03/19/2013 02:16 pm ET Updated May 19, 2013

What I Learned While Touring Colleges Over Spring Break

I had the privilege of touring college campuses last week with my teenage son. I didn't see it this way at first; in fact, I thought it was a dreadful way to spend spring break. I know I'm not suppose to think that, or God forbid, say it, since touring colleges with your kids is de rigueur these days. But I missed our spring trips when the children were small and their laughter filled the car on long drives to the beach, or when we shared the thrill of riding the same roller coaster over and over again at Disney World. I wanted those days to last forever and I wasn't looking forward to this spring break, since we had to do something so responsible and serious.

I wanted my flip-flops and my silly hat and my kids not caring what I looked like or how I acted. Instead, I had to wear sensible mom clothes and I could tell that my son was a little concerned about being seen with his fifty-something parents on hip college campuses. I promised I'd try really hard not to embarrass him and I hid my tears, knowing that the days of my kids thinking that I'm wonderful are over.

The first tour was a college located in the center of a large city. I was expecting lots of concrete and a boring tour guide. Instead, I was surrounded by stunning architecture and magnificent trees as we were led through campus by a third-year student with an exuberance that I had long forgotten. She was thrilled with her school, excited for her future and happy to share it all with us. The campus brimmed with activity as students walked to class and laughed in coffee shops, and my son was gleefully taking it all in. I have to admit, it gave Disney World a run for its money and the campus bookstore even sold silly hats, though no Mickey ears.

The next stop was a University in a rural area with rolling hills and trees draped in Spanish moss. Students jogged alongside a winding river and bicycles were everywhere. I had forgotten that college campuses are so fully alive and the excitement I saw in my son's eyes was as beautiful a sight as any ocean.

Although I've tried to make a smooth transition from young mother to older mom, it's mostly been a bumpy ride. It is difficult for me to leave behind sand castles and amusement parks and young children who give spontaneous bear hugs. The teenage years don't serve up quite the same offerings.

But the feelings that I remember from past spring breaks were there with me on college campuses last week: the thrill of change, the pleasure of new surroundings, the joy of seeing my child experience something new.

I learned that if I can just let go and follow the thread that is our lives, nothing really is left behind. It's all still here, only in different forms.

I even managed to keep my promise and not embarrass my son. And I think that just may make me wonderful still.