In 18 days, she’s coming back home for the summer!!! It is a triumph to have survived the most dreaded event of my life. I could not help but project onto my daughter my personal feelings about being away from home for the first time, so I caused myself infinitely more suffering this year than she ever came close to experiencing. It’s what I do.
During her time away, my daughter has fully embraced her new experiences. She’s in a great sorority, she participated in variety shows and charity events, she travelled to other college campuses, she has made wonderful friends, and she has her own separate identity that is hers and hers alone. Her Dad and I are extremely humbled and proud. And somehow, through all of it, my heart got BIGGER, not smaller, and we got closer, not more distant.
When my college Freshman daughter was in kindergarten, we BOTH hated it so much I had a countdown calendar in the kitchen that we eagerly scratched off the days leading up to the long-awaited summer break. I think I hated kindergarten more, come to think of it, because my Isa spent the following summer writing letters to her teacher who was helping her husband heal from cancer. That’s my girl, she stays connected to the people she cares about. I should have known the “break” for college would not be an actual break, as my heart feared.
This is my message to all the Moms who are now in my shoes, anticipating (perhaps dreading) their child’s first year of college and what lies ahead:
- Whatever groundwork has been laid before college holds the parent/child bond together;
- In spite of whatever fears you may have from your past, your child is eager to move into the future and will do so regardless of how you feel, and it will be okay;
- Your child needs to experience the world without you and vice versa – families change in many ways over time, but love makes more than enough room for the new stuff and people that will come into your life;
- Instead of thinking as the transition to college as a personal loss, remind yourself each day that it is a victory – you created and raised a child who wants to engage in this crazy world with the tools you helped nurture;
- If you are married or have a partner, be extremely proud that you did this together – and if you are still together, even more so, for staying married and releasing a young adult into the world are both enormous accomplishments.
Yes, my heart aches because the time with my daughter as a budding adult is gone. I am learning to put those feelings aside to wholeheartedly enjoy the friendship and journey we are on together. She’s not going to leave me behind, she has proven that. I can keep counting days until I see her again if I want to, but this year has shown me that our bond of togetherness is stronger than physical presence. She lives in my heart.
This summer, she has promised to take some walks with me and our dog, Pudgey. Over the winter, Pudgey and I got sort of lazy and may have put on a few pounds wallowing in self-pity. Thank goodness the Commander is on her way back home to whip us into shape!
The Commander! Love It! You and Mike have done terrific work raising good people, Joan. I’m proud to call you my friend.