Parenting Perspective – Leaving the Nest

First Kid…First Time Around…How it Feels

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When my oldest daughter, Sarah, left for a gap year 10 months ago to Israel, we thought we were prepared for her leaving the nest one day. Everything was ordered. Every duffel bag to meet the requirements with the lightest weight was researched. All 1,000 (or so it seemed) forms filled out, notarized, and scanned. All bulky items were ordered - bedding and heavy toiletries sent straight to her dorm abroad when she arrived. Scroll down for resources… at the end of the post.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the wave of emotions that hit me at the airport goodbye. Wow. I know I’m not the first and I won’t be the last parent to experience this. I know that everyone feels things differently, but her leaving the nest hit me hard. I know my job as a parent is to give my kids wings so they can fly… but once the flight was ready to board, it was me who was grounded.

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If my experience helps just one parent feel a little more emotionally prepared, telling my story will be worth it!

The hours and days that followed were full of texts, calls, and messages from friends and family asking how it went… many of them in the same boat as me, many who had sent kids off before (asking how I was) and many who hadn’t yet reached this stage (asking how she was).

Let me preface this by saying that I fully recognize the position I am in and perspective I am coming from is one of privilege, that my child graduated high school, was accepted into college, and is taking a gap year to spend in another country by choice. That physically, emotionally, and financially, this was even possible is not something I take for granted.

That said, here’s how I responded…

I cried so hard I burst some capillaries in my face and my head has been pounding from the crying. The floodgates opened and there were tears of joy, tears of memories, tears of wonder “where did the time go” and tears of “wait… I’m not sure I’m ready for this?!?”

It’s just that it feels like the end of an era (and the start of a new one). There’s a palpable shift in the energy and dynamic in our home and family... it feels surreal - it was this time/event we talked about and knew it was coming and now it’s here. She and I never cried at nursery first days or camp bus stops. This just feels like such a major milestone – a shift from our family life and this stage of having all the kids living at home. Yes, she’ll come back to visit, vacations, weekends, (or even pandemics) etc. but right now this is a change. And change is hard.

A child leaving home just seems like one of those life events you’re never really ready for... I don’t think it will get any easier with subsequent kids, and the last leaving I’m sure will be a whole new set of emotions - I think we’ll just at least know what to expect. It just feels weird setting the table and booking flights for four instead of five and celebrating a birthday over Facetime (the first one in 19 years not in person) was strange.

There’s also the fact that she’s an incredibly helpful, amenable, thoughtful, and fun friend moving away... I know it’s just a year, but I’d cry if any of my close friends moved a 12-hour flight with a 7-hour time difference away amidst a pandemic for a year too! Having the previous six months together at home (thank you, Covid) definitely made it harder.

People keep saying “she’ll be great” and I know she will be and I’m so excited for her to have the gift and opportunity of this year. And I know we have FaceTime and eventually (please let travel resume) I’ll visit... (haha! I planned and G-d or rather Covid laughed).

But I’m just thinking it’s not only about her - but there’s also this big picture shift in my life/our family life that I’m struggling with. It’s a major lifecycle event for a parent to go through – I was so focused on my daughter leaving the nest and making sure she's prepared, I didn’t fully grasp its magnitude and impact on me until I went through it.

To anyone reading this who is sending a kid off to college, or a gap year… good luck! And feel free to cry to me! No matter how happy they are, remember, this is also about YOU.

Now can someone please warn me for when I send my baby off!?

Shopping and Packing Resources:

You really can get everything you need online from these amazing services, they will send the bigger items directly to your child’s dorm or apartment.

Amazing Savings sells light duffel bags – for $19.99 (have to go in store to purchase).

But the lightest are these from A.Saks weighing 1.6lb completely foldable, but no wheels.

For wheeled duffels, this one works great at 7lbs.

A great Amazon option is this Perry Ellis duffle.

For inside the duffels I love packing cubes – a combination of the small Ziplock totes and these packing cubes from Amazon.

Carlyz Craze – one stop shopping in NJ for girls’ basic skirts. All other items can be found from Target to ASOS to Athleta to HM to Zara and to J. Crew. Midi and maxi length dresses are still on trend so many of them are in the fast fashion stores.

For some nicer items, a big help was @yocheved_schwartz at Bloomingdales in NYC who you can make an appointment with.

Staying organized can sometimes be difficult… check out Barbara Reich,herm Life Organized for tips and tricks on how to eliminate clutter and keep your life organized. I have personally worked with Barbara many times in different areas of my home. Barbara has blog posts dedicated to packing and ways to stay organized at college.

For local NY area college dorm shopping and set up, check out @keepitsimple.nyc.

Check out my blog posts on travel and packing for camp for more tips.

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