Moving In and Moving Out

Nancy Corbett
Written by Nancy Corbett

This weekend our daughter moves into her college dorm. As much as I could try to hang on, I don’t want to. Not really.

Part of the reason is what I consider a natural, evolutionary process, eons old, in which offspring become adults and it’s time for the chickadees to flex their own wings, stand at the edge of the coop and fly away. The nestlings grow up, get more assertive, require more space and we, as parents, feel ourselves a bit overcrowded.

Is letting go in our genes? It seems fairly instinctive.

It also might have to do with observing other parents over the years. Frankly, I don’t want to be the mom who suffocates the baby bird as it tries to leave the nest. I have this horrid fear of crushing my daughter’s spirit by hanging on to her wings, crippling her forever. If I have to tape or staple my hands open, so be it. I want this little bird to find her wings, flap them and fly.

I recall too clearly when parents hang on. I find it a bit revolting and at all costs, I want to avoid it.

Years ago, my daughter had a friend along for a trip. I remember watching my daughter’s friend attempt to escape the rapid-fire, suffocating texts from her mom. We were barely down the road when they landed, one after the other:

“Hi, what are you doing?”

“Where are you at?”

“What did you have for lunch?” – only a few hours into a 12- to 14-hour road trip.

As I recall, for the next week, the texts never subsided. It was stifling.

And maybe a part of it is survival for me. That and not wanting to get what I have always known would ultimately be abject rejection from my child if I hovered or crowded. Possibly, I have just wanted to stay one step ahead, always heading off the rolling of the eyes, the twitching or some exasperating teenager response like “whatever.”

Not too many months ago as we were visiting my daughter’s college, she laughed and said, “You’ll be up at my dorm all the time.”

As she said it, my eyes met hers, and as quickly as she was saying it, she was trying to suck those nine words back in as fast as she could.

Why? Because she knew, better than anyone, that would not be the case. It’s not in my DNA. I have a very lovely and very wise mother who led by example, always respectful of my space and my life.

So no, I will not be on my daughter’s college doorstep at every chance. In fact, I plan to carve out my own life and days in ways not possible when she was younger. I loved those years, but I plan to embrace the years ahead as well.

The final weekend is now at hand. She moves out of our house and into her dorm. The tradition, so they say, is that parents help their child make the move.

A few weeks ago, my daughter said: “My friends are going to help me move in. You guys don’t need to do anything.”

For my husband, the thought of not helping our daughter move her boxes of belongings to her new space was exasperating. For me, not so much.

Again, when she asks, I’ll be happy to help. When she invites me, I’ll visit. When she wants to call or stop by and share some all-important or piddling details, I’ll listen. But in the meantime, while she is moving out and moving in, I intend to be spreading out and moving on.

But today, as we pulled up to the dorm, she changed her mind. This one last time our help was welcome, to a point. Boxes were unloaded, shoes put away, books shelved and sheets drawn. Before too long the expected words came. “Mom, Dad, you need to go now.”

It was time for the fledgling to take flight.

About the author

Nancy Corbett

Nancy Corbett

Nancy, a corporate public relations professional by day, navigates motherhood, some days better than others, under the aging 1930s roof of a teenager, a husband 14 years her senior, two hound dogs and her own midlife perimenopausal madness.

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