09/03/2013 07:53 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How My Dog Helps Cure My College Kid's Homesickness

I know how to convey home and love without ever saying a word...

Two days after my husband and I returned from taking our youngest son to college, 1,300 miles away, we were checking with each another constantly to see if he had communicated something... anything.

I knew from experience (our oldest is a junior in college) that making the shift -- to being the parent of a young adult who no longer lives in the same house -- takes some practice. You can't ask them about their day, every day -- about whom they met, what they learned, if they liked the movie they saw or the book they read -- and it hits hard. The first week, you go through withdrawal. It's like having had chocolate every day of your life, your entire life, and then not being able to have the tiniest taste. And you really love chocolate.

But they do communicate eventually, and much like learning to interpret a newborn's cries, you learn to read their moods based on their method of communication. Phone calls are for expressing extremes such as happiness or sadness, though occasionally they can be used for describing something so detailed it's just plain easier to say it on the phone. Emails are for forwarding other emails that are usually about money, or for giving a heads-up about something that occurs to them at 3:00 in the morning. Texts are for laundry questions and HAHA-type things -- which I must admit, I began to enjoy once I realized that HAHA does not mean someone is being sarcastic, but is actually smiling or laughing (and cooler than the LOL I had only just recently gotten used to).

When my oldest son first went away to college, I tried to ease the transition by sending him occasional text messages, and pictures of our dog, Benjamin. Sometimes I put a hat on him. Sometimes he was just Benjamin, doing what he does best -- sleeping or playing with his toys. Fortunately, the dog is wonderfully compliant, though he often looks at me as if to say, Seriously? And sometimes, he "disses" me -- looks away just when I snap the picture. This makes me laugh. And the photos of him doing this, doing anything, really, always inspire a HAHA reply from my son -- so much so that if I haven't sent a photo of Benjamin in awhile, he'll ask for one.

Of course, I know what his request for pictures of Benjamin mean, just as he knows what I mean when I send them. And that's the beauty of it -- nary a word has to be said.

Up until last week when he left for his freshman year at college, my youngest son only texted me when he was going to be late for dinner, needed $10, or forgot something at school.

But two days after taking him to college -- and pacing the floor a few million times, waiting for something, anything -- I received this text message:

Mom, when you have time today can you text me a picture of Benjamin?

I sent him two.


Earlier on Huff/Post50:

10 Things to Look Forward To As An Empty Nester