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College Parents Weekend: How I Finally Exhaled and Let Go

As sultry summer days slowly gave way to brisk autumn evenings and the burnt orange leaves hinted at cooler days ahead, I was undergoing a transition of my own.

Mothering My College Freshman from Afar

We had moved our first-born child, our son, into college in August. Dripping with sweat, we hauled load after load of his most “important” belongings up three flights of stairs to his tiny room. And in the days that followed, I continued to mother him from afar, sending out care packages with the frequency of an Amazon shipping center. First salty chips and sweet goodies. Then long-sleeved shirts and thick sweatpants. Now cold remedies, oversized Purell pumps, and Halloween decorations.

Yet as the number of care packages sent to my son increased, his communication with the family he left behind decreased exponentially. Phone calls became a rarity, the buzz of every text a wondrous surprise, Snapchat often my only lifeline.

My First Parents Weekend

So it was with great excitement and no small relief that Parents Weekend presented itself like a miracle. I needed to be able to speak to him for more than five minutes, hold him in my arms, make sure he was taking his vitamins and getting his hair cut.

I had been warned not to expect much, that new college students have little time to spare for these visits. I shouldn’t be surprised if he was stressed, short-tempered, or uncommunicative.

Yet in all honesty, our Parents Weekend did not disappoint. There were so many new friends to meet, young men and women with whom I could tell he had an easy rapport, and a mutual respect. I heard about the classes that were keeping him so busy and the professors who made him think deeply about topics he’d never before considered. He seemed confident, at ease, and content.

We took our son to dinner off campus, and ever the hovering mom, I instinctually suggested he dress in something warmer than a thin t-shirt for the chilly evening. Then I braced myself for what I expected would follow: the belligerent eye roll, the exasperated exhaling of breath between clenched teeth.

But my son simply turned to me and said, “I’m good Mom. I’ll be just fine like this.”

And he looked at me with that combination of love and exasperation you might reserve for an exuberant and beloved puppy behaving badly. When at dinner, my husband brought up the stressful topic of finding a summer internship, I girded myself for the sting of his annoyance. However, our son simply and confidently replied, “I’ve got this.”

He’s Got This

Having spent this time with him, I know for sure my son is happy, and I am happy for him. I found peace on Parents Weekend. I could finally accept that the phone calls would probably be infrequent, and that in the coming years the visits home might be few and far between.

Yet my son knows how much I love him. Who else would willingly (and exuberantly) offer to change the sheets that had been on his bed since we dropped him off eight weeks earlier!

But he is undergoing his own transition and transformation. He is finding his own way and creating his own life. He is both further from us, and closer to us, than he has ever been before.

As we were getting ready to leave and return home, my son confided in me that it was all going by too fast, and that he wished time could just slow down. He didn’t want this amazing experience to end.

I took his prickly cheeks in my two hands, looked into those eyes I have known my whole life, and answered softly, “You have no idea my precious boy. You have no idea.”

This piece originally appeared on Parent Co.

Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer resides in New Jersey, where she micromanages a husband, her teenage children, and a confounding cockapoo. Her writing has appeared in The Mighty, Grown and Flown, Her View From Home, Kveller, Parent Co., Motherly, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and CollegiateParent. You can follow Cheryl at and on her blog

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