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My daughter is cleaning out her room. Approximately 12 boxes full of books sit in the garage, ready for donation. The mountains of horse paraphernalia (from boots with spurs on them to pictures of horses hung on the walls) are going the way of the posters of high school musicals.

It seems that a mother should be thrilled to have a child so organized that she clears out her room as she nears the end of her college career and gets ready to fly. As much as I personally hate sorting out items from the past, I am grateful that she is doing this since there is no way she plans on ever living in that room again. This is not a millennial planning to live in her parents’ basement or even in their time zone.

I am ridiculously proud of her adventurous, curious spirit and aware of the similar way I recoiled when my mother set up a room I could live in at my parents’ home when I was 22 and finished with school. There was no way that was happening; I still had coasts to visit and mistakes better made away from parents’ horrified eyes.

I love that our daughter reaches out to the world, just as she climbed on a very large horse and grinned at age 3.

But, and you knew there would be a “but,” … the room looks so empty. I remember how exciting some of the easily discarded books, posters, gold fish and cowboy boots were at one time. Okay, enough of that. It’s true that the toughest parting from my oldest child was also when he neared the end of college and it dawned on me that he wouldn’t live in our house again.

But after those moments of feeling like a golden retriever jumped on my stomach with all her 85 pounds, I did realize that when the kids leave home, you get to enjoy their next steps. It’s what is supposed to happen in the normal course of life, if all goes well. I still remember a friend’s consoling words to me when the same daughter went to kindergarten and I felt I was losing her: it’s like you get to go to school too, she told me. It’s true that for the past 17 years I have been immersed in the thrills, chills and stresses of each year of education. I’ve learned plenty myself in the process, and not just about how to conjugate a Spanish sentence.

I’ve got a few notes to myself and to other parents nearing this cleaning-out-the-room phase:

  • There’s no more college tuition – it’s like a major pay raise.
  • What’s the point of having kids if you don’t have at least a few tears to go with all the laughter?
  • We get to visit her new exciting outposts on the planet.

And, last but not least:

  • It’s a fact that we see far more of each other now via FaceTime and phone calls than when she was a teenager who arrived home from school to immediately put on headphones and holed up in the room she’s now cleaning out.

We’re not losing a basement-dweller; we’re gaining a world tour guide. And I’m apparently not going to run out of good topics for my columns any time soon.

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