Dear Daughter, How Did We Get Here So Quickly?

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together…
there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is,
even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
— A. A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh)

My Sweet Girl:

How in the world did we get here so quickly? It seems like just yesterday you were holed up for hours in your closet playing with your Polly Pockets. And now…what seems like a few weeks later, you’re leaving home and heading out into “adult world.”

A letter to a daughter moving away to go to college

You’ve been moving toward this day for a long time. Every sports camp you attended, every slumber party you went to, those nights you stayed by yourself at your brother’s house – all those little steps you have taken through the years have been your runway to independence. I know you are (or at least I hope you are) a little sad to be leaving dad and me, but I also know you are ready to test your wings and try life on your own.

Even though this big life change will allow you to exert your independence, it will also help you see how much you will always remain attached to our home. Moving away from your dad and me will show you how our love can stretch far and wide. We won’t love you any less because you no longer live with us. You will learn that we will always hold you in our hearts and minds, even when we no longer see you every single day, and that you can do the same with us.

I hope and pray that you will remember everything you have learned during your first 18 years and realize that you can stand on your own sturdy feet. And I also hope that you won’t be afraid to take a few chances – do a few things that scare you, take some risks (not risks that endanger your health or well-being, but rather challenges that take you out of your comfort zone) because you know you will always have your dad and me (and your home) as a safety net. As long as I am on this earth, you will always have a soft place to land – even when life kicks the crap out of your heart and soul – and, sadly, sometimes it will.

I will miss you so much. I will miss laughing and joking with you. I will miss having you there to gripe to about your dad and brother. I will miss your goofy and sarcastic sense of humor. I will miss gossiping with you. I will miss someone calling me all kinds of crazy nicknames. I will even miss your closed bedroom door. But mostly I will miss the light and the life you have always brought to our home and to our lives.

I will worry about your safety because your dad and I are not there to protect you. I will worry that you will forget to lock a door, to watch out for strangers or that someday you will not get home before dark and it will scare you. I will also worry that you will feel lost and alone – and I know that you will feel that way on some days. The thought that I won’t be there to make you feel less alone and less lost bothers me so much. Please be patient with me if I cling a little too tightly and insist that you call/text to the degree that it will somewhat be smothering to you. I’m new at this letting go thing so please give me some time to adjust.

One thing that does not worry me is that you will fail in college. I know you will be a shining star student and that you will give college your very best effort, just as you have done with everything else you have done during your 18.5 years.

When you drove out of our front gate on Saturday, you walked into a bright new chapter of your life. The future possibilities for you are endless and I want you to take the next few years to explore all of your options and do everything you can to work toward fulfilling your potential. You are so smart, caring, mature, wise and wonderful. You have so much to offer to the world. Don’t settle for anything less than what your wildest dreams dictate for you.

Here’s a little recap of the most important points I want you to remember during your time in college:

The next few years should honestly be among the best of your life.

But they will only become the best years of your life if you make up your mind to take in a little of everything college has to offer….even if you think it’s something you are not interested in. Join a club or two. Go to football, basketball, softball, baseball, soccer and rugby games. Go watch a wrestling match or a swim meet. Play in some intramural softball or basketball games. Go to pep rallies. Go see special collections or displays at the museums. Attend lectures given on campus by guest speakers. Attend an art show or a theater production or a classical music concert. There is always something going on campus….most events are free. Read the campus newspaper so you will know what is going on and when.

Make a real effort to “connect” to others.

College will most likely be the place where you make lifelong friends. Forget your social awkwardness and embarrassment – just talk to everyone. People are especially open to meeting newbies the first few weeks of college. Don’t waste this opportunity.

Always use good judgment when alcohol and drugs are involved.

Stay safe by being cautious of your surroundings and limiting information you share with others. You know all the rules for staying safe – don’t ever accept food or drink from someone you don’t know well enough to trust…never leave a beverage unattended and/or out of your sight, etc.

Never be too busy or too stressed or too preoccupied that you fail to soak up the beauty around you.

The college you are attending is one of the most gorgeous campuses in the world. Notice the flowers every day. Take note of the amazing architecture on the buildings (and learn a little about the more interesting ones when you have spare time). Look for the little pockets of hidden beauty on the campus – benches under a nice shade tree, pretty trees that bloom in the spring and sometimes again in the fall. Beauty is all around – you just have to look for it.

Don’t let yourself become hard and calloused when you see how people treat others.

You’ve been through some rough stuff with girls you thought were friends. As a rule, most people suck. Avoid those people and seek out the minority who don’t suck. Make those people your people.

Never judge people on appearances.

A person’s true measure is taken over time. Give people the benefit of the doubt and sometimes even a second (or a third) chance.

In closing (yes, even my longer letters eventually come to an end), the four main pieces of wisdom I have to share with you are:

1.  Make every effort you can to put more good into this life than what you take out of it.

Give more than you take. Leave things (and people) better than you found them. It only takes a moment of your time to pay a compliment to someone….and that one little comment could be the thing they were needing to hear more than you will ever know.

2. Life is made to be lived.

You won’t be a success at every single thing you attempt, but don’t let that stop you from trying.

3. When you see chances before you for love, laughter and happiness – grab onto those opportunities and hold on tight.

Don’t ever pass up a chance to bring any of those three things into your life.

4. Your family (and most especially your mama!) has always got your back.

We are always here for you. Don’t ever doubt that!

I am so proud of you and the amazing woman you have become. My heart just swells with pride and love every time I think of you. I am so proud and humbled to have contributed to the DNA of such a wonderful person.

I am always here for you – night or day. I love you, forever and always.

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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