We are on a plane heading to the Midwest from New York, and sitting next to me, the earbuds plugged in, is my 18-year-old son.

It’s early April, the start of spring.

His life as a young man is about to take off.

After cranking on his college applications this past fall — writing the essays, taking his ACTs, taking two SAT subject tests, obtaining two teacher recommendations, going on several face-to-face interviews and keeping up his grades through basketball season, part-time work and other activities — he was thrilled to be granted admittance to the college of his choice.

His parents were thrilled for him, too.

Like so many other devoted parents who deeply want the best for their children, we are on the brink of letting our son go in search of it. He will have to make his own way — and he will. We have nurtured and nudged for so many years now. He is nearly out of the nest. This is soon his time.

He'll be out of the nest, handling his own days from start to finish.

Now he and I, on this mini-trip, will finally see his future home with our own eyes. Finally get to walk the campus. Finally get to see the buildings, the people, up close. Learn even more about its programs, its opportunities, than we already know. Meet and talk with some faculty, with other parents, with other prospective students. Make sure this is the right fit for him.

Beyond all that, I'm psyched to have this one-on-one time with my kid. When they're 18, when do you get this kind of time with them? It's either at dinner on the weekends, at church, when walking the dog — or on a college visit.

After the full-day campus program, the sessions, the meetings, the flyers, the flurry — I'm planning on taking him out for a great dinner.

To cheer him on. Celebrate.

I am sure my son shares my excitement. I know he does.

I look over at him again, next to me on the plane. I feel such pride, such joy.

And this is what I see.

My son is sound asleep.

(P.S. We had a fabulous college trip. He woke up when we landed. He also took ownership of the campus visit, liked the Italian food we ate for dinner, made some new friends — and confirmed his choice of school. We both slept on the plane trip home.)

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