I've started going through pictures of my daughter from infancy up till now. Eighteen years worth. I’m doing this in preparation for the graduation party video I was going to create (now she is), and for the surprise scrapbook I'm making for her to take to college with her. (No longer a surprise because I accidentally mentioned it and now she keeps removing any pictures where she thinks she looks the least bit funny. Like this one:

Bah, ha, ha, ha! I love having my own blog where I still have the freedom to embarrass her when I can.

Anyway, going through all these pictures unavoidably conjures up a lot of bittersweet memories. Then I start thinking about this fall when she'll head off to college and, well, I'm trying not to feel sad, but…unavoidable. It's also unavoidable that I flash back to my own college days.

To the memory of my parents driving me up to campus the week before school started. Helping me cram my stuff into the tiny dorm room I would share with four complete strangers. I was so nervous I was sick. My parents took me out for ice cream before they left and I couldn't even eat it. Couldn't eat ICE CREAM! You know it was bad.

Ironically, I'd been the initiator. I'd begged and pleaded with my parents to allow me to go away to school instead of commuting. But when the very thing I'd hoped for actually happened--I was terrified! My parents claimed at the time they were sad, too. But as I stood sobbing, watching them peel out of the dormitory parking lot, tires squealing as they zoomed back home to their remaining kids, I was certain they were really thinking, "Woo hoo! One down, three more to go!"

Of course now, as I'm facing my own turn in this role, I know they were more likely thinking, "My baby is going to college! I can't believe it. I've had so much fun with her, and now it's time for me to let her go, even while a part of me inside is crying and whining, 'I don't wanna, I don't wanna!'"

But it's inexorable. My baby girl is about to embark on a new adventure! And it will be exciting and wonderful and she'll remember this time for the rest of her life. I just wish I didn't feel like I was going to be stuck back in the old adventure. Without her.

We'll no longer enjoy breezy conversations when she walks in the door from school. We'll no longer have our bedtime chats, where under the cover of darkness she's shared everything from the trivial to her most secret thoughts and dreams. No longer will I be able to kiss her soft cheek good night, every night. And instead of my home filled with the chattering, laughing voices of her friends playing goofy games and watching movies, there will be…an empty space.

The comfortable, normal world of our relationship will have to change. (Change is a skill I'm not particularly good at.) I'll now have to make a point to call her on the phone (and get better at texting!). And hopefully our relationship will simply morph into a new kind of comfortable and normal.

Then maybe I'll realize I'm not really stuck in the old adventure without her, but instead I'm embarking on a new adventure myself: as the mom of a college student. (And a high school student—don't think I've forgotten you, sweet Joshua. We're going to have so much fun shopping together and sharing our feelings with each other. Bah, ha, ha!)

I will miss her something fierce.

But my precious baby girl has grown into this amazing, confident, faith-filled, beautiful young woman. And really, that's been the whole point all along, hasn't it?


Susan R. Mills said...

It's so sad, but so wonderful. I hope the transition goes smoothly. You'll have to let me know because I'll be going through it in a couple of years. Your daughter is beautiful, by the way.

Meagan Frank said...

Oh Holly, I love this! I laughed... at your parents squealing out of the parking lot, and then I was welling up with the way you describe how she'll leave. My girls are 7 and 4 and I am already weepy about that exit. Thanks for sharing this, and I have no doubt that a wonderful adventure waits around the corner for both of you.

Heidi Willis said...

Oh my gosh!! I laughed so hard at this until suddenly I realized I was crying and trying with all my might not to go wake up my 11 year old son and tell him he can NOT EVER go away to college!!

On the positive, though, despite leaving home 22 years ago and never looking back, I eventually did move back (ironically through my hubs job) and now live 8 miles from my parents. And I go to Bible Study each week with my mom and then out to lunch. Very, very cool.

And I think she thinks so too.


NanaRuth said...

We actually felt terrible driving away and leaving you crying, but we knew (hoped) you would be fine. (Thank goodness you were!) We are very proud of the "middle-aged", writer lady you have become!! (Bah, ha, ha)Hmmm...does that make us the "old" folks?

Annette Piper said...

A bittersweet time, for sure. This post makes me glad my kids are still here to lavish much attention on! Boarding school is very popular here in rural areas, but I'm not ready to let my 12 y.o. go anywhere yet!!

Ivy said...

My son is only three and I am crying right now thinking about that day.

This is such a beautiful post. I so hope your daughter reads it and appreciates the wonderful mother she has. Be strong, mom. And while she's away at college put together a scrapbook of all of the pictures she took out. She'll love it one day when she's laughing with her own children.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Thanks everyone...and MOM!! <3 (a.k.a. NanaRuth XO)

Alyice Edrich said...

I just went through that last year! It's so hard to let them go, and yet it is their right of passage.

I experienced the empty nest syndrome a year before my son went off to college. He started pulling away. When I tried to talk to him about it, he said he was just preparing me.

It will be nearly a year, he comes home one weekend a month and we talk one a week--though not long.

Honestly, I had panic attacks that were so severe I couldn't breathe, prior to him graduating and leaving

I stayed near the phone the first few months he made the long trip here and back to college.

I cried alot, at not being able to see him daily.

But now, I think I am handling it well. I just pray that he is always safe and healthy and that college proves to be a wonderful experience. :)

You, too, will do great. Especially since your daughter has not yet pulled away--looks like she won't go through that. (Here's hoping!)

Christina said...

I have a two year old, and sometimes I can hardly wait for the day he'll leave for college. I'm sure I'll feel different when it's time though. I found you on MBC and I love your blog. new follower.

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

Scary and wonderful all at once. I'm just nervous even thinking about it. But I know my time will come!! Big hugs to you and your precious daughter, Holly.