The Growing Space Between Us
One day they are home, and the next, they are grown
The event I had anticipated all summer arrived — college freshman move-in day. The car was so tightly packed that it took three of us pushing and tugging to get the pillow into the last potential space between the two duffle bags. With the final item secured, our family high-fived as we closed the trunk, proud of fitting all the essential dorm items into one car.
During the three-hour drive north, we kept the conversation light, chatting about anime while listening to an interesting mix of video game music and Pink Floyd.
My husband joked that he would be turning our son’s bedroom into a naked gardening room, knowing full well I would insist on leaving the space untouched for a year. “A child needs to come home to their bedroom, not a guest room or craft room,” I said earlier that week when my spouse started planning his room take-over.
Our youngest, quietly listening in the backseat, appeared visibly relieved that he would not have to share an adjoining bathroom with a naked gardener.
The crowded campus was busy with people carrying large plastic totes, microwaves, and blue IKEA bags. I examined the other freshman’s loot and began to worry that I hadn’t packed enough snacks for my son. I quickly made a grocery list in my head as we began carrying his bags to the dorm.
When arriving at the room, we were surprised to discover his roommate had moved in a few days earlier, staking claim to the preferred space. My son didn’t care that he was getting the smaller closet and the bed closest to the bathroom, he was just happy to have an ethernet port.
We worked together to unpack his belongings and organize the place he would call home for the next nine months.
After the bed was made and the computer was set up, we surveyed the dorm admiring our handiwork. My eyes traveled to the empty rod in the closet, and I suddenly realized we had forgotten to bring the clothes sorted, selected, and still hanging in his room.
We didn’t forget the three pillows, which we could have easily replaced at a nearby Walmart, but we neglected to bring his jacket and all of his hoodies, a soon-to-be necessity in this part of Colorado. An unusual oversight on my part.
After eating lunch together, we said our goodbyes, and my older son departed for a meeting while we headed home. Once in the car, our youngest stretched out in the backseat, filling the space left by his brother. Not too long ago, that seat contained three young boys, now there was a lone 15-year-old lying there. My son must have felt my gaze because he pulled down his sunglasses and gave me a quick smile. I told him that I missed Logan, and he responded, “Me too.” Extra space doesn’t always make us feel better.
When we returned home, I noticed that my son’s bedroom door had been left open, perhaps an oversight on his part or an intentional act, releasing his claim on the room. For the last few years, his bedroom door has been constantly closed to keep the cat off his bed, or so he said. As soon as my son left, the cat wasted no time claiming his space as her own. Her toys were all over the room, and she was sleeping on his bed.
I considered moving the cat, but I liked seeing her there. A cat makes a room less lonely.
Pushing her over slightly, I lay down on the bed and looked up at the ceiling. It is covered in glow-in-the-dark stars and planets, a sweet reminder of the second-grader who moved into this room eleven years ago. Logan was obsessed with the night sky and wanted his room to look like outer space. I remember working together to hang the plastic planets and glue the stars, and when it was complete, it looked pretty darn close to the real thing. A shared project that brought us both joy.
While staring at the stars, I listened to the completely quiet room. Although my son often kept his door shut, I could usually hear him in here — recording YouTube videos, running his Twitch stream, or strumming on the guitar. Even before the pandemic, Logan was a homebody, a constant presence in the house that I found incredibly comforting. As I lay on his bed, I realized I didn’t like this space as much without him. I especially disliked all the clothes that were mocking me from his closet.
A few hours later, I texted my son to check on him. I worried that he had eaten alone, a common fear I had for all my kids on their first day of school. He texted back quickly and reassured me that he had met some “nice” people and was well fed. Despite my concerns, he seemed to be adjusting well to his new environment.
As I tried to fall asleep, my mind kept drifting back to my son, and I suddenly began to worry about how often he would wash his towels and change his sheets. I mentioned it to my husband, who chuckled and reminded me that our son is a capable individual who would certainly remember to do his laundry. I know he’s right.
It’s hard to let go. A young adult has a clear separation between home and away when they leave for college. For a parent, our changing role is less defined but equally as significant.
It may take a little longer for me to adjust to my new parenting space, and that’s OK. Today was day one.
This article was first published on Medium.
About the Creator
Jill (Conquering Cognitions)
Outdoor Enthusiast | Animal Lover | Mom to Five | Psychologist Turned Writer
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
A loving story, thanks for sharing
"extra space doesn't always make us feel better" I love that.
A new face in this space! Brilliant! :-)
Thanks for sharing 😊 It was a great read. All the best and happy writing.
I think of the tears in my mom's eyes when I went overseas to work... It is always hard to let go. And I am wondering which particular Pink Floyd songs you played (please tell me it wasn't from 'The Wall')... ;)
Read this with lumps in my throat . 👶🏻to freshman
Very sensitive, family is very important. Here, I also shared my thoughts about a family https://vocal.media/poets/a-family-love
Great story, great insights. Thank you for sharing.