Blue eggs in a birds nest
Credit: Lisa Charles Watson

In March of this year, I had to get a root canal. I’d never had a root canal before and, in preparation, I interviewed every acquaintance I could get my hands on to figure out how awful it was going to be. I came to the following conclusion, expressed by many: “It’s not that bad.”

Right. It wasn’t that bad—it was much, much worse. I should explain that I had weeks of increasing tooth pain leading up to the root canal (proving once and for all that the “just ignore it and it will go away” approach to health does not always work) and, ridiculously, thought it would just end as soon as the anesthesia wore off. The whole story is much too boring to tell, but I did learn that if you really want to get an endodontist’s attention, just say, “I took an oxycodone that I found in my medicine cabinet.”

And so it was with my first child heading to college. I cried my way off and on during his senior year of high school, all the while interrogating any parent I could find about what it would be like When He Was Gone.

Three weeks ago we dropped him off at school, and I have been…fine. Sort of totally fine. Guiltily fine. Really, the opposite of a root canal. (Does the fact that life goes on mean I’m a bad mother?!?) As it turns out, there are really pleasant things about having one of your children leave the nest. A sample:

“I did wake you up when I came in. You just don’t remember.”
“Mom, I’m freaking out. I need my suit for a thing and it’s at the cleaners. The thing? Oh, it’s tonight.”
“Mom, I need $37 and there’s no money in the house.”
“I didn’t realize there was a dent. I was backing up and thought maybe I hit something but when I got out I didn’t see anything.”
“No, I’m not going to be home for dinner.”
“I thought I would take the car. Do you need it?”
“I’m not hungry; I promise I’ll eat something later.”
“Please don’t wake me up before 11.”
“Oh, just with some kids I met in science research. No, you don’t know them.”
“The smell in the car? I think it’s from my shoes. I haven’t been wearing socks.”

Suddenly, miraculously, I no longer hear or think about details like the above where he is concerned. And it is, well, just the teensiest bit liberating. Which is not to say my son is no longer constantly on my mind; we text several times a day and spoke on the phone last night (My husband: “Didn’t you just talk to him two days ago?”) I love him from a slightly further distance. He will always be my first born and, because of that, my mother says he’ll always be the one I worry about most. But the smell of his stinky teenage feet is starting to disappear from the car. And I don’t mind that one bit.

— If you (unlike my children) want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Twitter @kvanogtrop.