09/19/2013 03:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Withdrawal Jitters: A Mother Writes About Her Son Leaving for College

As if giving him my love, my money, and my time weren't enough, he has to go and leave me, and now I'm supposed to help him out the door. It's crazy if you think about it for any length of time, which I seem to have more of right now given he's off saying good-bye to friends, and catching one more wave before it's time to go. I feel like a heartbroken 16-year-old girl and not his 40-something mom who's taking him to college.

I watch his friends go. I watch their mothers and fathers cry. "Are we nuts?" I ask myself as my husband and I stand in the queue. The college-bound kids look good; the parents, not so much.

It was true love the first time he smiled at me. He was only a few weeks old when my husband and I nicknamed him Sweetness. Not long after Sweetness smiled, he laughed, and I felt like it was the sound of heaven. Sweetness quickly learned that when mom's got a rant going, give her a smile and she melts every time. So many times, I looked up at heaven and said, "Thank you God for Sweetness."

Sweetness used some of the money he made this summer to purchase an espresso machine. He made an extra trip to a kitchen store to buy a thermometer to make certain the milk was exactly 140 degrees. He needed someone to test his creations, and I volunteered.

"How is it, mom?" he asked as I took a sip of a caramel cappuccino. "Does it need more foam? Less foam? More milk? Less caramel?"

"It's perfect," I said and he smiled.

When Sweetness leaves for college, it's safe to say we'll miss our in-house barista.

What he doesn't know is how much I love the sound of him -- keys jangling as he's off to work, a surf board sliding off a wall hook to be taken for a ride, YouTube videos playing and him laughing, still a sound of heaven to me. These days, I'm partial to the sound of an espresso machine blowing steam into a metal pitcher of milk and bubbles whirling over the edge.

I'm close to the edge. I'm teetering between feeling abandoned and like the richest girl in the world -- rich because he chose me to be his mom, to give me that smile and that laugh.

The other day, I was feeling despondent and called a friend of mine. "It would be worse if he stayed at home," she said. I had to agree, but he could leave the espresso machine when he goes.

Recently, I read about a tribe in Africa where the parents take on the name of their child and become Mother of So and So, or Father of So and So, for the simple and true reason that it changes a person profoundly to be a parent.

I feel honored to call myself Mother of Sweetness.

This column originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.


Boy goes to college. Dog misses the boy.

This picture was taken the day after our son left for college.

To learn more about Kathleen's memoir The Tiffany Box, please click here.