A Son Has Gone to College, Leaving His Adoring Mother Behind…Wait, Did I Have Three Kids?

September 23, 2013 | By | Comments (5)

blue-eggs-nest_300In March of this year, I had to get a root canal. I’d never had a root canal before and, in preparation, I interviewed every acquaintance I could get my hands on to figure out how awful it was going to be. I came to the following conclusion, expressed by many: “It’s not that bad.”

Right. It wasn’t that bad—it was much, much worse. I should explain that I had weeks of increasing tooth pain leading up to the root canal (proving once and for all that the “just ignore it and it will go away” approach to health does not always work) and, ridiculously, thought it would just end as soon as the anesthesia wore off. The whole story is much too boring to tell, but I did learn that if you really want to get an endodontist’s attention, just say, “I took an oxycodone that I found in my medicine cabinet.”

And so it was with my first child heading to college. I cried my way off and on during his senior year of high school, all the while interrogating any parent I could find about what it would be like When He Was Gone.

Three weeks ago we dropped him off at school, and I have been…fine. Sort of totally fine. Guiltily fine. Really, the opposite of a root canal. (Does the fact that life goes on mean I’m a bad mother?!?) As it turns out, there are really pleasant things about having one of your children leave the nest. A sample:

“I did wake you up when I came in. You just don’t remember.”
“Mom, I’m freaking out. I need my suit for a thing and it’s at the cleaners. The thing? Oh, it’s tonight.”
“Mom, I need $37 and there’s no money in the house.”
“I didn’t realize there was a dent. I was backing up and thought maybe I hit something but when I got out I didn’t see anything.”
“No, I’m not going to be home for dinner.”
“I thought I would take the car. Do you need it?”
“I’m not hungry; I promise I’ll eat something later.”
“Please don’t wake me up before 11.”
“Oh, just with some kids I met in science research. No, you don’t know them.”
“The smell in the car? I think it’s from my shoes. I haven’t been wearing socks.”

Suddenly, miraculously, I no longer hear or think about details like the above where he is concerned. And it is, well, just the teensiest bit liberating. Which is not to say my son is no longer constantly on my mind; we text several times a day and spoke on the phone last night (My husband: “Didn’t you just talk to him two days ago?”) I love him from a slightly further distance. He will always be my first born and, because of that, my mother says he’ll always be the one I worry about most. But the smell of his stinky teenage feet is starting to disappear from the car. And I don’t mind that one bit.

If you (unlike my children) want to hear more from me, you can follow me
on Twitter @kvanogtrop.


  1. Babcie

    Great loving story. I too feel the same way about both my sons. Some mothers are just lucky enough to have a great relationship with their boys. The secret is to let them start growing and learning (and making mistakes) without you being a helicopter mom. My boys and I are very close and they appreciate me being the harbor for the ship that need help instead of the mom that jumps on the ship to steer it for them.

    September 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm
  2. Vicki Dedio

    Just wait until your youngest leaves the nest! My daughter, my youngest, and I are very close so I had many teary eyed moments as I was packing her up to go. And although I knew I wouldn’t miss the “But Mom, EVERYONE stays out all night the night before Senior Skip Day,” and “I tried to call but I didn’t have any service” debates, I was terribly afraid of the quiet when I cooked dinner. Usually she would tell me about her day as she prepped veggies, etc. After about a week or so of mind numbing quiet I discovered the in-house stereo system we have and realized that I love to listen to music constantly, something that I haven’t done since she outgrew the sound track to Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Since then, I have cleaned her room, the vanity under her sink, and her closet. (How can she possibly say that she has NO clothes?) I tease her that if she doesn’t come home often enough I will turn it into an exercise room… she knows that I hate to exercise. But to be honest, I love all the free time I have to explore what is important to me. Not that tying a thousand ribbons on the fence of her High School for Homecoming week wasn’t important to me… but finally having time to finish the book I started in 2008 is very appealing.

    September 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm
  3. Julie

    Thought It would be difficult adjusting to an empty nest but we really wasn’t. (Insert guilt). Here’s our advice, ENJOY EVERY SECOND, because before you know up it they’re back, and you’re left thinking “had we known they’d be home so quickly we would have enjoyed our empty nest a lot more!

    September 24, 2013 at 11:44 pm
  4. Mary

    “I love him from a slightly further distance. ” That’s the secret. Our youngest returned home to attend a local college for her 2nd year and save for the private university she had wanted to attend from the beginning. When we (constantly) complained about her late hours, she replied that they were no different from when she was living on campus; only now we knew to the minute when she went to bed. . . . She also observed that “dorm life” at home was the pits & we weren’t “fun” dorm mates. We lovingly delivered her to the school of her choice the next year.

    September 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm
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