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That moment when your last child leaves for college somehow, no matter how much you thought you were prepared, takes your breath away! You don’t know how you’re going to get through the next hour, much less the next year.
It’s not the first time you’ve said goodbye to him.
There was the first day of preschool when he cried and your heart broke as you left him, driving away while imagining him sobbing for hours for his mommy. When you went back, he was happily playing with a new friend and couldn’t care less about going home.
That should probably have been your first hint.
The first away summer camp, the first date … so many firsts for him, but so many leavings for you. Until the day finally arrived when you and your child headed for his college. Each box sealed for the trip was a reminder of the upcoming day when he would be leaving home.
Sure, they come back for vacations, filling the house with chaos, wet towels and drama, but when our kids return to their colleges, they are going home to what’s become their own life. Your house is a haven and they appreciate your cooking and the free laundry but they chafe at the loss of the freedom they are used to.
Nothing is ever going to be the same.
I remember the rush of freedom I felt when I went to college and was finally alone in my dorm room after my parents left.
Though they only lived an hour away, it may as well have been on the other side of the globe.
I wasn’t a wild kid. Far from it. But just having the freedom to stay up as late as I wanted, play loud music, and basically reinvent myself, was a game changer.
I loved my family but, by the end of a visit home, I was ready to go back to where I could be myself. Or at least the self I wanted to be.
This is the way it should be.
If you’ve done your job in raising your children, the time has to come when they are ready, aching even, to leave home.
And you have to let them, no matter how much it breaks your heart.
But life as an empty nester doesn’t have to be dreaded.
Of course, it’s an adjustment from the way you’ve lived, but it’s also an amazing opportunity.
An opportunity to stay out as late as you want. To play music as loud as you want it. To reimagine and reinvent yourself and your new life.
Change is stressful. Even when it’s a good change, it’s stressful.
Just ask your kids, who suddenly have to learn how to edit their own papers, do their own laundry, schedule their lives, and learn to balance professor office hours, study groups, tutoring, buffet nutrition, grades, late night cramming, fitness, difficult roommates, and parties.
Adulting is hard.
Go ahead and enjoy the humor of the price of freedom they’re experiencing. You’ve done your job and now you are ready for the next phase of your life.
If you’re like most people, it won’t be easy.
Go ahead and let yourself feel the sadness and all the other overwhelming feelings.
Saying goodbye to your child is wrenching and going home to an empty house is salt in the wounds. Just know, deep inside, that it will pass and you will find happiness in all the new things you can do now.
For now, that’s enough.
Your job as a mother isn’t over. Frankly, it never will be. They’ll text, asking for money and advice. They’ll bring their laundry and drama home during vacations. They’ll ask you to babysit when they have their own families.
But your last child leaving mark a turning point in your life and an opportunity to explore things you set aside because your attention was always on the kids.
So many experiences and relationships are out there waiting for you.
It’s going to be … awesome!