Why the Last Six Weeks Before My Oldest Goes to College Feels Oddly Familiar

“When will I have fun again?” I asked my older sister a few weeks after giving birth to my first child. She was three years into motherhood and pregnant with her second, so I was relying on her sage wisdom.

“Eighteen years.” she said without a hint of sarcasm or levity.

That did it. The tears  I had been choking down spilled freely like an freshly unclogged faucet. 18 years?  18 years? I am responsible for this human for 18 years? What have I done? I’m never going to have fun again. I must warn the others….

Zero sleep, a howling newborn, and a bad case of undiagnosed postpartum depression had hurled me into a state of hysteria. I was clearly not cut out for this gig. The gravity of motherhood hit me in waves the first few rocky months of my son’s life. My catastrophic thinking kicked into overdrive as  constant worries invaded every crevice of my consciousness…What if he stops breathing in the middle of the night? What if he never stops crying? What if he doesn’t make friends because nobody can tolerate the incessant screaming? What if I am a terrible mother and screw him up for life? … 

As a new mom, I had fleeting  moments of pure euphoria where I would lock eyes with my precious baby and feel indescribable love like in the movies. These snippets in time lasted about 10 seconds and were sandwiched between projectile vomit and piercing shrieks that inevitably sparked  feelings of total inadequacy. My sister’s words ran like a looping soundtrack of doom as I stared down the barrel of my 18-year sentencing void of fun. 

Perhaps you’re imagining that pre-parenthood I was some crazy partier; parading around the globe. drinking heavily. and dabbling in recreational drug use. Nope. I was a fourth grade teacher already living in the suburbs with my husband when we welcomed our first child. My idea of fun was going out to dinner with friends or playing a rousing game of Scrabble. Of course, I did have a wild side. Once, I attended a watch party for The Bachelor- Final Rose Ceremony. It was a school night.

I mourned the loss of my freedom to play board games at will, eat a meal without a yelping infant strapped to me, and sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. Sculpting my new identity as a mother was a struggle, especially because I felt hopelessly unfit for the job. The monotony of each day stretched before me with nothing to do but load and unload the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer while I bounced my colicky infant and prayed for five minutes of silence. Those early days of motherhood seemed to drag on forever. I couldn’t imagine getting through the hour, much less the next 18 years. 

Well meaning veteran parents would say that the days are long but the years are short. I was told to savor the moments because in the blink of an eye I would  be dropping him off at college. I  smiled and nodded while wanting to gag myself with a snow shovel. Liars! They were all liars! I wanted to invite these psychopaths over to my house at 5:00 am and show them that after a diaper change, song session, story time, and putting on a one-woman  puppet show, it was only 5:10 am! What the hell was I supposed to do with this baby the rest of the day? During those first six weeks of my son’s life, I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the world as a mother. 

Six weeks from today, I will be dropping my son off at college. In six weeks, I will leave him alone in a strange city. In six weeks, his world will grow exponentially larger and mine will be left with a gaping hole. He will meet people that I will never hear about and have experiences that he will never share with me. He may fall in and out of love with someone that I’ll never even  know exists.  In six weeks his boyhood bedroom will  no longer be where he sleeps each night. In six weeks, his childhood house will no longer be his only home. When he comes back to his ‘’parents’ house’, it will be for a predetermined amount of time. In six weeks, calling or texting me will be an obligation he fulfills in exchange for mom and dad making deposits into his bank account.

I know I will always be his mom, but in six weeks the official journey of raising my son will end. Each day seems to last an eternity as I worry… Have I done enough for him? What have I forgotten to teach him? Is he ever going to do his laundry? Does he know he can come to me with anything? What if he doesn’t eat enough? Does he have any idea how fiercely he is loved?  Does he know how unbelievably proud I am to be his mom? Does he know that nobody makes me laugh like he does?  Will anything ever compare to the joy I’ve experienced watching my baby boy grow? Above all, I wonder… will I  ever have fun again?

Other Pieces on Motherhood

4 Comments »

  1. Wow Lisa. What a wonderful piece. I can relate so strongly to your experience after you had your son, and I already dread thinking about sending my first born to college even though it is five years away. Thanks for sharing such a wonderfully written and touching piece. Your writing is so terrific and inspiring as usual.

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  2. Hi Lisa,
    I love your blogs. I have had diffuse scleroderma since 2016 and I also have been writing a blog (health related on caringbridg.org) and have had many people read it and tell me I should write a book. I know you wrote a book and was hoping maybe to ask you how you made that happen. I would really love your opinion and thoughts. Please feel free to contact me via email.

    Oh by the way, the greatest reward for having children, and all those sleepless funless days behind you is hopefully GRANDCHILDREN! Also, just because they don’t live at home anymore, they will still need you and all you will wish for is they come home for any reason and one day you will hopefully hear the words ,”Mom, you were right”…. About anything you may have tried to impart some wisdom about in the past.

    They grow up so fast…You sound like a great Mom.

    Take care and looking forward to your next blog

    Lorraine

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