a peek inside the fishbowl

04 Sep, 2017

All the times I’ve cried these last few days

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

I woke up twice this morning. Once, when Mark got up before dawn for a golf game. I was having a dream about our basement flooding. I eventually fell back asleep, only to wake at nine, which is late for me. I made myself a coffee and mindlessly consumed half of it before I realized the milk had gone sour. I ate half a stale donut to get the taste of out my mouth and put in a load of laundry. That’s pretty much all I’ve been able to accomplish today.

We dropped the eldest daughter off at Queen’s yesterday. We scored a reasonable check-in window that started at 12:30, so we timed our arrival accordingly. Although we were prepared for the organized chaos that naturally comes with 4000 students moving into residence on the same day, we didn’t plan upon the utter gridlock we encountered as soon as we got into the city of Kingston. It was wall-to-wall cars for miles. Because of this, our two hour trip to Kingston turned into five. It was so bad that some students got out of the car and walked to campus. Other passengers got out and bought snacks at the corner store before climbing back into their cars to continue the journey.  There definitely could have been some police directing traffic at the busiest intersections! On the bright side, the extra two hours stuck in traffic meant that we essentially waited out a rainstorm.

Roads were temporarily changed to one ways in some areas, and we were directed accordingly. We had to pull up to the residence, unload our stuff on to the sidewalk, and park the vehicle elsewhere, away from these impromptu loading/unloading area. Mark parked our rental on the other end of the campus and by the time he was back everything had been brought upstairs. Student movers – and a borrowed dolly – were a huge help and really expedited the process. (Thank you student movers!)

The three of us helped the eldest unpack, hang up her clothes, set up her laptop, and make her bed. We met the girl with whom she shares a bathroom, and after many last-minute hugs were on our way minus one child.

Residence-related lessons learned: the beds at Leggett Hall are long doubles and can’t accommodate bed risers because of the headboard configuration and a middle post. Also, they’re low, so much so that the typical under-the-bed style storage is a no-go. Also, the toilet paper issued by the school is the single ply institutional variety. I was also happy that we decided to move her belongings in reusable plastic bins (clear, with lids) instead of cardboard boxes. It was a good decision because they were easy to lift and store, and withstood some scattered rain.

From there we went to Woodenheads for dinner. We were starving and the restaurant was very busy.

Thankfully I had made a reservation. After eating an entire pizza I was persuaded to go for gelato at Mio’s next door. (OK, so I didn’t need much convincing.) Then it was time to go home.

As you can imagine, I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time we arrived. I continue to feel like a wrung out old sponge.

Thinking back, I’m shocked that I somehow managed to keep my sh!t together and not turn into a blubbering mess during moving day. I suppose I was too busy to think about it. I will say this: it has not been a completely dry-eyed experience. I’ve burst into tears in a few different places over these past few days.

(1) In line at my favourite donut shop. I was picking up a dozen doughnuts and there was a young family in line behind me. The two little girls were very young. One was barely walking and was trying to toddle away on her short little legs and big padded diaper butt. The other had long blonde hair and was peering out from underneath a baseball cap while weaving in and out of the line. The parents were patient, the girls were lovely. I was going to tell them so, but I bit my lip. I knew that as soon as I opened my mouth, the tears would start and possibly never stop.

(2) At home, the night before. I think the emotional roller coaster was taking its toll. We’re so proud of our eldest and her accomplishments. I’m happy, no, THRILLED that she has the opportunity to move out and have some great new experiences, ones that will shape her as a person and that she’ll always remember. Selfishly, I am terribly sad at the same time I am terribly happy. I can’t describe how much I will miss her friendly face and her sparkling chatter. Also, she’s an expert hugger, the kind of person who greets loved ones with open arms and a smile. I already feel like a droopy plant, deprived of water and sun. What will I do without her?

An awful confession: I’ve found myself wondering if I loved her enough. Did enough. Gave enough. Taught her enough. Done MORE things together. Made muffins! We never did buy her those dress shoes she needed. We never figured out how to play Munchkin. Or poker. (I even bought gambling candy!) Why didn’t I made more time for her? Did I really do my very best? I’m not sure if I did. Was I the best parent I could have been? What about those times she wanted a hug and I really just wanted to read my book? What about those times I didn’t want to build a sand castle? Should we have lingered longer, in those moments that mean the most: all those starry nights on the beach, those sunny days lazing in the pool, those picnics in the park.

Picnic at the Arboretum

Who’ll do my puzzle with me when the nights start to get longer? She’s way better than puzzling than I am.

(3) We came home with one less person in the car. After we unpacked and returned the rental I poked my head in her bedroom, newly emptied of many of her things and looking rather dusty and sad. There was a flattened penny, face down on her dresser. We often collected these on our travels. Maybe you’ve seen them. You put a penny in a machine, (along with your loonie for payment), pick your iconic touristy image, and crank a handle that controls the mechanism which flattens the penny and makes the impression of your choice. This one was an image of a chipmunk, a souvenir from Bon Echo Provincial Park. I’d totally forgotten about it and of course, I cried.

(4) I promised myself I wouldn’t be that mom, texting my kid a million times with a million questions… even though I was dying to know how it was going. Later that evening she sent a (voluntary!) text giving me the lowdown on a few key issues (my issues, of course) including news of new friends and a healthy dinner. I cried. (Question: so how many texts per day is too many??)

(5) Today I had to drop off some library books and pick up milk. I wasn’t sure what stores were open on Labour Day so I swung by Loblaws, hoping I’d be lucky and buy ingredients to make a proper dinner, which is something I haven’t had the heart to do this past while. During this short time in the car my sadness manifested in rage. Bad drivers, beware of this mama. One dude blew a stop sign right in front of me at Carlingwood Mall, just before he pulled over and parked. I slowed my car next to his as he was getting out of the car, my finger resting on the power window button. I was *this close* to screaming at him, but I refrained. (This is how road rage happens, people.)

Loblaws was closed, so I crossed the street to the Shopper’s Drug Mart parking lot where I pulled into a spot and cried.

(6) I’ve cried writing this post, thinking back on how quickly those 18 years have gone. It’s strange how it seems so long ago, and also, just yesterday. I remember the trip to the hospital, the first breath of life, the first day at home, first steps, first birthday, first words, first day at school. It breaks my heart thinking back to all those firsts. Did I appreciate them as much as I should have at the time? And what about all those days in between? I knew they were limited, but I didn’t pay close enough attention as they passed me by.

The rational side of me is aware that Kingston isn’t far, and that she’ll be back for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Spring Break and all next summer, but I can’t help myself. I also know that I can wait until the holidays to pull out that 1000 piece puzzle, and that we can still learn how to play poker, and we can still check out the things we’ve always talked about but never made the time to experience for ourselves. We can make muffins! I also know that when she comes back I will hug her tighter and for as long as she wants, and when we’re holding hands under the stars I will take a deep breath and fill this hole in my heart with the memory of a moment in time with one of the people I love most in the world. In the meantime, I’ll just have to soldier on and pretend everything is ok.

20 Responses to "All the times I’ve cried these last few days"

1 | andrea tomkins

September 4th, 2017 at 5:28 pm


I should also say THANK YOU to everyone who reached out over the past few days! I really appreciate your love and support. xo

3 | andrea tomkins

September 4th, 2017 at 5:48 pm


Thank you LDC!

4 | Nora Wood

September 4th, 2017 at 6:17 pm


Now I have to dry MY tears brought on by reading about yours. Lovely post, Andrea. Thanks you for sharing.

5 | KristaR

September 5th, 2017 at 7:23 am


This lovely post made me tear up. My eldest is starting highschool today, so we have a few years ahead of us before university, but I already dread the day. Having children makes one truly understand how quickly time passes.

6 | andrea tomkins

September 5th, 2017 at 10:07 am


Thanks all. I am trying really hard to see it as something new that is beginning instead of something that is ending. (Easier said than done though…!)

7 | Shannon

September 5th, 2017 at 12:30 pm


This post made me tear up! As a Queens alumni, I remember move in day oh so well. My Dad kept making excuses for he and my Mom to stick around (Are you sure your computer is set up correctly? I can double check!) I promise your daughter is going to have the BEST time, and come to appreciate and love you even more. She is lucky to have a Mom who cares so much!

8 | joy

September 5th, 2017 at 2:00 pm


thanks for sharing… each day will get better!

9 | Misty Pratt

September 5th, 2017 at 2:20 pm


WAHHHH!!! I cried reading this post, and thinking of my two little girls. And how I’m sometimes cranky or grumpy, and don’t say “yes” to their requests to play. Sounds like you have an amazing relationship with her, and I have no doubt she will keep texting. I called my mom pretty much every day when I moved out (“mom, how do I cook a pork chop?” lol)

10 | andrea tomkins

September 5th, 2017 at 2:34 pm


Parenting has its challenges and certainly its ups and downs. On one hand I’m beating myself up not making muffins, but the rational side of me knows that I’m not a robot and am entitled to having feelings. After all the kids have grumpy days! We should too, right? I guess what I’m saying is: the only thing we can do is try the best we can, and understand that it has to be enough.

12 | Nora Kennedy

September 5th, 2017 at 9:11 pm



I remember reading this article a few years ago and knowing I would have just as tough a time when it is my turn. Thanks for sharing your story – made me teary. Sending hugs.

13 | Kristine

September 6th, 2017 at 11:34 am


Beautiful words ! I always think of parenting as a constant state of “hello…goodbye” – witnessing all of those milestones, seeing children emerge as individuals, watching them change again through developmental stages, its really not for the faint of heart! I have absolute faith that you have done your very best and have given your daughter all that she needs to be successful. Hugs to you during these tender days. Be kind and patient with yourself.

14 | Claudette

September 6th, 2017 at 11:52 am


This is transition…sigh. I bet writing it out helped you process this next milestone.

When I think back to my day of moving out, and how we did not have this direct link we do today with texting, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for parents. It’ll be a while for me still till it happens here, but reading you has opened my eyes to how many things have indeed changed (and some for the better).

Good luck!

15 | Lynn

September 6th, 2017 at 3:15 pm


*I* cried reading this post, and it isn’t even my daughter! Thanks for sharing so openly. Our oldest started Grade 9 yesterday and I have some of the same sunrise/sunset feelings, but also a feeling like the clock is ticking and I need to run, run, run to do all the things with the kids I always wanted and dreamed and planned. This post is a great reminder that NOW is the time.

16 | Sunita

September 7th, 2017 at 6:31 am


Andrea, thank you for sharing such beautiful words and the feelings closest to your heart. In a few years my daughters will leave for university and your words are very wise, reminding us to make the most of these precious few years. However, I am also a proud Queen’s alumni and was thrilled to hear of your daughter’s acceptance a few months ago. I can definitely second Shannon’s post that your daughter will have a life changing experience at Queen’s and her undergrad years will be pivotal in her personal development. I know (many years later) my mother had many of these same feelings when I left. However, you should also consider that you have parented her so well that she is a confident, intelligent young woman with the skills and self-confidence to leave the nest. Proof of the ‘good job’ you have done! I also think the occasional text sent to make her smile or laugh will be the perfect way to stay in touch and not make her too wistful of missing home. Remember to stay positive with her as she too is missing your physical closeness even while embracing all the new experiences!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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