The scheduled FaceTime call the night before my daughter’s first day of classes was an epic fail. Just a few days after we’d left her in her new dorm room, we were still trying to figure out the best ways to communicate with our college freshman. So far, there had been some texting but not a lot. “Do I get all three meals a day on the meal plan?” “Can I put dirty sneakers in the washer/dryer?”
After dialing her number, the initial maternal tug of “There she is!” was immediately dwarfed by her distracted, “Oh I forgot we were speaking.” Our one minute conversation included a matter of fact “you know I just saw you” and, although it was said with no tone or irritation, it was still a punch to the once pregnant gut.
I had thought my concerns after drop-off would fall more on safety and health issues—is my daughter getting enough vitamin C, is she walking from the library to the dorm at night with a friend? Or whether she was finding a healthy balance between fun and academics. But somehow, on the ride back to the airport, the lingering image of our goodbye group hug stayed with me, and unexpectedly, my focus shifted away from her and onto my own immediate and acute maternal need for contact.
But what would that contact look like? So far, it had seemed ours was a parent-child dance based on practicality rather than emotion, which left me wondering, in all the months leading up to and preparing for the college send-off, had I missed one of the more important conversations with my daughter: How would we communicate while she was away at school and how often?
Then came the impromptu phone call while she was walking to dinner with friends. “Everyone is calling their moms right now,” she said. “So…” I smiled. At least she was honest. But I’d take it. I’d take anything she was willing to give.
Read the rest of the essay here, at On Parenting/The Washington Post