The Goodbye Year“The Goodbye Year” by Toni Piccinini
c.2013, Seal Press
$16.00 / $18.95 Canada
251 pages

You’ve been thinking about what you’ll do with the room.

You’ll probably leave it as a bedroom, just in case. You might put a desk in there, maybe a bookcase, perhaps a table for crafts.

For sure, you’ll take down the posters.

You’ve been thinking about that room because it’ll be empty pretty soon. And in “The Goodbye Year” by Toni Piccinini, you’ll learn how to deal with the sad inevitability of your child’s going away to college.

Just before the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, Toni Piccinini’s husband found her folding their daughter’s clothes and weeping. Page would soon be a senior in high school, and Piccinini realized that life was changing too fast.

It would be a year of “The Last Time.” The last time sharing “every seasonal moment… as a family.”  Even friendships with other mothers were jeopardized: says Piccinini, “When our kids graduated in June, I wouldn’t see much of the women with whom I had spent most of the last two decades.”

Then, on a lark, Piccinini, who had once owned a restaurant with her husband, seized an offer to teach cooking classes. Close friends were the first to sign up; others eagerly joined them. Piccinini began to see the classes as Me Time, something enjoyable that didn’t have to do with the topic of kids, colleges, SATs, or grades.

And yet, Page’s senior year was bittersweet and worthy of pride. “Time flies,” says Piccinini, and everything becomes more precious but The Lasts are survivable – with the right attitude. “It’s all in how you choose to handle your child’s senior year…” she says. You can congratulate yourself for the great job you did in raising a decent human being, or you can “spin like a top with worry.”  You can micromanage the final months of high school, or accept that “It’s her life” and that you have one, too.

And just think: next fall, when it’s time for College Move-In Day, you can toast yourself for “a job well done and to the beginning of a beautiful, adult relationship with that lovely human being who just happens to be your child.”

And then, “Get out of there fast.”

In my eyes, “The Goodbye Year” can’t seem to decide what kind of book it wants to be.

Author Toni Piccinini writes about her year as the mother of a high school senior, and the attendant worries. There’s plenty of off-topic biography here – both Piccinini’s and that of her mother – as well as scenes from life with Piccinini’s sons. We get gossipy sex-and-marriage tips, quips about aging, chirpy Mom-Power advice, and recipes followed by self-help-ish ideas.

I felt as though I’d dropped this book and it splattered. Everywhere.

Yes, there’s some good here and subtle advice for mothers of high school seniors but there’s a lot to plow through to find it. If you’ve got time for that, go ahead… but for the average busy mom, “The Goodbye Year” is a book you won’t want to say “hello” to.