The Summer Before My Kid Started College: Reflection on the Clover

It was the clover that got me. I thought it would be the college acceptance letters, or the graduation ceremony, or the graduation trip with just the two of us, but it was none of those. The summer before my daughter started college, it was the clover I noticed in the backyard tonight while I was outside with the dog. The clover that breeds the clover mites that invade her room through the window every spring. They are tiny red insects that love the warm, south-facing wall, that crawl over the desk and the computer and the window sill, that annoy the heck out of her, that she begs me every year to call the exterminator for. The clover is still growing in the backyard this summer, and next spring the clover mites will be back, but her childhood room will be empty. She will be in college, 1500 miles away. They will still come in through the window, crawl across the wall and over the desk, but they won’t bother her, because she will be gone. I knew I would be a mess, but it wasn’t the graduation ceremony that got to me like I assumed it would, it was the clover.


We still have three months and that’s good. High school ended early and college starts later than most, leaving, incredibly, four months for the last summer at home. There is no job this time, no research program, no real commitments. Just time to decompress, regroup, and hang on tight. Because I know that once we board the plane for college on September 3rd, it will never be the same again. There will be visits home, of course, which we will anticipate, cherish, and file away as beloved memories. But there will also be summer internships, research, jobs, study abroad, and a new life to be lived. We will still be here, but she will not.

It is as it should be, of course, and I am filled with pride in my daughter’s accomplishments and really do share her excitement for the biggest adventure of her young life. But I am also too full of other emotions that she does not share. Joy, fear, excitement, terror, love, and grief, How was I not prepared for this? Why did nobody tell me it would be like this? (They did, of course, but it might as well have been in a different language.)

So, while we are busy ordering extra long twin sheets, getting vaccinated for meningitis, and making sure the transcripts are sent, we are also boxing up a childhood. Yearbooks, trophies, pictures, awards. I never finished the scrapbooks (that’s okay, she’s not interested anyway), the pictures and videos are still on my computer (someday I’ll get to that), and I didn’t teach her how to balance a checkbook (doesn’t matter, nobody does that anymore). Let’s have lots of coffee instead, and long walks, big hugs, and cuddles on the couch.

I understood it would go fast, but, really, childhood at the speed of light? How it that possible? And I certainly never believed it would truly end. Until I saw the clover.

Lisa Low

Lisa Low, guest blogger for “Until I Saw the Clover,” writes this about herself: “I am a family physician living in the northwest corner of Arkansas with my husband of 22 years, my three children, 17, 14, and 12, and one crazy German Shepherd. Obviously I didn’t think I was busy enough with all of that, so I went back to school last year to start a Master of Public Health Program. My timing was impeccable as starting my degree coincided perfectly with the college application process, the scope of which I was previously blissfully naive. Now I am an expert (no surprise there), and I am looking forward to putting on my next hat soon – College Parent.



About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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