In one week she will be nineteen, and I will drive one hour northwest and pick her up from her first year of college.
She’s still a starry-eyed daydreamer and she is a true joy. In this first school year, she has navigated incredibly difficult classes, roomie challenges, worked an on-campus events job, found her way to study slides at the cadaver lab for Anatomy & Physiology more than she’s out having fun off campus.

This year has been a stretching season of surprises where she is more organized and focused living away from home than I ever thought possible, from when she runs laundry to when she meets her pals for sushi and movie night, or other gatherings which have become so foundational for her emotional wellbeing.

When I dropped off a few bags of things a few weeks ago and took a Tuesday off work, I marveled at her desire to introduce me to friends across campus. From the cafeteria to her dorm, we met a number of wonderful young adults who love her, and she brings kindness and encouragement to the lives of her friends and those she sees at school.

Here’s the deal about having an almost-adult in her last year of teenagerhood:  I love who she is and really miss her. I can produce real tears instantly if we talk about her, but they are tears of delight and pride with her tenacity, as much as tears for missing her. The letting go has been a process, and especially the first harrowing months of college in the fall when I told her to stay on the “train” of college and ran alongside, waving my hat, telling her she was going to make it. “Of course, mama, you knew I’d make it!” She has.

We need to reassure ourselves as much as we reassure our children, that those feverish nights of toddlerhood, the silence and pain, the discomfort with new stages of middle school, all of those moments matter and have led to the college years.

I am not the same young, inexperienced, insecure mother at age 26 when she was born those 19 years ago. I have matured with her, gleaned new ways of loving her, and I hope to continue to learn from all my 3 children those meaningful lessons in life, of finding grace in the details of each day, of pausing to daydream, of growth each phase of life, and letting go when they’re ready to soar.