A Year Later…

August 31, 2016

Ten days ago we dropped off college boy for his sophomore year at Baylor (but who is counting the days – I can tell you it’s not him).  When we moved him into his dorm freshman year, I spent the better part of a LONG afternoon getting everything settled in his room.

This year, I had about 90 seconds.

Not that he was telling me to hurry or anything, but you know how you can just FEEL IT when you aren’t supposed to hang around somewhere? He was the last one to move into his four bedroom apartment, so his other three roommates were there all settled. I actually have very little memory of what his room looks like, because we were slapping stuff together so fast it would make your head spin. As the clock ticked, more friends were coming over to his apartment – all greeting each other like they hadn’t seen each other since 25 B.C.IMG_2836

I began to sweat knowing I was on the clock.

I threw his kitchen stuff in the kitchen – no clue where – because all the boys were sitting in the living room chatting it up, and I didn’t want to be the mom who hovered trying to make everything perfect. Heck, I was just hoping I aimed right when I threw the utensils in the drawer. So if he were to call me and ask me where I put something, my answer would be, “NO CLUE.”


Wayne, Jack and I in his room I have no memory of fixing up…

We hugged and said our goodbyes faster than a hot knife goes through butter. But this year, I left without a tear in my eye. I almost felt like my emotions had been hijacked. I looked at Wayne and said, “I’m not crying! Look! No tears!” He was probably so relieved, given the fact that the ride home from Waco last year at this time was quite the spectacle. The phrase “If mama ain’t happy, then nobody is happy” is embarrassingly accurate, in my opinion. So, yay me. No waterworks.

What a difference a year makes.

All I can say to those moms (and dads) who just dropped their first born child off at college for the first time is this:


If you had told me this a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. My heart was so heavy from his absence in our house last year that I couldn’t imagine it would get better.

But it does and it did.


Senior and Sophomore…sigh.

I couldn’t have predicted how the dynamics would change by having one boy gone and two girls remaining, but I am loving having two girls at home. I can’t get too comfortable, though, because Caroline is a senior. Mercy. Having just Lizzie at home in one year is going to be…well, let’s just not go there yet. One child at a time…

If I could pass on the top top ten things I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) about sending off your first born for the first time and surviving, it would be:

  1. I learned to let him call me…when he wanted. Risky, I know. It took all I had in me to get into that rhythm. I found that he called more than I thought he would – but I would have never known that if I was calling him all the time. (Who knew you can actually twist your ankle, appear as though you have sat on a bed of fire ants, step on the dog or clothesline your other children or husband as you madly race to catch the phone when your college child is calling you.)
  2. I learned that I will know less about his life as time goes by. While that’s tough to adjust to, that’s ok. Unfortunately, it’s the way it is supposed to be.
  3. I learned that I felt better by leaving the light on in his empty room. Every day. Hence, the name of this blog Leaving The Light On.
  4. I learned that I could overnight a fairly large Fed Ex box to him for around $20. He loved getting a package. Especially if food was in it. My friend, Cammy, invited about 10 moms of Jack’s high school friends over last fall, and we all brought some goodies to put in 10 different care packages. Each package had a note from all 10 of us. I highly recommend doing that – it’s fun for them to get a note and a package filled with goodies from a bunch of different moms.
  5. I learned to give him his freedom. For example, we used the tracking app on Jack’s iPhone when he was traveling on the road, but that was only so that we could know that he got to wherever he was traveling (or at least his phone did). We didn’t want to be Big Brother tracking his every move from the dorm to the dining hall and everywhere in between.
  6. I discovered that I wasn’t the only one having a hard time adjusting to his absence. My two girls were struggling a bit as well. I chose to focus on their lives even more instead of mourning the fact that I had one less place setting at the table. It caused us to pull together extra tight.
  7. I learned to embrace Face Time. It’s a great way to communicate with your college kid, no matter what you look like at the moment. Just be prepared that your kid’s friends might be able to see you as well…


    Apparently I am more excited to Face Time than he is…

  8. I developed a stronger bond with Jack’s high school friends’ parents, many of whom were already close friends. They were feeling pretty much whatever it was I was feeling. There was comfort in knowing that.
  9. When we would visit Jack at college, we would sometimes take his friends out to eat. College kids want non-dorm food and better yet, they want FREE food. This is a great chance to see the kind of people your son or daughter is hanging out with. The phrase “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” is so true. Thankfully, it appears he has chosen wisely.
  10. And finally, while I squeezed the life out of him whenever we would say goodbye, I never let him see me cry. I knew he was worried about how I was doing without him at home, so the last thing I wanted him (or my girls) to see was me in a puddle of tears on the ground. Even if I was mentally there.

I will need to be reminded of all of this when we send Caroline off next year…and then two years later when Lizzie goes. But there’s no point in fretting about what’s to come.

But I am happy to report that one year later, all is well. And all will be well for you.

I’ve added a few recipes to the website. Skillet Ranch Chicken, Beer Bread and Meatball Sliders.

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  • jvwiesen September 9, 2016 at 6:41 am

    If my son had a rough freshman year I would have cried more too! I guess it’s all about how they are doing, isn’t it? My so had the opposite experience of yours. The bond came in college. Praying your son creates that great friend bond group this semester!

  • Jen September 7, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    My son is also a sophomore in college but he’s across country so we only saw him Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Sprong break last year. I cried my eyes out every time he went back. In August as I drove him to the airport, it felt so different. As I hugged him goodbye I said “look at me not crying!” He replied “Good job mom”. I still miss him so much my heart aches, but he’s thriving, and that’s what I want for him.

    • jvwiesen September 7, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Isn’t it so sweet how they are proud of our strength? I agree with everything you said…while our hearts still ache, we are happy they are happy. We moms are all in this together!!

  • Leslie Knapp September 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Well said, Julie!!

  • Cara Berkman September 1, 2016 at 6:59 am

    I’m going to hold on to the “top ten” things you’ve learned bc those a good things to remember and I’ll be in that college boat before I know it. Jack is the most handsome Baylor bear… loved the group picture of him and his friends.