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My Son is Leaving for College and I’m Feeling Nostalgic

I remember the day my son graduated from his crib to a twin bed like it was yesterday. We were preparing for the arrival of his baby sister and every article I’d read told me to make the transition well before she arrived to ensure sleeping success.

We took him to Target and he picked out all of his “big boy” bedding and we even splurged on an expensive pillow set that matched. As his chubby hand grabbed mine on the way out to the car, he said with lollipop-stained cheeks, “I can’t wait to sleep by myself tonight!”

Of course, it wasn’t that smooth. After we took the obligatory picture of him sitting in the middle of his new bed, fresh from a bath and wearing footie pjs, we tucked him in and cheered that he was now, in fact, a “big boy.” I remember thinking as I turned off the lights and looked back at him that he suddenly seemed so grown up.

“Don’t worry,” I said before closing the door, “Mommy is just right down the hall.”

Oh, if I had only known that the transition to the twin bed in his bedroom was going to be the easiest one.

Our son is now 18 and headed to college, finally committing to a college he loves after months of pandemic uncertainty centered around applications and questionable admission changes. It’s been stressful for all of us and there were nights that I’d see him off to bed, snuggling down into his now queen-sized bed, wondering if he’d ever actually make a decision.

But the boy sleeping in his “bigger boy” bed, the one that accommodates his now six-foot frame and his lanky, hairy legs, is really leaving.

And he’s going to graduate to his real big boy bed.

His dorm room bed.

At first sight, that dorm room bed will just be a low-quality mattress with a simple wood frame that looks like all of the other beds on the floor.

But it’s so much more than that.

It’s the beginning of the rest of his life.

It’s the bed where he’ll stare at the ceiling those first few nights away from home and feel both excited and nervous. He’ll listen to his roommate snoring and the foreign sounds of a busy city bustling below him.

It’s the bed where he’ll toss his backpack after a long day and where he’ll study for a final exam,  worried he can’t pass.

His dorm room bed will hold a place for him when he’s had his first heartbreak, where he rolls to his side and stares at the wall, wondering if his heart will ever feel whole again.

It’s the bed that will hold his secrets when he’s partied a little too much and it will keep him warm when he has that first chest cold away from his mom and her chicken soup remedies.

He’ll have sleepless nights wondering what his future holds and whether he’s snagged that coveted internship he’s worked so hard to secure.

His toddler “big boy” bed was the bed designed to help usher him through the physical years of growing, the one that kept him safe when he sleepwalked with bedrails, bed alarms, and gates at the top of the stairs.

Little did I know that his “big boy” bed was just the holding place for the bed that will help usher him off to the big, exciting life he’s about to have as an adult.

His dorm room bed won’t have bedrails and there won’t be pillows emblazoned with trucks and trains. But it will be there to guide him through the next four years, just the same.

When our son goes to bed on the first night of college, he’ll be sleeping on a comforter and sheet set that we will no doubt have selected from Target. And I’m sure I’ll splurge on the expensive pillows that match, despite the fact that he’ll roll his eyes and make a snarky comment about how dudes don’t do matching pillows.

We’ll take the obligatory picture of him sitting in the middle of his newly decorated side of the dorm room and I’m certain I’ll still see his chubby cheeks, wet baby hair, and footie pjs when he smiles back at me.

When we say goodbye, if I’m able to let go of that final hug, I know I’ll look back and be shocked at how grown up he’s become. I’ll silently pray that he doesn’t feel too lonely in the middle of the night and that he knows—no matter where his bed may be—his mother is only a phone call way.

Christine Burke started the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops six years ago on a whim. Since then, her work has been featured on the Today Show, Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown and other parenting websites. In her spare time, she runs marathons, collects thrift shop finds and eats ice cream like it’s her job.

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