Last week, Lindsay Wheeler, a Wilton chick who has grown and flown the nest, wrote an essay for us about how Wilton will always be home even after venturing out on her own, a message directed to parents on “How to Say Goodbye.” But what about the fledglings who haven’t yet learned to fly? How do they feel staying back while seeing the bigger bird brothers and sisters fly away?

Wilton High School junior Maya Fazio was inspired to put together her thoughts about it after reading Wheeler’s article. Maya said her own goodbyes to her older brother (above) who has just started his first year at the University of Virginia. Her take is a poignant one from a Wilton teen that gives sweet insight on how life goes on in Wilton.

Back-to-school season is always a very exciting and stressful time for everyone, especially when someone is leaving for college. Students going off to college try to spend every last minute at home with their friends and family. They consume countless hours packing up (basically) their whole lives to take to their new homes away from home. After many trips to Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, and Walmart they soon drive or fly off to college and away from home.

For parents, sending a child off to college can be a very bittersweet experience. Just the very idea of sending their once little girl or boy off to school can be too much to handle for some parents. It makes them tear up when they are making the bed in the dorm room as well as when they walk away, leaving their child alone to fend for themselves in a foreign place, away from home. Parents often wrack their brains trying to make sure that their baby has everything he or she needs:  fans, blankets, chargers, and enough clothes to last them until they come back to visit.

They’ve spent the whole summer preparing their child–teaching her how to do laundry, warm up ready-made meals, and iron her own clothes. Parents fret…will he be okay? Will he wake on time for his classes. Yet, nothing seems to prepare moms and dads how they’re going to feel once their child is gone. They enforce a calling and texting schedule ranging from daily to weekly, throwing in a FaceTime or Skype session here or there. Conventional wisdom says when a student goes to college, parents are undeniably more upset than anyone…but I’d argue that siblings have it tougher.

From a stereotypical sibling standpoint, it’s usually seen as an opportunity to take over an older brother or sister’s room or steal their clothes. But I found it to be almost completely different when my brother left for his freshman year last month. I tagged along to all the college visits and meetings. I went to help shop for supplies in order to prepare. I helped him pack, I made the seven hour journey with my family, and once we arrived, I helped him unpack and organize for two days.

Since only two grades separated my older brother and me, he played an important role in my life growing up. Older siblings often become role models and someone you go to for advice. It is just the two of us and since he has left for college, it feels like I am an only child now. I am left with an unsettling feeling because I have never known life without him. I find myself missing the little things–driving to school together, little disagreements that blow over right after they happen, trying to convince our parents to let us do something, and basically just knowing that you have someone there for whatever might happen.

All the attention turns to the child left behind in the house and it becomes strange having your parents’ undivided attention. At the dinner table, you find yourself having to speak in place of where your sibling would tell the family how his day went. Throughout your daily life, you may see something that he left behind and instantly find yourself missing him. You’ll often start counting the days until he comes home. The house is quiet without him and the environment doesn’t feel quite right.
Having a sibling leave for college makes you realize his role, either big or small, in your life.

It’s a bittersweet experience–bitter because a chapter is being closed and students are venturing off to new, uncharted land, but very sweet because of all the opportunities that they will be able to encounter and learn from. They are beginning a new part of their life, while using all of the things that their family, friends, peers, and teachers have taught the along the way.

Going to college is a big deal for not only students, but their families too. I wish good luck to the class of 2020–and the ones watching from afar.