My Facebook page was filled with photos and stories of college move-ins this past weekend. Many of my friends took their sons and daughters to move away from them for the first time. My heart broke as I could just feel the mixture of emotions. Happiness because the great accomplishment and adventure that is college, but also deep sadness in letting go. I remember when my parents moved me in at Texas A&M back in August of 1998. I was so scared, and yet ecstatic at the same time. Watching them drive away, knowing my mom was crying, was one of the hardest moments at that point of my life. But, independence is the necessary rite of passage to becoming a successful and stable adult. It is the goal, and where the growth is. College is really the first time that these lessons are learned and we have our first taste of it. But for these mamas, it’s a newness, too. Since I still have four more years until I am the mama in this scenario, I decided to reach out to other mothers who have been where you are, for some much-needed advice and comfort. As I have read through these submissions, I think the most profound conclusion is that it’s ok to be a mess right now. Don’t feel like you have to hurry and be ok if you’re struggling… and that it does get easier with time. Some of these ladies have said this same goodbye 4 or 5 times, so let their words soak in deeply and bring you peace.
“Mothering is always a journey. My desire was that my kids would pursue a profession, whatever needed to be THEIR path – music, theater, academics – and that I would be ready to let them follow that path for their life. Some of my kids knew what they wanted to do, some didn’t – but I knew that these college years would be the time they needed to find their own way. By the time they were seniors in High School, I realized that they were ready to go, and I didn’t want to stifle them or hold them back… so I did my best to just let them go. Tears are ok – I remember when we dropped my daughter off to school, we moved her in, and lingered to say goodbye. My husband and I both cried as we drove away. A little while later, she called and said she had already made a friend and was feeling better. My husband and I wiped our tears and knew she was going to be ok. One of our children recently moved to Chicago – a drastic environment from Ellis County and the safety we feel here in a small town. This was harder, as he is farther – but again, this is his path and every day we have to remember that and choose to support and love him from a distance. Overall, the letting go is all hard but all good, too. It’s ok to feel a little lost, and to cry and talk about how you’re feeling. Give your child a call – you never know when that call or text will be the exact right timing for them. Maybe they’re having a rough day and hearing from their mom that they are amazing and can do anything is just what they needed. Last thing…. My 88-year-old mama STILL struggles every time I leave her house. She cleans up quickly after I leave because the traces of me can still tug at her heart. So these feelings of letting go don’t ever really go away for us mamas… but we can hold on to the moments we have with our kids, and when it’s time to let them go again, we can know that we’ve done everything we can to help them fly.”
– Mom of 4
“One of the things I thought about when my daughters went to school was before too long, when they came home, there was just this evident growth and maturity. It seemed like the responsibility they took on in caring for themselves and their own well-being while away, really gave them a sense of independence. And I felt like we went from “mother and daughter” to “mother, daughter, and friend”. There were still times of tension, but mostly just excitement and appreciation for the times we had together when they came home.
– Mom of 3
You know what I wanted to be my whole life? A mama. And the Lord gifted me with my two kids. What a beautiful answer to my prayers. You know the hardest thing I ever did? Drive away from their college without them. Even though I was excited for them and perfectly happy about their wise choice, my heart was hurting. They both chose a school in California, so after I dropped them off, I drove to the beach to sit and talk with God. I watched and listened to the waves and felt the sun warming my face and His Presence was unavoidable. He commands the waves, He lights our days, He sustains us, He is merciful. And He loves my children (His children) more than I can imagine. That day I handed them over to Him in a new way. He has them. And He has me… and every one of us that has gone or is going through this “letting go” phase. May the Lord bless you and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you… and bring you peace.
– Mom of 2
“My main thought is that while it is hard to watch them go, as a parent, that was my job…to raise them TO go. And that, now as I see them walking and working in their giftedness, it brings much more joy than sorrow. Embrace the different. Things won’t be the same, but don’t allow the sadness of letting go fool you into believing that’s a bad thing. Allow yourself to feel the hard, sad, things, but don’t live there. After drop off, whether you still have kids at home, or you’re about to enter a REALLY new phase of having an empty nest, don’t go straight home. Take a day or two, or even a few hours, to let the new settle in before you walk back into your home without the one you just left. Find some other parents who have just had the same experience as you and commiserate, be willing to learn from others and also let others learn from you. And ultimately, I know they’re not really mine to begin with and I have to trust the One who knew them before they were born. When I leave them in His hands, I know they’re exactly where they need to be.”
– Mom of 3
“Initially my son only moved 30 minutes away to Navarro but he NEEDED to move away. I cried, but also tried to realize that he had been raised right, to make good choices (still didn’t all the time). But he had to learn that you cannot trust everyone, you have to take care of your business (mom doesn’t wake you up, professors really don’t care if you come to class), your apartment won’t look like your parents’ house (we worked years for our stuff!) and no one loves you like your mom! Moms, you just have to trust they will remember all you taught them, pray over them every day, and do NOT ask questions that you don’t want the answer to. Also, you will begin to sleep easier, not waiting for them to come home each night but the first school holiday that they are back is an eye opener! They have been independent, but they are “back under your roof”… don’t fight it. Enjoy their independence! And just so you know, you did a good job of raising them. Give them a few years and they will even acknowledge it!! Most of all prayer over them and for them EVERY DAY!”
– Mom of 1
“When you start reading this, you’ll think it’s not very encouraging… but hang with me! When we dropped off our oldest son back in August of 2016, he was joining the Corps of Cadets at A&M. The vision of him walking away down the sidewalk still haunts me to this day. If anyone had seen me crying, they would’ve thought I had just lost a child to death. There were times, I felt like he died. I couldn’t call him, and he couldn’t call me as he was going through Freshman Orientation Week with the corps. It was absolute hell for both of us but for different reasons. I’m not proud of this, but I went in his closet and smelled his dang clothes. I laid on his bed with his high school class ring on my finger and cried and cried. I missed him so much that I went through a literal period of grieving with all its phases. I think it is important to feel what you feel fully and make sure you explore the depths of the emotion. Be in it completely. But don’t stay there. To get out, I would think about the moms who had to bury their children, never to be seen again. That helped me to keep my perspective. I knew that, not only was my son launching, but that I was entering a new phase of life that would end up with me alone with no one left to parent. Since the day I brought our first son home, I’ve been a stay at home mom. I love parenting so so much and I was good at it. What was I going to do without kids to help grow and cheer on? So I started to think about what I wanted to do after they were all gone. With 4 stair-stepped kids (graduated one in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019), I had to have a bigger mission to focus on or I feared that I would haunt them all in college, making my rounds to each. That goal became getting my teaching certificate. It helped to focus away from the loss of kids and instead concentrate on the gain of a new profession. With #2, it was definitely easier. I was familiar with the wave of emotions that I had to ride and knew that I was strong enough to get through them. Of course, it helped that she was only 40 minutes away. But the rub there is that you can’t just drive up and see your child. College campuses are off-limits to parents unless it is during designated windows. She could drive down to see me but I couldn’t just pop in on her. She had all the power and I had to wait for her to want to see me. That was another adjustment to make. Fortunately, I had other kids at home to focus on. Our third child was a hard one to let go because he took his music with him. I would look at the piano and burst into tears. I loved hearing his piano like King Saul was calmed by David’s harp. And our fourth …oh my goodness! She’s my baby. I was fine dropping her off because I knew I would see her soon. We didn’t quite finish moving her in and had a list of items we needed to buy and bring to her. Still, that night as I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink, I unexpectedly yelled out “I miss her!” Then I proceeded to cry an ugly cry. I’m crying as I write this now. It’s hard knowing that I won’t hear her stories every day. She is very verbal and I love to help her process her day, reliving her triumphs and trials. We have a close mother-daughter bond, but I am humbled to catch glimpses of that sacred friendship territory that I hope to have with my grown children. So what’s my advice for mom’s going through this? Feel the feels in all their glorious pain but keep perspective that this is what you’ve been working for. Communicate to your kids what you need in the way of phone calls home and hold them to it. They shouldn’t ignore you just because they are in this exciting new life. It’s okay to set expectations of how they should honor you. Make plans with people that you enjoy spending time with so you have something to look forward to. Look at the calendar and pencil in Parent’s Weekend or the first football game. They will have some friends by then and it is good for the soul to see them enjoying their new life. If they live in an apartment, buy groceries and go cook a meal with them. They will love smelling a familiar recipe from home. The image of you cooking will linger after you leave. If the grieving process is still too much to endure for whatever reason, and you feel like your heart is getting crushed, you have to find another purpose to focus on. Get outside of yourself and look around; the needs are great. Help the elderly, help the orphan, help the widow. Doesn’t matter which ministry. They all need your help. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that your feelings are irrational. This is a life-transition that must be walked through thoughtfully. Not everyone is handling this well so don’t compare your insides with their outsides. You are not alone in wishing for those little babies that relied solely on you and couldn’t get enough of you. But I did my job and find great comfort in knowing that I gave of every piece of me to them. I surrendered my needs to theirs so they could flourish. Think I’ll go see the movie Where’d you go, Bernadette this weekend…” 🙂
– Mom of 4
“Growth is good, for my kids and me. The “letting go” process is a time of growth for all of us. It is ok for my kids to make mistakes and fail. (Ugh) I have to remember that I usually learn more from my mistakes than easy successes. If I try to fix their circumstances, I am robbing them of an opportunity to grow. If their mistakes are a reflection on my shortcomings as a parent (which is not always, or even typically the case), it is an opportunity for all of us to reflect, re-train, regroup and try again. God’s promises are true, for my kids AND me as I let them spread their wings. God’s plans for my kids may be very different than mine. But, if I trust that he is “ordering their steps” and that he “works all things together for the good of those he has called,” then I can rest in the knowledge that He has them covered. My kids still need me, maybe not as a Director or Planner, but certainly as an Encourager and Unconditional Lover of Their Souls.”
– Mom of 5
“Have lots and lots of tissues handy! Seriously though, it’s such a process. I think at first when you get those “empty” feelings you have to remind yourself that this is what it’s about- teaching your kids to be self-reliant and strong, independent individuals that are secure enough in their faith, their family and in themselves to make the jump whether it’s away to college or off to DC to fight the bad guys- (which is where mine is). But on a more tangible note, and this is going to sound funny, but Snapchat has weirdly helped. If I get one quick picture from her each day (to keep our streaks alive) – even if it’s just a picture of her coffee cup, with a caption like “Monday’s suck.” It helps by giving me a glimpse into her day and helps me feel connected even when we’re both too busy to talk. Of course I don’t know what I’d do without FaceTime. Just to be able to see her face when we talk has been a lifesaver. We try to do this about twice a week. Like I said before- it’s a process and some days are definitely harder than others. It helps to remember when you’re feeling those feelings of loss that ultimately it’s a good thing because you did a good job as a parent preparing them for the world and all that’s ahead of them.”
– Mom of 2