It’s been 20 days since we dropped our firstborn child in another state, to start the next chapter of his life. No question the last month has been an emotional one. Well actually, the last 18 years!!
Having kids makes everything more emotional and raw. From the moment you see their face, your heart is forever beating outside your chest. Motherhood makes every emotion more raw…whether it be joy or pain, love or pride. Everything is felt more intensely, and never with an on/off switch.
We spent 18 years preparing him for life beyond our home, but it never occurred to me that I’d need preparing, too. It’s just what you do…raise them up, and send them off. But I never paused to think about what ‘sending them off’ would actually feel like for me.
Dropping him at college and walking away was the single hardest thing I’ve done as a mother. I know it’s the natural order of life, but saying goodbye that college drop-off day was the most unnatural thing I’ve done. Everything in me wants to keep him to myself, but I know setting him free is what’s best for him. It’s the single biggest sacrifice I’ll make as a mother. Letting him fly at the expense of my own fragile heart.
Our heads tell us they’re where they’re supposed to be, and of course they’ll be back, but our hearts tell a different story. I’m so full of pride, yet heartbroken by his departure. I can only describe it as devastating joy.
Graphic Tee | Similar Shorts | Sneakers | Backpack
It was a long drive home, and a sad few days after, with lots (and lots!) of tears. But after a week or so, he started to get a rhythm in his new life, and I could see the excitement and pride in his face (praise God for FaceTime!), and my heart began to heal.
We’re finding our own new rhythm at home, with just the three of us. And even though it still feels like something is missing, we’re getting used to it. I’m not just mourning the absence of his daily presence, but the realization that our family life will never look the same again.
It’s a new chapter for all of us, and just like most changes, this one will take some time. But one thing is certain, he’s where he’s supposed to be, and blowing us away with how smoothly he’s adapting. We did our job, and he’s reaping the fruits of our labor. Just as it should be.
When I look at these photos, I no longer see my little boy…I see a confident young man. He’s sure in who he is, and focused on the man he wants to become. We gave him the tools, now it’s his turn to use them.
We also gave him some new gear for college life…including a stack of his favorite Patagonia tees, comfy sneakers, and a sturdy backpack.
Graphic Tee | Similar Shorts | Sneakers | Backpack
He chose the classic Herschel Supply backpack, in a sturdy cotton canvas material. It’s got plenty of space for his books and laptop, plus a media pocket for his phone. The straps are padded for a comfortable fit, and the flap has a magnetic snap to stay safely closed.
He’s been wearing Vans sneakers for years and loves all the styles they offer. The Vans Old Skool offers more support for the long walks across campus, and are a great price!
Oklahoma gets significantly colder Winters than Texas, so he’ll be reaching for his fave fleece pullovers more often. And I feel more comfortable knowing he’s got the essentials he needs to be comfortable, and also look and feel his best.
Graphic Tee | Similar Shorts | Sneakers | Backpack | Pullover Jacket
Graphic Tee | Similar Shorts | Sneakers | Backpack | Pullover Jacket
College move-in day was exciting and devastating, but I’m so grateful to be this guy’s mom, and have a front row seat to his life. It’s been the best 18 years of my life, and I’ve loved every season of being his mother, so I’m clinging to the hope that this next season is no different.
Go soar, precious son, you’ve already made us proud!
His T-Shirt | My Shorts | My Sneakers
I wouldn’t have made it through this last month without the love and encouragement from all of you! The outpouring of support is humbling, and I’ve loved hearing your own testimonies and experiences.
What happens after they leave isn’t something that’s talked about much, and I know I felt completely blind-sided by the emotions. Hearing you felt the same assured me I wasn’t alone. You also told me it would get better…and you were right! It’s better every day.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and opening your hearts to our family. I’m forever grateful to this community and your capacity to share love.
I totally can sympathize! We dropped our daughter, and only child, off at college a few weeks ago in another state. My husband and I are totally traumatized. But she is happy and thriving! She is a dance/business major and was just cast in her first show! I am simply relying on God to pave the way during this new chapter in our lives. Mostly I worry about her safety, choosing the right friends, and finding the right church(: But every minute of every day I just miss her(: You have a handsome and well adjusted kiddo. And he has to be the best dressed guy on campus! Well done Mama!!!
Although my daughter is 4 years out of college I remember those college bound emotions very well and she was only 40 minutes away.
The most heart wrenching was watching her walk away at the airport to her next adventure, a semester in London in her junior year. I couldn’t breath until I knew she was safely at her new dorm. All those old first grade feelings of “will she’ have someone to eat lunch with” came flooding back. Within hours of her first night there my husband showed me her Instagram picture of four hands and four wine glasses with the caption, “a toast to new friends, “ I knew everything was going to be fine and the first grade mom in me could relax a little. You will get through it because you raised confident son!
So with u on this one! A couple of years ago our daughter was doing a semester in Prague! Definitely the best semester of her life and the worst of mine! Missed her terribly! Even though I went to visit. Leaving them at an airport to go to a place they have never been is the most terrifying thing for a parent… I think or at least so far in my life! But it was the best thing for her… had the time of her life and learned soooooo much!
Hi Cassie! This post… I dropped off our oldest at college a couple weeks ago (sadly my hubby couldn’t make it ~ he’s a teacher and it was his teacher day that he couldn’t miss) and I can feel your emotions in every. single. picture. You sure hit it right on the head when you said devastating joy! I don’t know if yours has come home yet, but ours came home this past weekend for a quick visit and it was NOT easy to send him off again. Be prepared! But we are trusting that he is right where God wants him, has already gone thru a stressful week of changing his major, and now comes the fun part of watching him fly. I had to laugh at the one picture because Bob Ross must be a staple in boys’ dorms as my son and his roommate have one of his posters up too. I’ve honestly been praying for you and all my other mom-friends who have gone thru this separation recently and become a member of the Sisterhood of the Departing College Student club! Blessings!
It is so very difficult to let them go, but is so wonderful in a few years when they marry and give you grandbabies. The love for grandchildren is the best kind of love! You can spoil them like crazy!
As a college professor, thought I was prepared, since the college where I teach is where our eldest went to college in our town, so even then it is hard. When our daughter chose to go to a college on the East Coast, we were thrilled since she has a physical disability. For a time when she was a child, we thought she might have to live with us forever, which changes her perspective. She met a girl there whose sister became our wonderful daughter in law and mother to our 3 granddaughters. There are blessings! Our youngest was the hardest for me. He attended the local college and lived at home then worked in a nearby town for 6 years. When he moved to the East Coast for a job at age 26, I had a delayed sorrow reaction. All now live far from us but they have rewarding jobs that our small town just cannot provide. God is good.
I can tell you that it will get easier, but I still cry when my son leaves each year. He is a senior at a college out of state. Your words resonated with me when I dropped him off the first time 3 years ago. You feel so thrilled for them, but sad for yourself. You have to redefine your life at home. Your daughter will enjoy your undivided attention and your son will flourish on his own. When you go for Family day and when he comes home for Thanksgiving, you will see so much growth. Those events will be hard for you too, but you will beam with pride, and that will make it easier. We do raise them to be independent and fly away, but mothering them is an absolute blessing, and for me the most important thing I have ever done. Praying for a sense of peace as you navigate your new life.
Man, that first photo just brings it all back! We just dropped off for year two… still difficult, but less tears. Just as an FY I had to go all through it again in January too. I totally stole this off FB, but it’s just so so so true.
“It’s not a death. And it’s not a tragedy. But it’s not nothing, either…”💔 I feel like this little boy walked out the door today, not the fine young man we’ve raised. Today is hard. Very hard.
“I wasn’t wrong about their leaving. My husband kept telling me I was. That it wasn’t the end of the world when first one child, then another , and then the last packed their bags and left for college.
But it was the end of something. “Can you pick me up, Mom?” “What’s for dinner?” “What do you think?”
I was the sun and they were the planets. And there was life on those planets, whirling, non stop plans and parties and friends coming and going, and ideas and dreams and the phone ringing and doors slamming.
And I got to beam down on them. To watch. To glow.
And then they were gone, one after the other.
“They’ll be back,” my husband said. And he was right. They came back. But he was wrong, too, because they came back for intervals — not for always, not planets anymore, making their predictable orbits, but unpredictable, like shooting stars.
Always is what you miss. Always knowing where they are. At school. At play practice. At a ballgame. At a friend’s. Always looking at the clock mid day and anticipating the door opening, the sigh, the smile, the laugh, the shrug. “How was school?” answered for years in too much detail. “And then he said . . . and then I said to him. . . .” Then hardly answered at all.
Always, knowing his friends.
Her favorite show.
What he had for breakfast.
What she wore to school.
What he thinks.
How she feels.
My friend Beth’s twin girls left for Roger Williams yesterday. They are her fourth and fifth children. She’s been down this road three times before. You’d think it would get easier.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do without them,” she has said every day for months.
And I have said nothing, because, really, what is there to say?
A chapter ends. Another chapter begins. One door closes and another door opens. The best thing a parent can give their child is wings. I read all these things when my children left home and thought then what I think now: What do these words mean?
Eighteen years isn’t a chapter in anyone’s life. It’s a whole book, and that book is ending and what comes next is connected to, but different from, everything that has gone before.
Before was an infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager. Before was feeding and changing and teaching and comforting and guiding and disciplining, everything hands -on. Now?
Now the kids are young adults and on their own and the parents are on the periphery, and it’s not just a chapter change. It’s a sea change.
As for a door closing? Would that you could close a door and forget for even a minute your children and your love for them and your fear for them, too. And would that they occupied just a single room in your head. But they’re in every room in your head and in your heart.
As for the wings analogy? It’s sweet. But children are not birds. Parents don’t let them go and build another nest and have all new offspring next year.
Saying goodbye to your children and their childhood is much harder than all the pithy sayings make it seem. Because that’s what going to college is. It’s goodbye.
It’s not a death. And it’s not a tragedy.
But it’s not nothing, either.
To grow a child, a body changes. It needs more sleep. It rejects food it used to like. It expands and it adapts.
To let go of a child, a body changes, too. It sighs and it cries and it feels weightless and heavy at the same time.
The drive home alone without them is the worst. And the first few days. But then it gets better. The kids call, come home, bring their friends, fill the house with their energy again.
Life does go on.
“Can you give me a ride to the mall?” “Mom, make him stop!” I don’t miss this part of parenting, playing chauffeur and referee. But I miss them, still, all these years later, the children they were, at the dinner table, beside me on the couch, talking on the phone, sleeping in their rooms, safe, home, mine….”
– Beverly Beckham
I hope things go well for you…..they didn’t for me. We shouldn’t take credit or blame for our children. Things happen that are out of our control and life doesn’t go according to our plan anymore.
Great post but the linking made it disingenuous. Best of luck to your son in college.
I’m sorry you feel that way, but the fact that I got paid to do my job today doesn’t alter or change my feelings and emotions. My intent is to share with other women who can relate, and I’m fortunate to work with brands that allow me the space to completely be myself. xo. C
That picture had me crying ugly tears. I’ve been there, too, many years ago, but I still remember vividly…. it is beyond difficult. It gets better, eventually, when you know he’s happy and thriving, when the homesickness subsides and the heartache turns to looking forward to the day he comes home for a visit, and you realize you just used the word visit. He’s becoming the man you hoped he’d be someday. Take heart in that! I promise…. it gets better….. maybe not ever exactly as you wish it to be, but it will get better as you discover what your new normal is going to be. Sending a hug your way…..
OMG this took me right back! Both my kids (daughter and son) have graduated and are living far away now and that moment was so raw.
What occurred to me during those senior years of high school and drop off days was that yes I was going to miss my 18 year old kids but that I never really got to say goodbye to the 2 year old babies, or the 10 year old kids. They just quietly left. And so I really do miss ALL of them and that moment is the moment I had to say goodbye to all versions of them (and of course me too) I miss being “mommy” to the little ones and ” mom “to the older ones.
Its great now visiting them and our adult relationship is so fun and interesting. They are amazing : ) and I still cry every single time I hug them goodbye (my god how in the world will I get through a wedding!!???)
I’ve experienced your pain with my oldest two. The second time wasn’t any easier than the first. Both of my boys chose to have careers in the military so we’ve had many see you laters. Dropping them off at the recruiters office to prepare to head to basic training. After spending 2 glorious days with them at graduation before they depart for the next phase of their training. And of course the deployments. When they left for basic I truly went through a grieving process for a few weeks and would start crying at the drop of a hat. When we went to their graduations I cried practically all the way home (in my oldest case it was a 2 day drive!). To compound things while they were at basic there was no phone calls, skype, etc. I didn’t think I’d survive it but I’m here to tell you it does get better and you will adjust to your new normal. Give yourself time and allow yourself to feel the loss you feel. I remember waking up one day and thinking to myself “wow, I didn’t cry yesterday”. Hang in there; you got this.
Hi Cassie, All the happy comments are well said and put together☺️. I couldn’t have said it better. Therefore, sending you lots of love to you and your family 😚😙😘. Hope it gets easier 😚
I expect it’s particularly hard for parents in the US because kids often move several states away from home (which is mindboggling to my Canadian brain). Kids here usually go to the university of their hometown and most of them stay at home while going to university or living in an apartment not far from Campus. Unless you go to a crazy “ivy league” school that’s outside your hometown, you don’t really move provinces away! So, I can only imagine the pain of having your child move away so far from home. But yeah, it’s definitely harder for mom and dad than the kid who just found his/her freedom ;P