In some ways, I’ve been preparing for her to go to college for years. So why did I feel so unprepared? For instance…
…I wasn’t ready, on move-in day, to wake up with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.
…I wasn’t ready for the stress rising in me because all of the emails about orientation had gone to her, which meant I had to rely on her for information (which doesn’t feel natural to me).
…I wasn’t ready, as she walked the sidewalk leading to the freshmen cookout/welcome, to drive past and see the brief look of apprehension flicker across her face. I wasn’t ready for how this would affect me, or the emotion it would invoke.
…I wasn’t ready, the next morning, to say goodbye. To walk one way and see her walk another. To know that nothing will ever be the same.
…I wasn’t ready for the wave of regret over things I should have done more of or things I should have done less of; the feeling that time had run out.
…I wasn’t ready to point the car toward home, knowing that once we got there, her room empty room, the empty spot at the table, and her empty car in the driveway would all be there to greet me, but she wouldn’t.
I wasn’t ready. But she was.
She told me so as we went walking, the night before moving her into her dorm.
We had driven thirteen hours that day, and arrived at our hotel just after midnight. Wanting to stretch my legs before bed, and wanting just one more moment alone with my girl, I suggested taking a walk and she agreed. Our hotel was just across the street from her sparkly new campus, so we wandered that way, walking under the street lights on the empty sidewalks, peering into empty buildings and stadiums, and dreaming about what this place would become for her.
In the soft darkness, I asked again, “How are you doing? Do you feel ready?”
She said yes, she was ready. She reasoned that of course it would be hard–not knowing anyone, and starting from scratch. But she knew she would be okay. How did she know? “Because for my whole life you’ve been pushing me to try things I didn’t want to try, and encouraging me to do things that were hard. And I’ve learned that it’s hard at first, but then it gets easier.”
I smiled at this, remembering…
…In fourth grade, we talked about her switching schools. She didn’t want to, but we pushed and encouraged and said, “We’ll be here. God will help you.” And by the end of that year, she had made lifelong friends, and felt a part. She learned to trust God a little more through that experience, and we saw her grow.
…Then in sixth grade, we encouraged her to try the swim team. She didn’t want to, but we pushed and encouraged and said, “We’ll be here. God will help you.” And she loved it. She spent the next seven years swimming down lanes, diving off starting blocks, and shaving off seconds. She learned the value of team spirit and cooperation and developed the tenacity and endurance of a swimmer.
…In seventh grade, she did something she regretted and hurt someone’s feelings. We said she needed to go apologize. She didn’t want to, but we pushed and encouraged and said, “We’ll be here. God will help you.” And when she slipped back into the car after pushing that doorbell and saying those hard words, she felt better. She had learned the value of humbling herself to ask forgiveness, and began making this a habit.
…In tenth grade, we suggested that she gently remind the church leader (who hadn’t followed up) of her interest in playing keyboard in the worship band. She didn’t want to, but we pushed and encouraged and said, “We’ll be here. God will help you.” Her brave persistence led to years of involvement, including dozens of weekends serving with the band by playing in our church’s multiple worship services. She made friends, grew musically, and put down roots both in our church and her faith.
Over the years, we pushed and encouraged, she reluctantly agreed, and God did help her! She grew so much.
And now, she was ready to go. She felt confident because of all God had brought her through in the past. What a courage-inspiring thought. The morning before she moved into her dorm, I took this picture in the hotel room:
It’s her Bible, resting beside her pillow, where she had been reading before I even woke up. I sent the picture to her later that day, saying, “This is how I know you’ll be okay.” She’ll be okay because she has Him. Because she’s learned to rely on Him to help her.
And now, it’s time to push and encourage–not just her, but me. It’s time for me to try something new. Something I don’t want to do. Something that is hard at first but will get easier. It’s time to let her go. (That’s hard for a Control Girl Mama like me.)
I’ll still be here for her. And God will still help her. And He’ll help me, too.