Ready to Go?

After high school, many of our kids go on to college. Unlike in other countries, this transition is made seamlessly, without more than a summer break. We send our eighteen year olds off to their next stage, often without knowing if they are ready to go. Many have the option to stay home and attend a local university or community college but legions march off into dormitories every year for their first real taste of living alone.

When my older kids made this journey, I was, at first, unsure as to whether they were ready to go. I looked at them over their high school years and could not fathom their independent life.  But then things began to change.

How did you know your kids were ready to go?

ready to go?, little child walking alone, child


A few thoughts:

As the days shortened to their departures, they made a concerted effort to spend more time at home. They thought about which nights we would have family dinners, sacrificing their social lives to be with us, something they had never willingly done before. They recognized the enormity of the change they were about to make and, to me, that helped signal that they were ready to go.

During high school, my kids often headed out the door, car keys in hand, with the words, “Mom, how do I get to….”As they entered that final summer, they either realized that they needed to figure out directions on their own or had to learn to use the GPS.  Either way, getting where you want to go, without asking mom, has to be a good sign.

Once accepted into colleges, a barrage of emails began flooding their inboxes. There were forms to be filled out, health insurance to be opted into or out of, choices to be made in classes, housing and dining.  In high school, I had been “She Who Fills Out Forms”, but as we entered this second stage they seemed to understand that the forms were their life and I was so done.

Sometime in high school, I had stopped accompanying my kids to check-ups with the doctor. As they were approaching college, I stopped going with them to the doctor, at all.  If they were sick they would need to learn to ask the right questions and get directions. It was time for them to take on all issues of their health, and they did.

The final summer at home involved more dressy clothing than ever before.  There were graduation parties and good-bye dinners with friend’s parents.  In the past, the procedure was to walk up and stand in front of me with whatever article of clothing they hoped to wear but was either dirty or wrinkled.  They knew better than to even ask, but as males, had cultivated that look of helplessness that would cause me to grab the item and, with a look of despair, say “I’ll do it, you will only ruin it.”  That last summer my boys didn’t even try this nonsense and mastered the washer, dryer and iron.

My boys hate shopping.  For years they let me buy almost all of their clothing or they ordered for themselves online.  But that last summer, they were willing to wander Bed Bath and Beyond with me and even venture into the Container Store.  Even they realized that in their dorm they were setting up a second home, albeit it a tiny one.

As I dropped them off, I stayed calm and only when they were out of sight did I cry.  I cried because it had all gone too fast.  I cried because two of the people I loved most in the world would not be at my breakfast table in the morning but also I cried because I knew they were ready to go.

How did you know your kids were ready to go?



  1. says

    Oh, this all kind of pulled at my heart. In several years my kids may be ready, but I’m not convinced I will ever be.

  2. Carpool Goddess says

    Thank you for your extremely kind and generous compliment! I’m so in awe of you gals!!! Touching post. I remember combing the aisles of BB&B and Container Store with my son, thinking this was an outer body experience. And crying after we dropped him off, though I was fighting tears every step of the way. No one can imagine what it’s like until they’re there. I wish I would have know you and Mary Dell sooner, but so happy that I know you now!

    • says

      Well deserved…everyone should get to know Carpool Goddess! You are so right it is all impossible to imagine, until it is actually happening…like so much of parenthood.

  3. says

    As their senior year wound down, each of my kids was clearly ready for something new. I think most kids are by this time. Seeing that helped me let them go, although I cried for each of them on the long ride home.

  4. says

    Aw, I don’t even have kids and this got me a little teary eyed! I LOVE that your boys were willing to walk around Bed Bath and Beyond with you just to spend time with you. That is such a sweet thing, and I hope you used a 20% off coupon!

    • says

      You know what happened? A woman at the check out had a handful of the 20& off coupons and gave me one…wow, huge help. SO funny that you mentioned it.

  5. says

    i love this post. i don’t know if i ever thought about them being ready. once they chose their schools and i was comfortable that they would be happy and thrive, i was comfortable. i think you forgot one thing though. they are ready because for years you have shown them that you have faith in them in a hundred little ways. a lot of parents don’t let their kids go off to college. they tell them they’re “not ready” and make them go to local schools. i often thought that these kids were no different than mine so the difference had to be in the parents. this faith that we have allows us to let them go when we know that a million little disasters can occur allows them to go with confidence and that is no small thing. i think the what makes that special is that it is a gift that we give to them without realizing it and it is a gift that the receive in the same manner. it’s in hindsight that we realize it.

    • says

      Sandy, you are so right that it is faith to let them go, because, as I am sure every parent of a college kids has seen, so much of the growing up happens because they are away. I was surprised at how much the experience of being away from parents and siblings changed my children. Some of the changes were painful, most we wonderful and necessary. And yes, it is only clear in hindsight!

  6. Gabby McCree says

    Yes I knew because they both told me by explaining their stategies for their adjustment. I had spent a lot of time talking to them about anticipating situations and having a plan… they brought up the subject.

    My daughter was actually mature enough to acknowledge that she anticipated being homesick before she left. Once she got to college she had a developed a policy and described it to me later . ” I didn’t allow myself to use the “H word” that first semester and although I called home frequently it was only for the five minutes between classes when I was busy and active….never in my room late at night.

    My son who was more retiring in social situations also revealed his plan to be more pro-active about making friends at college. He had changed schools a few times over the years and had finally developed a very close knit group of HS friends….it had taken him time to do this and he know he would be really miss this group as well as his sports friends. Before he left, he shocked me when he explained that he had researched and intended to join several campus organizations including some activities he had never tried before as well as signing up for almost every intramural club possible.

    • says

      That first semester can be so hard and I think most kids have some or a lot of homesickness. Leaving a place where you are loved to move to a place where you are unknown and, at first, alone is not easy. Your son’s strategy seems to be the one that, by far, works the best. Find things to join, follow your interest and they will lead you to friends with similar interests. I know it is easier said than done, when homesickness and a bit of sadness can engulf kids in their early college days.

  7. says

    I’ve got a couple more years but I know I will be sad. Seems like he was just a baby yesterday. Time flies way too fast. One child is already talking about taking over the other one’s room….and so it begins…

    • says

      Yes the post-college land grab, too funny. It is sad and reassuring that they are on their own path and ready to be there. So glad you commented, thanks.

  8. says

    Talk about a tear jerker. This brings me back. May I add that three of my four were ready – I was the one who shed the tears when they were out of sight. But my oldest – when we dropped her off at college, out of state, and said our goodbyes – she stood at the curb and cried and cried – and that worried me. It was worse to think I hadn’t prepared her. Or that she wasn’t ready. I learned from that experience that if they feel the bittersweetness of the transition – but are for the most part eager – that’s a good thing. Thank you for a very sweet post – including that little toddler wandering down the path alone….that little hat? Oh my gosh!

    • says

      Barb, how heartbreaking…it is probably hardest for the eldest to leave. I had not thought about this at all but the younger ones have watched and know that it is all going to be okay. Also the oldest is leaving everyone, but they time the younger ones go our families have entered a new stage. TB Kilman takes the most wonderful photos for us, thanks for noticing!

  9. Diane says

    As a parent, it has always amazed me how totally different our children think and behave, even though we are all the same family!

    We have had and are having three totally different college experiences for our three children. The oldest basically asked me not to go to the actual drop off, which was good because there wasn’t room in the minivan. So we cried at the door to our house. She didn’t participate in college activities, though we tried and tried to encourage her to. She graduated in three years and seemed to hate it. The son wasn’t mature enough to handle all of the independence and is attending his 4th (and final) university. At 22, he is finally mature enough to understand the expectations and outcomes of his decisions. He joined a group that he truly enjoys and he will graduate after 5 years of college. The youngest ran out the door to her school this past fall and has joined many (too many?) activities. She is having a great time and expects to have 3 more wonderful years.

  10. says

    As much as I want my child to be on her own, this got to me. You want them to get it but you just want to have a hand in it. Thank you for this!

  11. kmcp says

    Ten days ago we took our youngest of four children to college for freshman year. I was dreading the tears, lump in throat, and coming home for the first time to an empty house. No first day of school pictures in front yard like I’ve done since 1993, no newsy tidbits about new teachers, no back to school night, no books to cover, no after school activities. Talk about depressing! The day after move-in we stayed in town to visit with our daughter who lives there (thank goodness she’s a phone call away from my baby). She was meeting us for lunch downtown, right near her office. As we parked the car and looked down the street I saw a lovely young woman, walking effortlessly in high heels. She was confident, radiant, and had an air about her that I really admired. That young lady was my daughter, my oldest child. The one I’d sent off to college in the exact same town seven years ago. I can’t explain how much seeing her like that helped me that day. It was as if I could see all my efforts (finally) come full-circle. Can I go into my youngest child’s room yet without crying? Well, I’m getting there!

    • says

      What a beautiful story, you are breaking my heart. My youngest leaves in a year and it is breaking my heart to think about it. I am going to hold your story in my mind all year, thank you.


  1. […] have just about finished raising my kids.  My youngest has one foot out the door and only senior year in high school stands in the way of his liberation.  I know exactly how he feels. During my senior year, I put a […]

  2. […] The last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, was released in the summer of 2009, shortly after ‘13’s completed high school. We saw the movie as a family and the parallels were not lost on any of us. Tears were unavoidable while I watched Harry, Ron and Hermione complete their Hogwarts days. Having observed them grow up on the big screen, I would miss seeing more of them. It was akin to how I felt about my son and his friends, also moving on from high school. […]