There are a lot of similarities between having a new baby and launching a child into adulthood. At first glance, the idea may sound absurd, but if you really dissect it, you will see what I mean.
The first day home with a new baby, the entire household takes on kind of a surreal sense of exaltation. You’ve waited nine months for this moment and finally the sun has come out and the birds are singing and the baby is here! Even though you are tired, everything she does is fascinating. Dinner? Who cares about dinner? There is a new baby to watch. The entire world revolves around that one little 8-pound person.
Then comes the second day. The perfectly decorated and prepared nursery, pristine just 24 hours ago, looks like a tornado of laundry and diapers swept through. You haven’t slept. You are exhausted, sore, and bewildered by this new little stranger that can’t tell you what she needs.
But mostly, the second day is harder because suddenly you are face to face with a brand new reality. Everything has changed, but nothing has. “How will this ever feel normal?” you wonder.
Yesterday, we took our little person to college. We were prepared for this day. It took a lot of planning and preparation to get her there, and the day was surreal and exciting. The sun was out and the birds were singing as we unpacked the dorm room, made the bed, took pictures, met roommates and suite-mates and participated in the opening ceremonies. Even the goodbye wasn’t too bad. I cried a little behind my sunglasses- bi-polar tears that couldn’t make up their mind if they were happy or sad. But we said goodbye well.
Today, though. The second day. Today was a lot harder.
Today I got up and the house was silent. Nobody joined me for coffee, no shower running, no clouds of perfume floating down the stairs in visible flowers and unicorns.
Today we had to go into her empty room and clean up all the fluff and debris left behind. It was mostly empty, but in the corner of the closet was a notebook with high school biology notes in it. The shower had half empty bottles of shampoo that smelled like her. Under the bed was a dryer sheet, a pair of headphones the cat destroyed sometime in the past, and a dirty sock. (If you know Grace, feel free to laugh about the sock. One sock is practically her totem.) The longer we cleaned up her room, Phil and I, the more the cracks in my composure started to spread. It just got worse as the day went on.
The day isn’t over yet, but I can already check-off “ugly cry on the floor of my closet,” “get mad at my husband over something that isn’t his fault,” and “take a nap and have a dream about my dog dying” off my to-do list. It’s been a really rough day. I hate cliches, but I was a hot mess today.
Suddenly, I’m face to face with a brand new reality. Everything has changed. “How will this ever feel normal?” I wonder.
Thankfully, I’ve done this before. I remember when she was brand new. And I remember that the second day was harder, but the third day was a little easier. And the fourth was even easier, and pretty soon, normal felt normal again even though it was a new normal. Having a new baby and launching a child into adulthood are similar because they are both major, life-altering transitions. So I remember that I’ve done this before, and I press on and hope that tomorrow is better. Because this is how it was always supposed to turn out.
If you know me, you know that Grace is my baby, and that I have been through the college drop-off before with my son. Please don’t think I’m heartless by writing about how hard it is this time –as if it wasn’t hard last time. Actually it was. It was a different experience under different circumstances, but I’m also encouraged by the memory that it got easier with him too.