Last summer my 13 year old daughter had the exciting opportunity to take classes at Northwestern University. She had never been on her own before. Though she is a responsible kid, I was nervous to think that she would be 5 hours away from us for 3 weeks! I was going to miss her terribly. She was still so young, at least in my mind. She and my husband, however had confidence that she would be fine.
She filled up the van with more than 3 weeks worth of clothing. We stuffed ourselves in and drove her from Ohio to the Chicago area. As we approached the University, her stomach began to tighten into knots. We arrived at the dorm where she would be staying. We had to practically pull her to the different check-in lines. It was like her brain had shut down as she waited for us to figure things out for her. Finally, my husband decided that if she was going to make this work, she had to start being independent now. So we sat on a bench in the lobby and we told her to go figure things out. She kind of wandered around, shyly asking a few people questions. She came back and reported half an answer. My husband gave her his quizzical look meaning, "What, are you sure that makes sense?" She would return to the line to ask a follow up question. Eventually, we met her roommate and unpacked all her things. It was now time to leave. I told myself that I couldn't cry because it would make her upset. She and I were both fine until my son gave her a good bye hug and refused to let go. He looked like a monkey clinging to his tree for dear life.
"We can't leave her!" He said. Now three of us were crying. We pried his fingers from her and got back into the van for a long quiet ride back to Ohio.
3 weeks without my first child did not fly by, but soon we were all happily climbing back in the van to pick her up. When we arrived back on campus, we were supposed to wait for her at the dorm. But we wanted to see her as soon as possible, so we walked to her class building and waited outside. When she came out of class, my son was the first to run up and jump into her arms. Back at her room, we packed up all her things. This time, she quickly and efficiently found out exactly how to check out and return her keys. She had gained a new confidence in herself. It was great to see.
I'm definitely not looking forward to the day she goes off to college for 4 years, but I can't wait to see what she becomes when she is finished.