When I Grow Up

One of the Hardest Things About Parenting Is Letting Go

The closed door makes it easier to forget that there is one less person living under my roof.

I should be used to empty rooms by now. I made my first college drop off in 2006 and have had a revolving door of young adults coming and going ever since. Each semester I’ve had to adjust to an empty bedroom (or two) and less faces around the dinner table. But this time, there’s no homecoming date on the calendar. This time, the move is permanent.

I’ve been here before. My oldest moved out six years ago. But that move was only a couple towns away; this one is a couple states. Though if I’m honest, it really doesn’t matter; the absence is felt, no matter the distance.

I tell myself this is three hours closer than when she was at college. Getting there will be easier — a day trip is possible, so theoretically, visits should be more frequent. BUT. This move is not just a physical move, it’s a life change. She’s moving on to bigger things in her life – a new job, her own place and new opportunities. A full time job means that realistically, there will only time for visits on weekends. And though she’ll want to see us, there will be other demands on that free time.

Building up to moving day we talked about how she’ll be home again – for holidays and family events. This is not a goodbye, but a farewell. But I know better than to count on frequent visits. Life is going to take her places we have no way of predicting. There will be new friends, new activities and at some point, someone will capture her heart and most of her free time.

I know that I won’t be replaced and that I will still be her “go-to” person for many things. I know that I’ll get calls, asking for advice, wanting to vent, or simply to say I miss you and love you. I know there will be opportunities for me to visit and for her to show me around her new city or for us to explore new areas together. But things will be different. There will be less time between the hellos and goodbyes. There will be no summer vacation or winter break. There will be fewer opportunities for spontaneous outings.

On the other hand, this is an exciting time in her life. She has a new job, a new city to explore and is making new friends. This is the way things are supposed to be. My full-time mothering is done. I’ve worked myself out of my long-held day job. As I said to her as I got ready to head for home, this is a big step for us. We both have to figure out our new roles and work out our new normal.

Before leaving, I left a gift for her to find, a magnet for her fridge. (Though I quickly discovered her fridge is not magnetic on the front, so I had to squeeze it in the space on the side). It reads “No matter what age you are, you always need your mom.” I wanted to remind her that I’ll always be here for her. I thought it would make her smile. We both know she’s got this. No matter how difficult it may be at times, she comes from a long line of strong, determined women and that strength, as well as the love our family shares, will see her through.

This is a good thing. It’s what we have been working toward all these years. But this may be one of the hardest things about parenting big kids – knowing it’s time to let go.