The life-changing day my daughter left for college

We took my daughter, Hannah,  for her 2nd year of college on Tuesday of this week.  I wrote two posts when I took her to college as a freshman in 2016 – one that I posted, and one that was too personal for us to publish.  Now, after a year has passed, I’ve updated it, and we are ready.  This is what it was like for me on the day that I had to let my daughter go.  

I woke up early, the sound of the noisy hotel room air conditioner stirring me to wakefulness. I hadn’t been awake for long before the realization of “the day” hit my consciousness. With a groan, I felt the heaviness settle once again upon my soul. It was the day that a child often longs for and a mother dreads and it comes in a variety of ways.

It was the day to let my daughter go.

Some mothers let their daughter go when she moves out of her home into an apartment. Some mothers kiss their daughters goodbye as they send them off to basic training. Some mothers let their daughters go on the day that she gets married.

My letting go was the day I would leave her at a large university in a strange city. I didn’t want to do it. In fact, that was one of the first thoughts of my day: “I don’t want to do it.”

As soon as I saw that she was awake, I crawled under the covers with her, holding her tight as my chest was wracked with unexpected sobs. She cried as well.

Her tears touched a tender spot in my heart that I had kept hidden from her. My deep insecurity as a mother was making her going all the more painful. I was certain that because I was an imperfect mother, she was happy to be free of me and to flee our home and my presence. I was convinced that she would not want to come back home to see me. I thought that I would miss her but she would not miss me.

Her tears told me that she cared about me. She loved me like I loved her. And she would miss me, too.

As we walked out of the hotel together,I was prepared with Kleenex in both pockets. We made small talk on the way to campus to distract our trembling hearts from what was coming. She confessed that she was worried about me. And I stuffed down my tears and reassured her that mommy would be okay.

When we arrived on campus, I parked the minivan, grabbing my sunglasses to shield my weeping eyes from prying strangers. She grabbed her suitcase and backpack, and I asked her to pause for one last picture.

And then the moment came. I reached out to hug her, and a loud sob erupted unbidden from my heart.

“I love you,” I said.  “I will be okay. Now go.”

I shooed her off before my contagious tears had time to overtake her as well.

The moment that a mother dreads all her life had come and gone. The moment when mommy is no longer needed and can no longer protect her child. The moment when the baby chick fledges from the nest and meets the world head on. The moment when her baby will fly.

I gathered up my emotions, wiped my eyes, and looked for one last glimpse of her. A prayer arose, thanking God for His grace and strength in that moment of goodbye. I thanked Him for the prayers and support of friends that saw me through. I thanked Him for His faithfulness and favor for my daughter.

Now, as a year has past, I realize that I was wrong about one thing.

That lie that told me that she would not want to come back to my imperfect home was untrue.

That little bird that took off from my nest came back to its warmth and security over and over in the following months.  She found comfort and love in my feathered nest.

She did, in fact, need and miss her mommy.  

Mom, as you get ready to let your child go, no matter where it may be, don’t believe the lie that your child will not want to come back to your imperfect home.  Your child was nurtured and loved in your home, and they will always long for a comfort and strength that only mom can give.  Even if they are hundreds of miles away.

Take courage, mom.   It may seem like forever, but they will come back.  I promise.

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One thought on “The life-changing day my daughter left for college

  1. Sweet encouragement, Lisa! I’m a couple of years away from this moment, but already I feel the heart tugs. Thank you for sharing a look down the road and giving us courage to face the day we let them go.

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