She asked “What will it be like?” To send away the son, after only 18 years, off to another state, to college.
Oh, that’s easy, I explained. You simply walk around feeling like the left side of your body has been cut off, for about ten days. (Or your right, since you are right-handed.) You’ll have lots of pain from the emptiness. You’ll stop yourself from picking up the phone can calling him about 100 times. Just sit through it and hold tight. Just hang in there… because in about ten days, you’ll get a text, and it always comes on a weekend night, asking, “Do I put hot water or cold in with whites.” And, then you can just pick up your phone and call him, and explain everything to him – even though you taught him how to do laundry before he left. He will need to hear your voice, reassuring him that he’s doing it right. (But he’s not going to tell you that, of course.)
And from then on, if you handle that phone call right – i.e., don’t ask too many questions, (no prying), be supportive and upbeat — his texts will start flowing in freely after that point. Treat him like the adult he is now — and don’t talk down to him. You are just advising a friend. In fact, you’ll become his best friend, as he texts you questions that go beyond laundry, but include out-of-network ATMS, how to buy flowers online, how to get rid of a cough, how to use the microwave to make pizza, how to get a bus ticket, – and everything else in-between.
At least, that’s how it is for boys – I have no idea how it works with girls.
Oh, and I forgot about this: There is the particularly difficult moment when he walks away from you after you drop him off, and he disappears into the crowd. Keep watching him walk through this sea of strangers, as painful as this is, because this is your chance to see him as a part of the world, and not just your son. That was a really hard moment. On the way home, sitting in the passenger seat, I kept wondering why I kept feeling like I was 8 years old, on the merry-go-round, and the world was just spinning out of control, even though I was as still as a mouse, and wasn’t even moving a finger.