Growing up, I had three siblings with whom I was pretty close. My older sister went to an in-state college that was less than two hours away, so she was able to come home pretty often.
When I applied to a school almost five hours away, I didn’t realize how much I would miss my two younger sisters. The afternoons of making hot chocolate, talking about boys, flipping through magazines, and complaining about our mother were more therapeutic than I realized. Once the luxury of having that daily, safe place with my sisters was gone, I realized how important they were in my life.
While I did get to know a group of women in college, and we all became very close, it in no way replaced the bond I’d already cemented with my sisters. Of course, we didn’t see each other as much and weren’t able to talk as much as kids nowadays. This was back in the ’90s, when you paid by the minute to chat with someone on the telephone.
I’d find myself watching 90210 with my new girlfriends and wondering what my sisters were thinking of the show. If it snowed where I was in the hills of Vermont, I always wondered what it was doing in Maine where they were.
I once called them during a snowstorm we were having to see if their high school had shut down for the day, hoping to catch up with them between my English classes. But the phone rang and rang until the machine picked up. I missed them so much it was visceral.
I hung up the phone feeling a sense of nostalgia. I was wishing I was home with them enjoying the very snow days we used to dread because we’d get bored, get on each other’s nerves, and were wishing we’d seen our friends at school. Those were the same days when I’d dream of being off on my own in college with more freedom.
I now have three kids who are very close in age. They’ve been growing up together since my youngest was born days after my oldest turned three. One-by-one, they will be venturing out on their own, and I can’t help but wonder what this will do to the friendship they’ve created.
My oldest and youngest are pretty close and spend a lot of time together watching their favorite show and eating pot stickers on lazy afternoons. Despite being teenagers, they still like to “play.”
The other day my son, Jack, asked his older brother to go sledding with him—something his sister had no interest in doing after he’d asked her—and he was elated.
What will he do when his sledding partner goes to college?
Perhaps he and his sister will strengthen the strong bond they already have because their older brother will be taken out of the mix. Maybe the bond my oldest has with his younger sister will become a bit stronger. They’ve never been really close, but it’s obvious they love each other.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’m hyper-aware my oldest only has two years left at home. I can tell the weight of that life change hasn’t really hit home yet. It doesn’t really take a toll on any of us until we actually do it.
But, clearly, whenever you remove one person from your daily life, the dynamic changes, and all my kids will feel the shift when their older brother leaves our home to go to school, just as my sisters and I felt it.
I am thankful for the fact we will be able to text and call without having to keep track of our minutes. I know if he’s feeling homesick it can be soothed by a text from his mom or one of his siblings. And with things like Face Time, he will feel like the distance between us isn’t so great if he is struggling but can’t make it home.
I do have a feeling he will realize how good he has it, to have a brother and sister who truly love him, look up to him, and want to spend time with him. The old saying always holds true: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and it’s just as true for siblings as it is for lovers and friends.
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