Dropping my oldest off at college in August was hard. Navigating that was emotional and icky and made me so stinking proud, too. But this phase…ahh…this phase of having her return home from college for winter break is a new kind of hard, and a new kind of wonderful, too. Wonderful to see her and hear her and smell her, but hard in a new way as I yet again find my place in her life.
Our job as moms is to ultimately help our kids become successful adults, of course. From the womb on, we are preparing them to be on their own, contribute to society, and make lasting relationships. All things that take them away from us slowly and exactly what we all want for them. Our job in the end is to let go. But you don’t really think about that as you get that positive pregnancy test, feel their first kicks, or nurse them back to sleep at three in the morning. Then preschool and grade school come around, and you figure out that role of making sure their work is done and they have a balanced diet, they learn to read and write and do most of the math (because have you seen the kind of math they expect them to learn now?!).
Middle school is a steady mix of trying not to kill them and their smart mouths, and making sure you hugged them even though they don’t want to be touched, and reminding them to bathe and brush their teeth. Then high school has its own sets of challenges making sure they learn to drive and make good choices, graduate and get into college. I am rushing through it, and of course there were so many lovely special moments I hold dear, but my point is that they need you so much until one day they really don’t need you anymore. So for the last year I have been trying to find my place and it’s been hard.
Maybe I find it harder because I hate change, or because she is my first baby, or because I still have a younger child so I don’t feel like I should be sending one off yet. Whatever the reason, once they start high school, time passes at light year speed and then you take them to college.
This new phase comes with deeper conversations, mutual interest in books, news, movies, and also with awkwardness at finding my place. She is great at texting or calling me after work to let me know she will be going out instead of coming home so I don’t worry. Instead of “can I” I get the “I am going out with friends.” Which is fine; she is almost 19. She doesn’t need to ask permission. She gets herself to work on time every day by 8am, keeps up with her schedule, and doesn’t need anyone to remind her. This all started a year ago, but at that point she was still asking for permission. After a semester away at college on her own, it is absolutely evident that my first baby is now a grown woman.
As I find my new place in her life, I want to be careful not to step on her toes or inhibit her growth, but it is also hard not to tell her to clean her room or drive safely in the holiday traffic. She managed to keep her full scholarship, make the Dean’s List, get a big part in the spring play, and complete all her volunteer hours without a single reminder from me; really totally without me as she was over 100 miles away most of the semester. She really is a grown woman. I know she is exactly where she was meant to be and I get such peace from that. She is finding her way, making her own path and I am so very proud of her. Of course I will love her no matter what, but seeing her succeed makes losing my first baby to college not hurt quite so bad.