Keeper of The Fruit Loops

The Hardest Move-In Day Goodbye Was Not One I Expected

May 1, 2023
The Hardest Move In Day Goodby Was Not What I Expected

In the months leading up to move-in day for my Fruit Loop #1’s freshman year of college, I worried about the last hug in his dorm room. I would lay awake in bed at night, the hot summer air wafting in through my bedroom window, and wonder how on earth I’d get through that final goodbye.

My firstborn was going to college, and I was somehow expected to leave a piece of my heart in his dorm room. When move-in weekend approached, I found myself almost practicing for the big day. Much to his mild amusement, I’d insist on hugging him before he’d leave to go out with his friends. I’d hold tight, trying to imagine what it would actually be like when I had to do it for real. 

Spoiler alert: I made it through that hug, and though there were tears, his and mine, that goodbye wasn’t the hardest one Hubby and I witnessed on that day. 

What we didn’t know as first-time college parents is that the hardest goodbye to witness is the one between siblings.

No one told me to practice for that scenario.

My son and daughter are thick as thieves. He’s tall and lanky to her petite frame.

He’s the bull in a china shop to her introverted and studious ways.

He’s the theater performer who loves the spotlight; she lights the stage in the back of the house on the tech crew.

Opposites in every way and yet joined at the hip. 

With only two years between them, they share the same interests, and their friend group consists of the older and younger siblings of several families.

In short, they are best friends.

For years, their ritual has been to carve out time on Thursday nights to watch Marvel movies or whatever show they are currently binging. To see them together is to feel like you are intruding on a meeting of a secret club, complete with their own language and jokes I’ll never understand.

It never occurred to me that watching my teens learn how to navigate life without each other daily would be harder than managing my own sadness that our family dynamic has changed.

Because of pandemic precautions, only two family members were allowed in Fruit Loop #1’s dorm for the move-in process. That meant that not only did Fruit Loop #2 have to wait in our hotel room, but it also meant they had to say a rushed goodbye in the lobby of the hotel. I wasn’t prepared for how it felt to watch them hug and lob some last-minute jokes at each other before we left.

But, in the chaos of the move-in day, I didn’t have time to dwell as we somehow figured out how to move three strapping teen boys into a triple dorm room. Frankly, the universe seems to know what it’s doing: by the time three anxious moms, three bewildered dads, and three semi-annoyed teens were crammed into the middle of move-in hell, we were all practically begging to say goodbye.

After a quick hug and a few more tears, our son launched into his new college life.

At the restaurant near campus where we took Fruit Loop #2 for lunch, we all sat quietly, trying to get used to our new normal. I chippered about the lunch specials; my husband wondered about traffic home the next day. I looked over at my daughter, and instantly, my heart broke.

She was sitting silently, tears gently rolling down her cheeks.

“It’s Thursday,” she said. “I guess we can’t watch TV together tonight.”

I cried harder at that moment with her than I had in all of the months leading up to move-in.

As if on cue and as if he seemingly knew the scene that was unfolding at our table, Fruit Loop #1 texted me. He asked if we could bring his sister to the campus for a few minutes.

“Please? I don’t need to see you or Dad, just her. It won’t take long, I promise,” he texted. 

Not knowing what he had in store, we finished lunch and indulged his request. We walked back to campus and showed Fruit Loop #2 the entrance to the dorm. 

When she emerged from the building fifteen minutes later, she was beaming behind her mask. Fruit Loop #1 had figured out how to take her on a quick tour of the dorm so that she could see where he’d be living. 

“He said that now that I’ve been in the building, it’ll feel more like home,” she gushed.

She shared that they took a selfie that he has since added to his dorm room wall of friends and family. When she showed me the picture, I laughed through my happy tears. I saw their characteristic silly expressions in the picture and knew at that moment that they’d be okay.

These days, when I hear her belly laughing with him and his roommates on FaceTime late at night or when he texts me to make sure she calls him when she gets home from school, I’m sure of it. 

And the sight of them snuggled on the couch for their Thursday ritual while he was home for winter break made the struggle through that hardest goodbye worth it.

This post originally appeared on Your Teen for Parents.


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