I feel like I spent my kids’ whole childhoods prepping them for college. I was constantly saying things like, “In college, I won’t be there to remind you to do your homework…” and, “Your college roommate won’t like it when you borrow her clothes without asking…” and, “In college, you’ll have to decide to eat healthy on your own…”
I prepared my kids to transition to college. The one I hadn’t prepared was myself.
I WASN’T READY
For instance, I wasn’t ready for the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when we woke up on my firstborn’s college move-in day.
Then, I wasn’t ready for the jolt of role reversal, when I had to rely on her for information about orientation since all the emails went–not to me, but her.
I for sure wasn’t ready for the look of apprehension that I saw flicker across her face, as we drove away—or my avalanche of emotions that followed.
And then as we drove away, I wasn’t ready for the wave of regret over things I should’ve done more of and things I should’ve done less of. Or the feeling that time had run out.
I definitely wasn’t ready to return home to her empty room, her empty place at the table, or her empty spot in the driveway.
I wasn’t ready for any of these things, but she was. She told me so, the night before we moved her in.
The Night Before Move In
We spent thirteen hours in the car, driving from Grand Rapids, MI to Lynchburg, VA, and arrived at our hotel past midnight. But rather than going straight to bed, I wanted to stretch my legs, and my college-bound girl did, too. We were staying right across the street from her sparkly new campus, so we wandered that way walking on empty sidewalks under the streetlights, peering into empty buildings and stadiums and dreaming of what this place would be for her.
“How are you doing?” I asked. “Are you ready?” She nodded yes, and I asked how she knew.
She said, “Because my whole life, Mom, 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. Yes, I remembered.
I remembered fourth grade, when we decided to switch her school. 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.
I remembered sixth grade, when 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.
I remembered seventh grade, when she did something hurtful and regretted it. 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.
I remembered tenth grade, when we suggested that she 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. My daughter felt confident, stepping onto her college campus, because of all God had brought her through in the past.
Glancing Back, then Forward
The morning of move-in day, I glanced over at her empty bed in the hotel room and saw her Bible resting open beside her pillow. She had already been reading before I had even woke up.
I snapped a photo and set it to her later that day, saying, “Here’s how I know you’ll be okay.”
She’ll be okay because she has Him, and because she’s already been learning to rely on His help. I’ll be okay, for the same reasons.
Today, I need to not only push and encourage my daughter, but myself as well. It’s time for me to try something new. Something that, as a Control Girl Mama, I don’t want to do. Something that is hard at first but will get easier. It’s time to let her go.
Are there goodbye’s you aren’t ready for? Is there someone you’re struggling to entrust to the Lord? Try making a list of all the ways you remember God working in her life or his life up until now. Entrust both your loved one and yourself to the care of the Father. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).
This is a repost from 2016, when I dropped off my oldest daughter at college. Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll share about what I’ve learned in these past four years, as a mom of college students.
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