My oldest child goes off to college tomorrow. She’s ready. It’s time. I’m ready. It’s right. Then why is this stupid tear crawling down my face?!

The shopping is done, the gear organized and after some girl time getting mani/pedi’s this afternoon we will start loading the car. Whoa…it’s getting real now.

I spent the morning taking care of some last minute paperwork and making sure any final fees are paid, printing receipts. When my girl was little she would have what her dad and I called, “Teeny-tiny-temper-tantrums.” They were not so teeny really. Well, I just had one when the printer was not forthcoming with my receipts. One should not get so bent out of shape over an empty paper tray. I suspect grief.

This next step in her life is a good thing. I know that. But this is also an ending and we’ve had our share of those over the last few years. To be fair, we’ve had new beginnings too, some very good ones. This is one.  

“Every end is a new beginning.”

 ~ Proverb

I’m also struggling with the idea that this is not happening the way that it “should.” Her dad should be here. He had an absurdly long reach. How are we going to get things into the cabinet above her closet? He won’t be there to capture the events of the day with his camera. I will try but I tend to forget to take pictures when I get caught up in the moment. There is one shot I would make sure to get though, him kissing her head before we leave. Damn! It won’t happen and I hate it for her!

And then there is the trip home. I can picture what it would be like: he would drive us home, I would be sniffling quietly in the passenger seat and he would say something funny. I would laugh and cry all at the same time comforted by the knowledge that we have each other as we let first this bird fly and in a few years, the next.

So I’ve had to come up with my own plan for getting through. My best friend from high school lives near the college. She will greet me at her front door with a glass of wine and we will have an old-fashioned sleep over. This is the same woman who has been there for so many of my milestones. We took college classes together, I was in her wedding, she was in mine, we celebrated babies together, and she was the one person who I had to have come home with me after my husband’s memorial service. It is appropriate that she will share this milestone with me since my husband cannot.

I will need that time with her to steel myself for the drive home the next day…just me and the empty boxes.

So many of my cohorts are also sending their children – ahem, young adults – off too. There was a lovely brainstorming of ways we could both experience the joy and yet still acknowledge the grief this brings up for us. There is no shame in these mixed emotions. Yes, we can feel excitement for them and for our new level of freedom and shed tears that our babies are no longer babies.

Here are some ways we decided we can cope:

  •          Have a good cry; feel it
  •          Create something: draw, paint, collage, whatever works
  •          Write about it in a journal or on the back of an envelope; release it.
  •          Exercise
  •          Remember - think about how you felt about striking out on your own
  •          Make a plan: how often will you and your child communicate?
    How much does your child think is too much? What vehicles work best (Skype, email, texting, phone calls, etc.)?
  •          Talk about it with friends in the same position; share what each of you has found that works.
  •          Consider the young adult your child has become. Jot down a list of his/her positive traits and skills.
  •          Focus on what your child will be learning in this next phase of his/her life. What are the new skills that he/she will begin learning now?
  •          Make a scrapbook or a photo-book. I’m a huge fan of Shutterfly photo-books!
  •          Plan ahead for holiday breaks and summer vacations
  •          Get ready to send care packages! I have a board on Pinterest specifically for collecting care package ideas.
  •          Write loving snail mail. Send a letter and when you drop in in the mailbox let go of the need to receive a reply.
  •          Go somewhere! Take a trip to somewhere new or simply go to a tourist spot in your own town. Send your child a postcard.
  •          Change the environment when you are ready. Convert the child’s room into a guest room, craft room or office if the time is right.

Above all, remind yourself that this is a good thing. We raise our children with the hope and desire that they will become independent adults one day and that is exactly what they are doing.

What other ideas do you have for holding the grief and the joy of this moment? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.