When my daughter left to go back to college this past week after being home since before Thanksgiving, it felt like freshman year all over again. Partly, because she had been home for such a long time, but also because we will never have this time together again as the parents of young adults. The pandemic has created a forced togetherness for families that allowed us to spend time with our older children that will likely never be duplicated in our lifetime.
My routine when she leaves is pretty standard—I pass her empty room a few times and realize that there are no knees making a tent out of her comforter as she sits in bed consuming Netflix. Instead, the comforter is flat, neatly spread across the bed.
I sometimes stop for a moment and linger, even sitting on the end of the bed for a moment to reflect on her visit home. If I close my eyes, I can imagine her in this very room, asking me as a teenager what I wanted and asking me to leave her alone. But now, our visits are much different. When I sit on the edge of her bed, we talk about what to make for dinner or what movie we might watch together that night.
So, I am mourning her absence, but I am also realizing the gift of the time we have had these past few months. Yes, we will see her again, most likely at the end of the semester. She may return for the summer and live at home while she does a virtual internship—or she may not. Either option I will have to accept.
One thing I will not accept going forward is sacrificing time with my children for other priorities. Wherever they go, I will be there, visiting them, supporting them, spending time with them, fitting into their lives as best I can and remembering how after years of being a family, we finally found each other in 2020.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.