I drove the 30 minutes home from the airport in complete silence. No country music blaring in the background and no chit-chatting on my cell phone; just me and my thoughts, which weren’t a great combination for me that day.
Having just returned from Alabama, visiting my daughter at college for an event, I swear I missed her more at that very moment than I had when I left her for the first time, only a week before. On that evening I had hugged her tight and kissed her eyelids, cheeks and forehead before climbing into the car and leaving her outside of her dorm. I can still see her in my car side mirror, walking back towards the dorm, taking a quick peek at us as we drove away.
It had been the end of a long day, filled with shopping, cleaning, unpacking and meeting a roommate and her parents. There was dinner and walking the campus and more shopping. When it was finally time for my youngest son and I to leave we had a 12-hour drive ahead of us, or at least a six-hour drive since I had planned to stop halfway in Atlanta. The reality of leaving her that night wasn’t quite a reality. There were tears, yes, and a mild sense of panic, but nothing I wasn’t prepared to handle.
This time was different. This time I was leaving her in her dorm, where she was already unpacked and settled. Her bedroom was her room, not a dorm room. Her refrigerator was filled with food and she had plans for that afternoon, after I was long gone. She wouldn’t text me when she arrived to where she was going, and I wouldn’t wait up for her on the couch to hear how her night went. I was going my way; she was going hers.
That’s the hardest part about my daughter moving away to college. I miss being part of her daily life. I knew I’d miss her, but it was impossible to fathom just how much.
So that Sunday afternoon, after I arrived home from the airport, I did something very uncharacteristic. I grabbed a big bottle of white wine and poured myself a glass. I grabbed the oversized bag of Fritos® I had bought at the airport, shuffled my way to my bedroom and climbed into bed. I drank my wine, ate my Fritos® and watched “Dead Poets Society.” And I cried.
I miss my daughter so much my eyes are brimming with tears as I write these words. I miss curling up with her on the couch and I miss her text messages and her phone calls. I miss her laugh and her long mane of hair. I miss her picking the eye boogers out of our dog’s eyes (it’s gross and I just can’t do it), and I miss hearing the phrase, “Mom, guess what…” when she stomps in the door, leaving a trail of herself on the floor and kitchen counter.
Sure, I could call her 20 times a day and text her 20 times more. Each time I speak with her I could carry on about how much everyone at home misses her; how much I miss her. I could let her hear my sadness and know of my tears. But I won’t
My daughter may be a legal adult and living 12 hours away, but I’m still parenting her. She’s stretching those apron strings and I have to let her stretch and stretch until the strings finally snap and she can let go to live her life, her way.
Sure, I’ll get used to her long absences and I’ll suck her breath when she visits for the holidays. But, honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing her. I wonder, do we ever stop missing our kids?