The Pain of the Second Goodbye

With this goodbye I knew he was going back to friends he’d made in his hall but that I’d seen way too many Snap Stories about on SnapChat. Friendly-but-wild kids who seemed more interested in partying, stairwell surfing, bonfire-jumping, and obnoxious-pranking antics than studying.

With this goodbye I knew he was going back to a grueling academic schedule for a brand-new major—a program he transferred into mid-semester after a 180-degree shift in his future career plans. He’d already been so overwhelmed with the stress of maintaining a 3.0 for his scholarship, and I knew this semester would present even more of a challenge.

With this goodbye I knew he was heading off with less than $25 in his bank account. He’d managed to blow through his graduation gift money in a few short months, and now he’d need to find a part-time job if he wanted any spending money. (His hopes for a spring break trip to look forward to were no longer a possibility.)

With this goodbye I knew that the glitter of the college newness had worn off. The days would be shorter, the Montana weather would be colder, and the glory of the holiday break consisting of four weeks at home surrounded by nothing but sleeping, eating, and hanging out with family and his childhood friends would make it even tougher for him to readjust.

With this goodbye I also knew he’d survive and grow, just like he did first semester.  I wasn’t by his side, and I didn’t need to be. I knew God still held him in the palm of his hand. And I knew the change in his maturity didn’t come from the passing of time—it came from facing the day-to-day reality and challenges of being independent at college.

It wasn’t always pretty—it wasn’t always stuff that warmed a mama’s heart to picture in her head—but whether it was exciting stuff or tough stuff, it was real life. His real life. And his “real life” stuff was turning my son into an even more wonderful version of himself.

With this goodbye I realized the gap between who he once was and who he was becoming was growing wider. Because I’ve felt how the distance between us is more than just miles, it’s also in the reality of me no longer being part of his daily existence to watch it all unfold.

The boy I dropped off in August had become a young man I was sending back in January.

And this time, when I said goodbye to my son for his second semester of college, my heart was missing them both.

This article originally appeared at

Kami Gilmour
Kami Gilmour
Written by Kami Gilmour, mom of 5 teen and young adult kids. She’s the author of a new book that chronicles her imperfect journey of parenting in this season with a refreshing sense of honesty, humor, and practical insights:  Release My Grip: Hope for a Parent’s Heart as Kids Leave the Nest and Learn to Fly. Kami is also the co-creator of SoulFeed college care packages, the faith-based care package that feeds college students what matters most, and co-host at They Say Podcast where overshares her crazy (sometimes inappropriate) stories.

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