Last night, we did our annual family photo shoot.

I thought it would be funny if we took some photos of all of us looking sad and waving good-bye to Andrew, who heads off to college on Thursday. When I looked at the photos this morning, they made me laugh. But they weren’t all acting. They are meant to be funny, but they also tell a sarcastic version of a true story of how we might all just fall apart at the end of this week.

It’s interesting to me how every person in our family brings something special that makes us who we are as a group. When you remove one person — for a week or a day or a college semester — it changes the family dynamic.

I’ve always described Andrew as the glue. He has this way of bringing people together and holding us all together.

When the kids were little and their friends would come over, Andrew was always the one who would organize everyone to be part of a game or activity. He has made up so many games over the years that have become standard at our house. Our kids refer to games like “Tramp Ball” as if they are something that everyone should know about. (This is a game involving a big rubber ball and a trampoline, by the way.)

I remember when he went off to kindergarten, his brother and sister would have play dates without him. They would come to me constantly, asking what they should do for fun. I realized it was because their older brother was missing! He was the one who usually came up with a fun idea, coordinated everyone and organized the activity.

Andrew has never grown out of having fun. This summer, he took his 9-year-old sister to the store to get some light sabers. All summer long, this 18-year-old and his little 9-year-old sister were running around the house and yard, having light saber battles.

He’s cool with going to the zoo or going to the pool or on a hike. He has a way of bringing other people along and creating a group that will have fun doing whatever.

He’s also been a friend to everyone. For the past few years, he sat with a group of kids at lunch that he might not have picked for daily lunch mates. They were all very different from him, but somehow, he managed to start conversations, get to know what they were about and just be there for them.

He’s also never been the kind of kid I had to ask to come out of his room. Andrew has become a great friend to me because he’s always hanging around in the main part of the house, ready to have a conversation. I have bounced so many ideas off of him, consulted him when I had to make a hard decision and discussed hard topics with him. I’m going to miss our talks!

It will be interesting to see how our dynamic changes once he steps out for a bit. I know that the other kids are going to grow in new ways to fill those gaps. It will challenge them to rise up in areas where they might not have been stretched before.

I’m excited to see how he will grow when he’s off at college. He won’t walk in as the “oldest child” who people automatically respect because of his place in the family. I think he will enjoy starting fresh and being in a new environment. He’s going to love being around people with common interests. And he’s going to be challenged in so many new ways!

As the day draws nearer, I’m reconciling our new reality. I know we’re all going to be OK. The college schedule is full of breaks and family visits, so it’s not like he’s moving to another country.

But we might all just fall apart for a little bit without our glue.

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Do you have any advice for me as we send our firstborn off to college? Leave me a comment!

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