To the Mom of the High School Graduate

The day I kissed my firstborn son and drove off the college campus, leaving him and his favorite Michael Jordan poster behind, was a day I always dreaded.

You have these humans, pour into their life, and then in the cruelest irony, you’re asked to let them go.

But what they don’t tell you is that to do it, you will let a part of yourself go, too.

I know the emotional state you’re likely in reading this post, celebrating your graduate, loving your kid the way you do and not feeling ready to send them off into the world or use words like letting go. I want to send you a cyber hug, give you a look of understanding, and tell you a few encouraging things I wish I had known about sending my kid off to college last year.

All the letting go won’t be bad.

In fact, some of it will be monumentally good. You won’t see this on move-in day, so don’t even look for it. It will come as a surprise guest some days, maybe months after, when you least expect the company. You will be minding your own business when it shows up and reminds you of that fun thing you did together on that trip, when you made him run around the house 5 times to get out all his energy when he got in trouble, when he said words like you’re the best mom, ever, and they were the sweetest words you ever heard. It is then you’ll realize you can love from afar while letting go of daily control and expectation and yes, even the ache from not feeling the arms around the neck everyday will be okay because you grow in your strength from sweet memory and distance.

Turns out, both you and your kid will do some growing up when they go off to college. This, my friend, is a good thing.

My son has been gone for a year and now he’s back for the summer. I wish someone had told me this time last year that I would truly be okay. Isn’t that what we all want to know? That yes, it will hurt, and yes, we will cry, but we will be okay. So I’m going to tell you. You will be okay. In fact, you will be so okay that your kid will come back for breaks and you will ask yourself questions like did she always make this much noise? and when does he go back to school? This will shock you as much as the first time you held them and fell in love. I wish someone would have told me this was perfectly normal.

But most of all, I wish someone would have told me about the things that wouldn’t change…what would still hold true, despite location, a little more miles on the body and a whole lot of personal growth with everyone involved:

1) Your kid will still need you.

In some ways, he or she will need you more than ever, not that they will ever say those exact words. Expect none of the needy words, especially the freshman year. But the words will be said in round about ways with late night texts like “hey mom, did you put any Neosporin in that emergency kit under my bed” and “what’s the best way to get an ink stain out of my pants?” They will need you to encourage them when they take those first college exams they have never had experience with; need you to tell them it will be okay when their roommate is annoying or suddenly starts snoring. They will need you to be strong and be a voice of reason when they want to come home after those first few tough, lonely days and weeks. They will need you to be wise and say “study, don’t party.” They will need you to assure them that they will be okay and home hasn’t forgotten them in their absence.

Lisa Whittle
Lisa Whittle
Lisa Whittle is an author, speaker and most affectionately known as “mom.” Her love runs deep to see people grow roots and walk strong in the midst of a world that sometimes makes us crazy. She is the author of six books, including her latest Put Your Warrior Boots On.  She is a wife and mother of three who currently resides in North Carolina. Visit her at

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