My Baby Girl is Going to College

For the first time since my daughter started her senior year of high school it hit me. She’s going to college. I’m sitting here in my kitchen, still in my pajamas and glasses, watching videos of the schools she’s been accepted to and I’m crying. My baby girl is going to college.

I’m not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m overwhelmed with a sense of relief and excitement that is difficult to understand unless you have experienced your youngest bravely and enthusiastically straddling their childhood and their future. It’s an awesome feeling.

You see, I watched Grace’s eyelashes grow. I did. I stared at her so much between nursing and just dreamy baby gazing that I saw her eyelashes slowly sprout and frame her deeply brown eyes. She was a long awaited baby that we worried we’d never have and then she came ten days early and perfect, except, I guess, her eyelashes didn’t have time to grow. I used to put her on my lap, her head nestled by my knees and her feet rising up my stomach and look at her.

I wondered what was going on in her brain. I wondered when she’d smile. I wondered what her voice would sound like. I wondered if she’d be tall like her dad or short like her mom. I wondered if she’d have anything wrong with her. I wondered if she’d be funny and sarcastic. I wondered if she’d be strong and kind. I wondered what she’d love and hate. I wondered who she would be.

Now I know. She has a smile that lights up the room and a voice that is confident and fearless. My strong genes be damned, she’s short like her mother. She has a slightly turned in foot and a crossover in her brain that sometimes impedes her ability to get her words out smoothly. She’s funny. She has a laugh that sends happiness down my spine. She’s delightfully sarcastic and clever. She’s so strong. She’s so kind. She hates snakes an unreasonable amount. She’s a bit gullible and super easy to startle. She hates running. She loves Harry Potter, Hamilton the Musical, singer-songwriters, reading fiction, school spirit, and computer science. She’s a feminist. She’s an activist. She’s a good friend and a generous sister. And her eyelashes are beautiful.

I didn’t figure out who Grace was all at once. Like her eyelashes, I watched her figure it out slowly. I gave her the opportunities and the space and watched as she experienced life and became this amazing woman who if I wasn’t related to, I’d want to be friends with. And now, she’s off.

The relief I’m feeling this morning is that she is healthy, happy, and able to take this next step to college. Having a baby you have no idea what your child’s challenges will be, and while she has them for sure, she’s mostly won the lottery of being healthy. It is a lottery. Parents know that. There’s no rhyme or reason to our luck, but we appreciate it every single day. I’m feeling relieved that she never got involved with drugs. I’m feeling relieved that she, for the most part, makes good decisions. I’m feeling relieved that she has surrounded herself with goofy, fun friends and has a bond with her siblings that will long outlast my time on earth. I’m feeling relieved and I’m feeling grateful.

But what I’m mostly feeling is excited for her. Maybe it’s because I remember this time. I remember how intense it was to be a senior in high school. The heady mix of being in the moment of this crescendo of your childhood surrounded by people you’d known for years and more familiarity than you can even stand, starkly contrasted with this abyss of unknown barreling toward you at the exact same time. Just as your bonds with your friends, teachers, high school, and community are cemented as part of you forever, you have your eye wandering toward something else, something new, something unknown, something where you have to start all over again. It’s intoxicating, maddening, frustrating, and wonderful.

In five months, my daughter Grace with the curly hair and thick eyelashes will live somewhere new and we don’t even know where yet. Before the summer is over, she will pack up her belongings and bravely make a home out of a cement floored empty room with only a bed, desk and bureau. She won’t have her sister ten feet away to both annoy her and share things with. She won’t have her little brother around to remind her not to say, “sucks” and instead say, “stinks.” She won’t have us there to start and end each day with kisses, hugs, and I love yous. She will have to find her people again, tell them her story, and build up a community of support and love by herself.

But, it’s time. And as I type that I can feel the tears forming, and if I’m honest, a bit of an ugly cry coming on.

It’s time and we all know it. This is the moment for parents. This is why we have kids in the first place. We want them to have a life. We want to give them the tools and opportunities they need to shape who they are and then send them off to learn more than we can teach them by living under our roof forever. We want them to confidently explore the world so they can learn by experiencing things who they are and find out how they want to spend their days in both work and play. We want them to experience life fully, the full spectrum of human emotion, and the ups and the downs that come along with it. It’s their time to take whatever it is we’ve instilled in them and go off and put it to good use as a foundation for what they want out of life.

For as much as we love our children and want to protect them and guide them forever, we can’t. They are not ours. They belong first to themselves and then to the universe. They are so much bigger than ours. And that’s why this moment, and hell, all of parenting, is so damn bittersweet.

I’ll miss Grace. We all will. But I also am so grateful and thrilled that she gets to live this life. Say yes to life, Grace. And go share your wonderful gifts with the world. It’s time.

Love her!

 

17 Comments

  1. Colleen Dangoia on April 2, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    So beautifully written M. This paved the way for 2 years from now when I will be sending my 1st off to take on the world ❤️ Go get ‘em Grace 🙌🏻

  2. Becky Geisel on March 29, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    Loved this! As a mom of three daughters I especially loved: I didn’t figure out who Grace was all at once….I am so proud of the women each of my daughters have become. And who they have become is not necessarily what I expected.

  3. Sheri Groenveld on March 28, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    This piece was so well written. You put a focus on feelings that aren’t usually mentioned. There is too much emphasis in society today about how sad the parents should be when their child goes to college. The whole breadth of parenting from birth to going to college is something so big, so real, so daunting, so wonderful…. you captured it. Thanks for the good read!

  4. maggie on March 28, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Perfect! My oldest baby is headed to college in August as well. I’m so proud of her. We all are. I’m so going to miss her … we all are! But I’m THRILLED that she’s ready and willing to take on the world. Here’s to the babies all grown up!

  5. Patty Hongell on March 28, 2018 at 5:46 am

    They make our hearts break, melt and grow, sometimes within the same minute.

  6. Tony Whitaker on March 27, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Meredith- enjoyed your story as I have four daughters and will be in the same predicament soon. I don’t like the line “I wondered if she’d have anything wrong with her. “ I have a daughter with Autism and while she is not typical I do not consider her to be “wrong.”

    Tony

    • M. on March 27, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Hi Tony. I understand your not liking the use of the word “wrong,” but it was/is the honest thoughts in my head and still the word I’d use to describe my fears. It wasn’t something “wrong” in any specific capacity or negative sense, but more a general fear that she’d have a serious health issue. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Always great to have you in the conversation.

      • Tony Whitaker on March 28, 2018 at 6:03 am

        Good deal. Fair enough.

  7. Sarah on March 27, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Geez I am crying and my babies are still 10! Beautifully written piece. Usually your posts make me laugh like hell but this one just rings true.

  8. Dee Dee on March 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

    My oldest is Grace too! She’s in grade 9! I don’t know how I’m going to cope when she goes to University! You wrote it so beautifully. Thanks for putting all our feelings into words! I’m sure I’ll be reading this again when it’s her time to go away for school.

  9. Megan Searfoss on March 27, 2018 at 5:36 am

    For a few moments, I thought… oh my, did I do all this, feel this way, teach,guide and give? Yes, I believe I did, I just can’t remember. Thanks for putting into words what we all do and just can’t write like you do. Go Meredith! ❤️

  10. Amy Dockus on March 27, 2018 at 3:00 am

    This is beautiful Meredith.

  11. Meg on March 26, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    So true – and so beautifully written. Parenting is the ultimate love story.

  12. Jessica on March 26, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    What an amazing gift this is to Grace, as she is to you. Your writing is so beautiful it brings me to tears. And FYI there is no amount of fear that is unreasonable when it comes to snakes😘

  13. Amy Propst on March 26, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    I am glad I have about 9 years (10?) before I have to go through this! I will be ugly-crying to months. (I got teary-eyed watching the Senior videos at a school concert this weekend and I don’t even know these kids!)
    Super-excited for Grace though. It is absolutely an amazingly special time for her! Hang in there mama!

  14. Carla on March 26, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    This is great and all so true. My oldest started this year. While it is so wonderful to see your child spread his wings, I have missed him more than I thought I would. The dynamics of our family has changed. I was not prepared for how much less laundry I would have, less groceries I would have to buy and how easy a family of 4 can get a table at a restaurant. While those all sound somewhat good, I miss the heck out of my family of 5. Something is always missing and that bedroom door is always open where it used to be closed. On the positive side, I love when he comes home and sleep so much better when all my babies are home. 😊

  15. Dan on March 26, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    A beautiful love note letter to our daughter. Thank you for putting these feelings into a message that will last forever – like our love for Grace.

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