It's going to happen. Maybe not right away, but most likely after the first visit. When you know they are actually doing just fine, on their own, without you. Which is what you've been hoping/working/praying for all along. But then it hits you. Childhood is over. Thank you very much. And then you cry.
You cry because you miss them. You cry out of relief. You cry because you're happy. You cry because you're sad. Face it people, there's no escaping it. Sooner or later you are going to cry.
But I did not cry, so sir, not me. Not when we dropped them off at college, first him in Brooklyn, then her in Washington D.C. Not when I looked into their empty rooms at home. Not when we talked on the phone. And when our son and daughter, those brave college freshmen came through the door almost simultaneously after three months away, with all their dirty laundry I hugged them and pushed them into the basement and towards the washing machine. But there were no tears. Not when they stayed out every night of their five day visit until who knows when. Not even when they went to church with us Thanksgiving morning, and not because we told them to, but because they wanted to go.
I was fine. I was dry as a bone. I had it all planned out. Five days and nights of lowered expectations. Mostly they would see their friends. Occasionally they would make time in their busy schedules for us. We knew we'd be low on their totem pole and that was alright. It was normal. The four of us went to a play and a concert. We all had dinner in the city. It was quite convivial and cosmopolitan. No we didn't drink cosmopolitans. We are not that cosmopolitan. After dinner with us they met up with friends. They were appreciative of our attention, they were appropriately well behaved, basically a pleasure to be with.
I gave them no curfew. I didn't wait up for them either. And everything turned out so much better than imagined. (This is the beauty of lowered expectations). The way it's supposed to when your kids are almost adults.
Sunday afternoon we gave our daughter a ride into the city where she caught her bus back to D.C. We thought our son would return to his campus that day as well but instead he spent one more night with us. We had dinner, just the three of us in our kitchen. Nothing special, packaged pasta and leftover turkey. We watched an old movie. We all went to bed at 10 pm. At 5:40 a.m. the following morning my husband got up as he always does but before he took his shower he woke up our son. I have to leave at 6 he said. I'll drop you off in Brooklyn before I go to work.
I lay in bed, a small knot forming in my stomach, a familiar friend for so many years. The knot that never quite became an ulcer, but which twisted my insides out every morning from the time our son entered first grade until he graduated high school We had our regular routine for twelve years -- yelling, screaming, pleading, cursing, threats, promises, bribes, slamming doors, recriminations, sobs, -- most of this done by my daughter and me as our part in the daily drama called A Young Man in Slow Motion: Trying to get to school on time.
Dreading the inevitable I dragged myself out of bed to find our son was already up and in the shower. His bag was packed. Ten minutes later he was downstairs in the kitchen drinking coffee with his dad. Five minutes after that I hugged him goodbye and watched him and his dad get into the car and drive away.
And I felt so thoroughly happy about this truly trivial but somehow significant event that I had to sit down at my desk. I was feeling almost light headed. And I smiled. And then I laughed. And then, because I was so moved by this glimpse of father-son bonding completely unaided by me, because I had witnessed this quantum leap into adulthood from which there would be no turning back, because the sturm und drang of adolescence was suddenly finally over, no, I didn't cry.