Once Your Baby Leaves for College, You’ll Feel an Ache You Can’t Heal
Once your baby leaves for college, you’ll feel an ache you can’t heal.
It comes from a fresh, raw, rip when you say goodbye.
Letting them go, to live on their own, is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
Your life will go on through the days, turned into weeks, turned into months without them there. But you’ll feel a constant longing, filled with the lingering echoes of the 18 years you raised them. This ache will live with you, as you carry it along wherever you go, in whatever you do.
It swells in unpredictable moments when you spot a car that looks like your baby’s car, or you pass by their room, silent and vacant of their smell, their messes, their presence. You’ll be shopping for groceries and realize you don’t need to buy their favorite food or look for their special shampoo. It will catch you off guard, as you’re going through your day. Out of nowhere, you’ll feel the immense pull only a mother can feel, with a desperate need to see your baby, to fix the rip and fold them back into your arms where they’re safe and secure and you know they’re okay.
You’ll imagine getting on a plane or jumping in your car to travel the distance between you, so you can look them in their eyes and touch their hair and hold them tight and see for yourself that they’re all right. That’s what you need to mend this tear, to heal the ache. You just want one more minute to be with them again.
But you know you can’t buy that plane ticket or get in that car. You know your baby needs you to stay right where you are. So, you live with this tear, this pull, this ache.
Letting go requires this painful break.
In those raw and real moments of missing them, you’ll worry and wonder about every detail of their life. Are they eating healthy and sleeping well? Or are they run down and living on junk food and coffee? Are they getting along with their roommates and making good friends? Or are they hurting and lonely, not fitting in? Are they keeping up with the schedule they have? Or are they stressed out and overwhelmed and struggling with their classes? Are they staying away from harmful people and places or finding themselves in unsafe situations?
You’ll wonder if they are making good decisions, from the big ones that are difficult and heavy, to the trivial choices they make in a hurry. You’ll wonder if they are being productive and accountable, respectful and responsible. You’ll pray they’ve found friends who are trustworthy and wise. You’ll hope they’re truly happy while experiencing so many new things, learning all there is to learn on their own. You’ll wonder if they are remembering everything you taught them about sorting their laundry and controlling their clutter, about the power of prayer and the priority of self-care.
You’ll want to call them every day just to make sure they’re okay. But you know you can’t do this, so you wait patiently for them to check in when they can. You’ll take your phone with you everywhere you go, just in case they call or text- you just never know. And when they do reach out to you, you’ll feel such relief that you finally get to hear how they’re doing. You’ll try to ask as many questions as you can with an urgency only a mother can feel. Your baby may not share all the details you need to hear and cut the call short because they’re rushing somewhere.
And this is how communication will go, never enough for you, but just enough for them. You accept this as a sign of their independence and you’re so grateful they don’t need you as much anymore and they’re managing things okay on their own. You’re so proud of them and all they are doing but a part of you will always long to have them need you like they did when they were little. You might feel like your role isn’t as important and your baby has moved on without you.
But out of nowhere, they’ll call or text with an urgent plea for help or ask for your advice. And you’ll realize your grown baby still needs you in their life, just in different ways. And this new role you have is significant and vital to their health and well-being as they are learning to make decisions on their own and still need your guidance and support. You’ll dive in when they need you and stay back when they don’t. You will always be their anchor, their home base, tethered to your child with a light dangling heartstring that connects you for life.
And as the weeks, turned into months, then years go by…
The ache you feel will never heal.
But with it comes the joy and celebration for all that your baby pursues.
And the thrill of watching their dreams come true.
And you’ll know this rip, this tear, this break, was worth every worry and every heartache.
Because we raise our babies to be full-grown and build their lives out on their own.
It’s what we moms were called to do.
And my gosh, what a gift we’ve been given to raise our kids and watch them grow up and go out into the world to be all they were created to be.