Yesterday we dropped my sweet middle child off at college. He has a new home now and it’s a milestone in his life for sure. And in mine. It’s the day I have dreamed of and the day I have dreaded all wrapped up in one big good-bye hug. My heart is awash with great anticipation and greater emotion. It is a heavy feeling, a deep pressure in my chest, that is both joyful and painful and the only word to describe it is bittersweet.
I have known him since the beginning of his life and loved him every minute since we first locked eyes. I remember laying in my hospital bed immediately after the cesarean section that brought him into his world and thinking “He can be anything he wants in this world” and the possibilities seemed endless.
I was overwhelmed with excitement to see what and who he would become. Today feels similar. Waving goodbye as we drove away made me reflect with awe and wonder again that “He can be anything he wants in this world.” And while I have a little glimpse now into who he is and who he is becoming, college will reveal a bigger picture of the path and direction he will chose.
We All Took a Job Moving My Son into College
We all took a job moving him in and I jumped at the chance to make his new bed. I wanted him to be safe, comfortable and tucked into bed every night…or at least think he is. I put the mattress topper on, secured the pad over it and tucked his new Twin XL sheets in extra tight. We made sure his drawers neatly stored his folded clothes and that he had plenty of snacks and waters to feed a small army.
He told me to take a long look at his room and closet because it would never look this good again, and I believe him. This room– his new crash pad, residence or digs– will be where he makes life-long friends, sees the world from a whole new perspective and learns to deal with all kinds of personalities. His new home will also become a life-lesson classroom and even though I will miss seeing him in the bedroom that raised him, I know he is ready for the crazy adventures that await him with this new community he has joined.
I cried when I hugged him goodbye. I cried as we drove away. And I cried when we got home and I saw his empty room. Then I saw what he had proudly hung on his wall a few months ago after declaring where he was going to college and I felt at peace because I knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be. I knew that his hard work had brought him to somewhere that he could follow his dreams and direct the course of his life. I knew he was happy.
Launching your child to their next chapter is so confusing. Why does it have to be so hard? So much pain and so much joy. So much dread and so much anticipation. So much loss and so much to gain. It’s like handing them off to the big bad world and all the potential dangers and hazards and at the same time knowing that this is one of the most exciting and incredible times in their life. It’s hard because my heart is hurting and celebrating at the same time.
I have loved being his mom. It hasn’t always been perfect but it’s been a journey I wouldn’t change for anything. And even though I know I’ll always be his mom and he will always love me, it feels different tonight. My job of raising him is done. I’ll still set boundaries and I can drop the hammer if I need too (I am small, but I am mighty!) but my job of raising my son is over.
He is his own person now and he knows right from wrong. It is no longer about what I can do for him, it is about what he will do with what he has been taught. It is not about where he is starting but about where he will finish and all the memories he will create along the way. It is no longer about helping him chase his dreams, it is about watching him fulfill them.
Right now I am riding the wave of bittersweet. Some moments I swell with pride and other moments I ache with sorrow. I know I’ll get better with time and I know he’s entering one of the best times in his life. I know that my heart will feel empty right now, but his life will be very full and for that, I am so grateful.
I know that I have done my job and now it’s time for him to take this opportunity and run with it, find his passion and meet his people. It’s time for him to explore, learn and be challenged. It’s time for him to be anything he wants in the world. And whoever and whatever he decides, I will be cheering for him on all the way regardless of where it takes him. Our journey together is not over.
Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time it is both.
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Kelly Richardson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist from Folsom, California. She lives with her husband who is a high school football coach and has two teenagers at home and one away at college. For 16 years she wrote a syndicated advice column called “Teen Talk”. She is now a weekly blogger and you can find her blogs at Thera-Mom.com.