I Say Yes: Leaning in to the Last Year at Home

I was standing in the parking lot of the grocery store, talking to a mom friend. I asked her how her college kid was doing. And she started to cry. He was doing well and enjoying school, she said. But she really missed him. And I remember thinking, this will be me soon. I’ll be standing in front of Price Chopper, missing my kid, talking to a friend with tears in my eyes.

Faster than I would have thought, it’s here. My baby, my first boy, is a senior in high school. I’m a senior mom. I get emails from the school inviting me to attend senior parent meetings and offering to sell me senior yearbook ads. 

And I can feel that tearful parking lot conversation in my future.

mom and son

Eighteen years ago, when I began this motherhood journey, I was older than lots of first-time mamas. I have treasured the wisdom that came from more experienced parents. Navigating this last year with my kid at home is no different. I’ve learned a lot from my sister and friends.

Of course, I know that parenting doesn’t stop when we drop a college freshman off at the dorm. In fact, my mama tribe tells me that parenting is even more complicated from a distance. Still, I can’t help but think that this year is a sweet one that I should savor.

So, here’s what I’m doing, and what I’ve learned so far.

I’m saying “yes.” 

When my kid asks me to go get an iced coffee on Saturday morning, I say yes. Even when the kind he prefers comes from a shop clear across town. Even if it’s full price because it’s not happy hour. Even if I have somewhere to be or would rather hang out in my pajamas a while longer. I say yes. And magically, it turns in to a regular thing. “It’s our thing,” he told his dad the other day. We’re people who get coffee together.

I live in dude world. My kid’s interests are often not my interests. But I say yes to watching a documentary series about Duke Basketball. I say yes to Last Chance U and Year One and More than an Athlete. (If you live in a different universe, you should know that these are interesting programs about college football, NBA rookies, and LeBron James.) It reminds me of my college roommate who read Sports Illustrated so she could talk to boys and kept reading it because the writing was wonderful. One night, home by myself, I watched part of the Duke v. South Carolina game because I was interested. I say yes to things just because my son wants to share them with me. Now we’re people who like more of the same things.

And somehow, I ended up watching all ten seasons of Friends with my kid. I say yes when he suggests just one more episode, even if it’s after midnight, grateful for the freedom that summer brings. Once or twice, I was the one proposing another twenty-two minutes at Central Perk. My kid says yes, too. And now we’re people who know each other’s tastes and talk about articles we like and things that make us laugh. And maybe books someday.

I’ve said yes to checking out custom tennis shoes he’ll probably never buy, watching hype videos he finds inspiring, and making a quesadilla he could make for himself. I say yes to knowing the kid he is today and the grown-up man he’ll be someday.

Yes!

I’ve learned that’s the heart of what mamas do. We say yes. On the night he was born, I said yes to brushing my teeth and combing my hair before the nurses brought my brand-new baby to me because I wanted him to like me. I said yes when he asked me to dance at the wedding reception when he was a ring bearer. Yes to an extra book from the book fair and one more hug before bed and jumping on the hotel bed. Just yes.

I’m saying yes to all the things this year. I want to savor every moment I can and not miss one. 

Look for me at the grocery store next fall. I hope you’ll ask me about my college kid. I’ll have a bunch of sweet memories and exciting dreams to share. And when I cry, don’t worry. I want to say yes to that, too.