I’m starting to see the Facebook posts. Parents sending kids off to college.
Helping them decorate their dorm room. Reflecting on how quickly 18 years went.
They all read something like this: “I’m going to miss you like crazy but I’m so excited and hopeful for your future.” And that is the paradox. Both statements are completely true.
Two of my people are launching their first off to college.
One characterizes this year as “the dark night of the soul”. Another developed an ulcer over the summer. For the mamas and daddies who are eternal optimists by temperament or naturally compartmentalize your emotions, we celebrate with you that this transition doesn’t feel like suffering. Really, we do. But for all the rest of us mommies, this is a gut-wrenching, nauseating experience. And we think we’re the only one who’s ever felt this emotionally flattened. And we tend to condemn ourselves because we can’t seem to pick ourselves up and brush ourselves off and be OK yesterday.
Here’s the thing, mama. I want you to know that you are not alone in this. I’m proof positive that there is a long and formidable cloud of witnesses who have journeyed this road before you and survived. Thrived even. And we are cheering you on.
I know, you’re looking at the calendar, counting down the days. Wondering how you’ll make it through….
Remember when you were nine months pregnant with that same kid? You didn’t know how you’d survive childbirth either, but you also knew there was no choice but to pull down your big girl panties and somehow deliver a baby. And you did.
You weren’t sure how you’d live with a little person 24/7, but you did.
And now that little person’s turned big and you’re not sure how you’ll live in the daily without them either, but you will.
Remember that classic story about the family who goes on a bear hunt. I know it by heart and so do you. “Going on a bear hunt, Going to catch a big one, What a beautiful day! We’re not scared. Uh-oh, grass… a river… mud… a forest… a snowstorm… You can’t go under it. You can’t go over it. You’ve got to go through it.” And that is the cold hard reality about launching our children: There is no other way than through it.
Here are some things that have helped me on my journey. Maybe they’ll help you too:
1) Clean like a crazy woman after they leave. (I’m talking deep clean, spring clean, whole-house reorganization style.)
2) Exercise (When you can get yourself out of bed).
3) Once you get your appetite back, don’t indulge the empty space in your life with food. You’ll feel worse when you start packing on the pounds.
4) Share your tears. Unload them on a good friend. And don’t waste your emotional energy on self-condemnation for grieving your loss. Your Father, He’s collecting your tears in his bottle, delighting in a sweet offering of deep love.
5) Invest in your relationships with your other kiddos in intentional ways.
6) Develop a previously untried spiritual rhythm or discipline that connects you daily with God and PRAY at all times, for all your people, about everything, and always start with “Thank You” because gratitude refocuses your attention from your worries to His faithfulness. Such a small word for such a big idea….
And here’s a bonus tidbit of advice. If you’re a natural-born melancholy, imbibe on your “Mom Music” Spotify playlist with extreme moderation.
Truth. That moment you give your last hug and drive away or wave as they do, it will indelibly etch itself on your soul, leaving you wondering if even dementia could take it away.
It’s never the same after that. Autonomy tends to have a voracious appetite.
But in time, you will find a new normal and it will be sweet.
You can walk this journey. You can.
Hold tightly to the hand of God and see the surprising new places He takes you. Let Him carry you through the treacherous terrain and you will experience new facets of His tender strength. God’s fresh mercies won’t leave when your kid walks out the door. They’re still surprising and new and enough– abundant even, for this day and all the days yet to be written in your story.