuff. Remember the now. Both for your child and for yourself and your spouse if you have one.

10) Don’t obsess over the first care package you should send to your child. Instead, consider this—make a care package and send it to yourself. If you are partnered, do this for each other.

11) Take stock of all you and your child accomplished to even get to this point.

12) And, when you re-enter your house, don’t enter your child’s room right away or linger in the doorway staring into space, replaying the memories of Barney and Thomas The Tank Engine. Take lessons from Curious George and Dora the Explorer and think about the curious adventures and explorations that await your kids and you—if you let it.

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