For this empty nest Mom, the number is three, maybe four.
This past weekend I went to see my baby (who's a Freshman at Dickinson College) for the first time since she left for college this August. I was so excited to see her and meet her friends and see firsthand that she is okay and happy. As the weekend unfolded, I realized I was not going to get a lot of sleep as I caught the 'worry bug'.
All Moms, no matter what age children you have, have experienced the 'worry bug', so there's no need explaining that here. But, this was a bad case and almost cost me some valuable quality time with my daughter.
Bill and me arrived on Friday around lunchtime. She was surrounded by several friends that all happen to be boys and another Mom. Laura is wearing jeans, a black little top and a periwinkle cardigan sweater. Her hair is a bit disheveled and I can see the roots coming in, she looks like she may have lost some weight and she has a cold. She doesn't have a stitch of jewelry on. Since she usually takes great pride in her appearance, I start to think maybe somethings' wrong. I make a snide comment about the outfit which I'm sure wasn't the nicest thing to do.
Her friends are delightful. Very playful and smart and I can tell she's "one of the boys". She is still sort of dating her high school boyfriend who's attending a school in Seattle and that worries me. He's a good kid and all, but I think they should just be friends and want to date other people. I wake up in the middle of the night and think about telling her how I feel and worry that if she may become unhappy at school if her love interest is thousands of miles away. Around 4:00 am, I decide maybe I should approach the subject with her when I see her but want to do so in a caring manner, not all snippy like I was the day before.
Saturday morning we head to a cute little coffee place in town. It's as if she "heard" my worries and started to address each and everyone of them. First, she tells us all about her classes and goes into detail about rocks and environmental science and how she feels about the ethical dilemma of hunting and forests. She is animated and sounds happy to me. She lets me know that she is still getting used to the amount of work and doing everyday chores like laundry and admits that dressing and taking care of her hair are sometimes difficult to manage, but that it's getting better.
Then, we head to the tailgate party and Football Game. It is a sparkling blue day and every boy on the lacrosse team stops by to meet us and say hello to Laura. We meet some of her girlfriends from her dorm as well. One of the boys' parents invite us to join their group for dinner. As we are leaving the game, Laura says she has a "crush" on one of the boys we will be going to dinner with. He's a junior, a lacrosse player and very handsome. It seemed like to this worry-wort Mom that maybe he has a crush on her, too. I can already tell what the topic is going to be causing tonight's lack of sleep!
Dinner turns out to be a blast. The two families couldn't be more interesting and fun and the kids are good kids. After dinner, the handsome, JUNIOR, LACROSSE PLAYER asks if Laura wants to go to a party at 'the compound'. (This is where some of the upper class lacrosse players live and it's about one block off campus). We drop her off and my stomach sinks.
3:00 am, "I hope she is okay and will be getting a ride home or is walking with a bunch of kids home"; "A JUNIOR?!***"; "A LACROSSE player?" I decide she has a great foundation and has always carried herself in a decent matter so I should stop worrying and try to fall back asleep and ask her about the party in the morning.
Sunday morning we had breakfast at Fay's in Carlisle. There is a line out the door but the food smells great so we wait. We have a good time. Once again, and right on cue, she tells me the party was fun; she walked back around 2 am with 5 other girls that live in her dorm; the party was fun but that she's quite tired. She tells us that she has tons of work to do this week and she still feels rotten. We go to the drug store and load up nose spray and other vitamins and medicines to help get rid of this awful cold.
I start to worry that she won't be able to kick this cold and there's no one there to really take care of her. She went to the college infirmary prior to our trip and they proceeded to tell her that her voice box was frozen. Now that's worrisome! It is harder to get everything done when you're feeling lousy and I worry that this will make her stressed out and unhappy. It's really a vicious cycle. When we have such brief moments with our children who have left the nest we feel we need to tell them important things and give them guidance and just enjoy their company. Sometimes that's hard to do all packed within a parents' weekend. Dickinson College did a really lovely job providing interesting events like the Trout Gallery Opening and Reception, the tailgate party and a fun run yet still allowing enough downtime to just hang out with our babies.
This letting go and yet holding on is really a very exhausting experience but I do believe we just need to trust our judgment and try to relax and enjoy these very special moments with our children. They instinctively know how to take care of us, which I find amazing and fascinating at the same time.