Columnist’s note: Meet my friend and fellow student nurse, Jillian DeMoya. Jillian is a busy mother who recently said “Goodbye” to her firstborn, who left for college. I listened as Jillian shared about the myriad emotions a parent has at this transition — being so proud and excited for your child to grow up and do great things but deeply grieving his absence. Instead of writing about it myself — I’m never letting my children leave home! — I asked Jillian to be my guest and write about it herself for this week’s Whole Family column. I hope readers appreciate her depth and honesty. I do. See you next week.
— Steph Price
As I stood there in the aisle looking at cards, I burst into tears. I could not stop. I cried silently as I made my way to the register. I cried discreetly as I paid. When I hit the safety of the car, with my windows rolled up, I really let it rip. Graduation day had dawned, and one of the last-minute errands that I had needed to do was to buy a graduation card for my son who was graduating from high school. As the sobs came that day, I realized nothing would ever be the same.
Two weeks ago my oldest son left for college. I am both immensely proud and deeply sad.
I am the mother of four children. Having them and being their mother has been at the core of my identity since the moment that I knew I was expecting my first child. I know, all the experts say that it is imperative to keep developing in my own right as a person. I have done that. I love to read, consider myself a lifelong learner who loves people and new adventures; I even went to college for the first time at age 40.
But I have always enjoyed being in the presence of my children. I have relished their hugs and sweet breath. I love seeing the world through their eyes and experiencing together all of the wonder a day can hold. I love spending a lazy day when all of us can be found piled on the couch together singing, laughing, and watching funny videos. I love seeing them develop their talents and passions. I love watching other people enjoy their presence also.
Yet now my oldest child has gone away to college. Two weeks ago we helped him move in so that he could pursue his dreams. Of course, he was incredibly excited to go to college. Now his life is really beginning.
It was with great intention that I pushed my oldest to reach for his dreams; to have the courage to follow them wherever they may lead. His senior year was filled with so much hope and trepidation as we began the process of college applications and auditions. Everything from what our weekend activities were, to what was on the daily calendar, was intentionally organized with one goal in mind; securing a place in a great program at a great college. What an exciting day it was when we heard the news that he had been accepted into a program at one of the colleges of his choice.
Another day dawned with beautiful sunshine and it was a day that would be filled with excitement and change. As I gathered my children around me, I spoke with them about being intentional in their lives. Relationships don’t just happen. I told them to reach out to one another with great intention throughout their lives and to cherish one another and their future families. Deep words for a monumental day from a mothers’ heart. After that it was off to college where we moved my son in and I watched as his sister and brothers doted on him and helped him set up his dorm room. With an aching heart I watched them kiss and hug goodbye. With shouts of, “See you soon!” we headed back home.
No matter how ready you think you are, nothing can really prepare you for the feelings that you go through when your child leaves for college. Yes, they will come to visit, and maybe even some come back for a period of time. But it is different. Nothing will ever really be the same. I also realize that I was raising an independent soul to go forth into this world and live his life. But, I had loved being with my children. Starting and ending the day together, intimately sharing life.
The first week was pretty emotional. Sometimes I felt such happiness for my son that he was in the program of his dreams and loving every minute of it! Sometimes I felt jealous of all the new friends he was making; I wanted to be a part of it too. Other times I would burst into tears seemingly unprovoked. Lots of times I felt sad, like I was grieving. He came into my world, this child of mine, and took my heart by storm. He dwelt in the innermost reaches of my heart and embodied all of my dreams. How am I supposed to feel now that this child of mine is reaching beyond what I can give him and venturing out into the rest of his life? How do we make this transition?
What I have to believe is that we will figure it out as we go along just like we always have. I very much look forward to the time when we will share a laugh and that thing that passes between adults who love each other. I just do not know how to get from here to there. I know I have my own very busy life and once my classes start I will be busier than ever. I have three other beautiful children that inhabit the same regions of my heart and will have endless activities to attend. But for today, my heart is aching with joy and sorrow all at once. Both my child and I have started down a new path in our lives. It is one that will be filled with discovery and new joys. Undoubtedly, it will hold its share of sorrow also. I have surely given him faithfully the best of myself and now it is time to trust that; to trust him.
All is as it should be, but that doesn’t make it any easier.