Four years ago, I tearfully waved my oldest daughter off to college. I felt inconsolable, even though I was also happy she was off to her dream college. “I can’t believe she’s gone. Eighteen years I took care of her, every day, and now she’s just…gone.”
“She’ll be back,” advised my friends, who had previously weathered this storm. “You’ll see. She’ll be back for fall break and spring break. You will see her at Christmas and all summer. It’s not as big a change as you think.”
I shook my head at the time, but it turned out my friends were right. Between her breaks, and my occasional trips to North Carolina, I saw Julia at least every other month. We managed to visit enough to get slightly aggravated with each other, just as usual. No matter. There was a reassuring schedule to her comings and goings. I would see her in six weeks. I would see her for her birthday. I might even see her on Mother’s Day.
Maybe denial kept me from processing the meaning of college graduation. Maybe denial kept me from processing the word “Chicago.” But my denial is cracking now, two weeks from my daughter’s next big move.
My Daughter is Moving Far From Home After College Graduation
Julia is moving to Chicago to pursue an acting career. She will be doing theater, auditioning, taking improv classes, and waitressing on the side. She won’t have a spring break. She won’t even have much of a schedule. I have no idea when she will be free to come home. She will have classes and performance schedules, all yet to be determined. We assume she will be coming home for Christmas. But will she?
Recently, we were chatting in the kitchen. My daughter was washing the dishes, her blond hair messy, pulled back in a pony tail. I watched her, soaking in the beauty of her face, her high cheek bones, her large, expressive eyes.
“I wish we could see one more play, before you leave.”
In her low voice, she responded, “Well, maybe we can do that next winter break.”
I smiled at her, while my heart quietly split in two, “There is no more winter break.”
“What?” Her blue eyes lifted up to mine, eye brows arching. “What do you mean?
“You have had your last winter break. That won’t happen anymore. If you’re lucky, you will get time off around the holidays, maybe a week or so. But there won’t ever be a month off at Christmas again. Winter break is done. Now you just … work.”
“Oh… wow.” We fell silent. She turned her attention back to the dishes.
This is a different goodbye from her college departure. This is a grown-up goodbye. Julia will have an apartment, rent, and utility bills. She will establish residency and get a new driver’s license. But she won’t need a car in Chicago. She will zip everywhere on public transit.
“You can keep my car at home, for when I come back.”
“You really won’t be home much anymore. We can’t keep a car in the driveway to use, maybe twice a year for a few days. That just doesn’t make sense. We will sell it and use the money for other things.”
“Oh,” replied my daughter, quietly. “That makes sense.”
I don’t know what it means to have a grown-up child who lives halfway across the country. I guess we will figure it out. There is texting. We can talk. I can fly to Chicago. My husband and I keep repeating how easy it will be to catch a flight there.
We proclaim, “We can go there any time! Any time we want!” in a chipper tone. We say this frequently to each other, and to everyone we know. “It is so easy to fly to Chicago!” Our friends agree with us quickly. We nod our graying heads in unison and take extra sips of wine.
Somehow, the reward of raising a healthy, functional, hard-working child is that they grow up and move away. I am proud of my daughter. She has pursued her challenging dream of acting, graduated from a top-notch conservatory, and landed herself a primo agent. Julia kicks ass; she is breathtakingly talented. So, I am thrilled that she is moving to Chicago to act and study improv. I wouldn’t want it any other way. For her.
This is the bittersweet prize of parenting. The reward for all our hard work is a highly functional and independent daughter. She is so functional that she is confidently moving across the county. For her, I am proud.
For me, I’m a little sad. I am going to have to adjust. I’m not sure what comes next… My youngest is still in college for another year, and we eagerly look forward to her visits. She will grace us for a while longer, beaming her wide smile. My youngest will still come home for fall break, Christmas, and the summer. Also, I have meant to meditate more, and there’s always that gym.
And hey, have you heard how easy it is to fly to Chicago?
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Dr. Deguire is a clinical psychologist in private practice. She attended Tufts University, graduating in 1985, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from Widener University in 1990. Today she is a psychologist, author, speaker ,and blogger. You can find her website and blog at https://www.lisedeguire.com; on twitter (@DrLiseDeguire), Facebook, Instagram (drlisedeguire6 )and Linkedin (DrLiseDeguire). She is the proud mother of two daughters, ages 22 and 20.