And Just Like That

...and just like that, my son started college in August 2019.

I recall as soon as Collin left on his first day of high school senior, I danced around the living room and even gave myself a standing ovation. I congratulated myself, "You did it! You did it! Last year of high school has arrived!"

Within a blink of an eye, he walked across the stage and proudly received his high school diploma from his Principal. Within a couple of days, he left home and toured with the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets in California.

At the time, I was way too excited for him. Heck, it's been his dream to be contracted with one of the drum corps since eighth grade. Nothing makes this proud momma happy to see her child living his dream.

Fast forward, roughly three weeks after he returned home from drum corps, we loaded boxes and suitcases to the car. And just like that, he moved into the college dorm.

I also relocated to north Fort Worth area.

Then it happened.

Two weeks after I happily settled into the new nest, it hit me with absolutely no warning -- this isn't a new nest. It's a freaking EMPTY NEST -- the most despicable, unwarranted, and overactive term that I can't help but roll my eyes every time I hear or see people use it.

The truth is I spent the last 18 years prepping him for this day, and I completely forgot to prepare myself.

It's been the two of us since he was three years old. Summer break to him has always been just a weekend - last day of school on Friday, and the first day of camp on Monday. I had him memorize my phone number and our home address before he could write. I cheered for him at each tee-ball, soccer, and basketball game. Alone. I attended every single holiday concert, band performance, and drove him to each contest, from martial arts to drum corp auditions. Alone. I stayed up when he got sick. Alone. I advocated for him. Alone. I fought for him. Alone. Do you see where I am going with this? That's right, I should be the last person on earth being hit by the unfamiliar sadness when realizing I am now an official resident of an empty nest since I did everything ALONE.

Fortunately, by now, I've learned not to judge my feelings. I told myself I had every right to feel the way I feel, despite how much I hate it. And just like that, I let out all the tears and cried like a baby.

And just like that, I broke down in tears for the first time. I can assure you these weren't happy tears. These were what-the-hell-just-happened tears. These were I-change-my-mind, I-am-not-ready tears. These were first-day-of-kindergarten-was-only-yesterday tears.

I went through his baby photos and cried some more. I keyword-searched empty nest on YouTube and turned it off thinking "What the hell do these shrinks know!"

This empty nest awakening lasted roughly 48 hours, and I survived by allowing - allowing myself to be sad; allowing myself to miss my son; allowing myself to briefly feel sorry for myself; allowing myself to be a mom. And most of all, I allowed myself to be me. Being sad is part of me. The need to cry is part of me.

Allowing is part of self-love. Allowing is acceptance without further explanation and judgment.

So the countdown begins...

I look forward to Thanksgiving when he comes home for the first time. I will likely buy more than enough of his favorite food for his homecoming. I probably won't stop smiling during that four-day weekend.

Except that's another 9 more weeks to go. Bloody hell!