My husband and I just moved our oldest child to college. And there’s no other way to say how I feel about it other than it sucks.
I think it goes without saying that I’m ecstatic for her to enjoy this next phase of life. I’m thrilled that her hard work in high school has paid off, as she received a scholarship to cover tuition for all four years. I’m blessed beyond belief that she is healthy and ready to do this. And I’m relieved that she is only two hours away.
But it still sucks.
Why is she going somewhere without me? I’ve spent 19 years with her as a (nearly) constant, daily presence in this home. As a newborn, she was attached to me for hours and hours every day. She followed me around the house as a toddler, “helping” with my chores. She snuggled on the couch with me for endless book reading, and she was even my student in preschool and kindergarten.
In recent years we’ve spent time shopping, watching The Bachelorette together, and sending each other memes and TikToks. And now she’s…just not here. And I miss her.
I don’t get to hear her up in her room singing. I don’t get to see her come down the stairs each morning. Granted, her morning disposition is less rainbows-and-unicorns and more grouchy-troll-emerging-from-the-forest, but at least she was our troll, waking up under our roof, coming down our stairs.
However, now that I’ve cried in my coffee while I type this, I am also ready to acknowledge how special and exciting this time is. As parents, my husband and I have primarily ascribed to the plan of “try not to raise jerks.” (I know. It’s a lofty goal, so please don’t feel like you have to keep up with us.) Now that we’re remarkably close to our four kids being adults, I think we did a pretty good job meeting our goal. I really like our children a lot.
And now it’s time for our oldest not-a-jerk kiddo to leave the nest. She’s incredibly capable, funny, smart, and ready to keep being a good human in this world. I’m so happy that she gets this opportunity to continue becoming her own self, away from our daily influence and input.
Recently, I have heard a lot about inhabiting the both/and space in life, and I didn’t fully grasp it until walking this child-going-to-college journey. Now I get it.
I am both devastated and excited. I am both nervous for her and confident that she can handle this next step. I am both teary-eyed and smiling from ear to ear. This stage of parenthood is all those things and more.
If you’re in this same stage, I see you and honor all the feelings that come with it. We spend so much time and energy keeping our kids as safe as possible, and then, suddenly, they leave! It seems like no matter how much we try to keep our own sense of self as parents and not wrap up everything in our kids, there’s just no way to soften this blow. It hurts even amid the joy and enthusiasm.
So, yeah. My daughter went to college, and I wasn’t invited. My place is no longer physically by her side each day, and it probably never will be again. And through the tears, I’m ready to step into this new space of having an adult child who is off on her own. I’ll be celebrating from afar everything she gets to experience and cheering her on as she finds her path.
In a year, I’ll be doing it again for our sons, and a few years later, I’ll do it one more time for our youngest. And sometimes, I’ll cry. And that’s ok.
And to my daughter’s new college roommate, I apologize for the troll emerging from the woods who will be waking up in your room each morning. Good luck with that situation.