I recall vividly the day it hit me. It was a beautiful fall day in September and it happened to be my birthday. My three kids, my husband, and a few friends were standing around my kitchen table singing happy birthday to me. The lights dimmed, the cake with all its candles looked as though a fire extinguisher might be needed to put them all out, and me bursting with excitement just to have my family and friends around me. Shortly after blowing out the candles while we were preparing to cut the cake, my oldest daughter, then a senior in high school, leaned into me, looked at me with tears in her eyes and quietly whispered in my ear, “Mom, I just realized, I won’t be here for your birthday for the next four years.”
As I stared into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity, searching for any sign that she might be mistaken, my heart sank when I finally realized…she was right. At that very moment, my world stopped spinning…
An unexpected wave of emotion came over me. It was as though, at that very moment, my head began whirling with thoughts, emotions, and memories that had been carefully and safely tucked away in my heart since the day she was born. My baby was about to leave. As hard as I tried, my emotions got the best of me and I began to cry…
I thought I was prepared; after all, we spent the latter part of the year visiting colleges, pouring over statistics and details of each college, weighing the pros and cons, and painstakingly completing eight college applications. We even ventured into a few conversations about what she wanted her dorm room to be like. What colors she wanted, whether she wanted her bed elevated and what it might be like for her to walk down the hall and share a bathroom with an entire floor of girls.
With tears streaming down my face, I remember my husband looking at me with a gentle smile on his face shaking his head ever so slowly saying, “Honey, you’ve had 18 years to prepare for this. Why is this hitting you so hard?” He was right, I did have 18 years to prepare. Why was this hitting me so hard?
That evening as I sat quietly by myself pondering the day, reflecting back on my emotions and thinking back on my husband’s comment, which of course was completely true, I tried to make sense of it all. Was I being irrational and overly sensitive? Why, after all these months of discussions and planning for college, was this hitting me as though I’d just been told for the very first time that my daughter would no longer be a part of our daily lives? As I sat there in the dark with my heart aching to find the answer, I suddenly began to comes to term with my emotions.
It wasn’t just that my daughter was leaving for college, for me, it was the end of an era, the end of a journey, the end of a beautiful chapter and the end of 18 of the most precious and wonderful years of my life.
My kids are my everything. They‘re the reason I get up in the morning, the reason I smile every day, the reason I cherish every moment of my life. I’ve watched them blossom from modest seedlings into beautiful flowers; each with their own vibrant color and distinct brilliance. And now, with my oldest daughter soon leaving for college, life was about change… forever.
No more, “Hey mom, what’s for dinner?” Or, “Mom, can you wash my jeans for tomorrow?” No more piles of clothes scattered across her bedroom floor, no more tripping over her backpack by the back door, and no more long talks at midnight when she walked in the door after an evening with her friends.
No more, “Mom, I need your help with a project,” or “Mom, can I have a sleepover tonight?” No more buying all her favorite food at the grocery store, no more filling up the car with gas so she didn’t have to, no more dishes left on the nightstand next her bed after a long night of studying, and no more precious moments that I hold dear to my heart of us dancing together in the kitchen to her new favorite song.
Gone will be the days of all her friends popping over on a Friday night with all the laughter, eating me out of house and home, crumbs on the floor and loud music. Gone will be the days of our Saturday afternoon visits to the mall, lounging around in our pajama’s drinking coffee and laughing together as we watch videos on YouTube
As we faced the last of several moments and traditions during her senior year, I knew they too would soon become part of our past – her last senior football game, her last homecoming dance, her last prom, and her very last walk down the halls of her high school.
I knew, in my heart, that when she returned home from college for those brief visits, that we would recapture some of what we lost, but I also knew that life in our home would never be the same. She would become a different person in college – more independent, more mature and more of an adult – and perhaps, needing me just a bit less than she did.
I wondered, now that she was leaving, what my new role would be in her life? My only hope was that she cherished all of the years, months, days, and moments we had together as much as I did. I hoped she would remember the days I consoled her, the days I cared for her when she was sick and the days I wrapped my arms around her never wanting to let go. I hoped she would remember our many late-night talks, all the laughs we had, the jokes we shared, and the many secrets we kept.
As she ventures off in her new life, I hope she knows that her Dad and I tried our best to give her what she needs – the confidence to fly, the heart to embrace the world and the passion to succeed…the rest is now up to her. I hope my precious girl remembers how much I love her, how her joys are my joys and that she will always be a light in my life.