When you have a baby, every well-intentioned veteran parent you meet tells you that these days will go by too fast. That if you blink, you’ll miss it; that the days may be long but that the years will be short.
And we believe it. We know that’s true.
But when we’re covered in puke, drinking a cold cup of four-times-reheated coffee, rocking a screaming teething baby … we just can’t fully embrace the joy in the middle of the suck. Then, in what really does feel like the blink of an eye, we’re dropping them off at a college dorm that’s a good 10 hour drive from home in another state and we cannot fathom how we could possibly be doing this now. Didn’t she just cut her last tooth? Suddenly I’ve gone from “go to sleep, baby” to “I miss my baby.”
We do lots of hard things as moms. We make difficult decisions. We practice tough love. We navigate choppy waters. But there’s something completely surreal in the amount of difficulty that comes with letting your baby go.
Nobody told me that I would question everything I had ever taught her and whether or not she would both retain it and be able to regurgitate it. Have I taught her well? Have I taught her enough? Have I modeled a strong work ethic? Have I modeled self-confidence, humility, and respect?
Nobody told me that walking away from her would make me feel like I was completely abandoning her. How could anyone drive her child 10 hours away and then just leave her? What if she gets sick? What if someone breaks her heart? What if she gets lonely? How can I not be there?
Nobody told me that every day I would play the worst-case scenario in my head. What if she died today? What if the last time I hugged her was weeks ago? What if something happened to me and the last time she had heard my voice was last week? What if she got hurt, and it took me all day to get to her? What if I don’t get to her in time? It’s enough to bring the strongest mom to her knees.
I think the hardest part about letting her go was realizing how much I was losing. I’ve lost the opportunity to see one of my favorite people every single day. I’ve lost a helper in the kitchen and an assistant in most areas of my life. I’ve lost having one of my closest friends sitting next to me at the breakfast table and having one of the worst joke tellers beside me at dinner. Somewhere along the line, sometime in the middle of a blink, my tiny, red-headed, crabby, teething fireball of a baby turned into a beautiful, smart, comedy-impaired-yet-hilarious, amazing young woman who became one of my best friends.
I don’t miss the diapers but I already miss my baby.
I shared these thoughts with a wise friend who has now sent four daughters off to college. I apologized for the sappiness of my lamenting. I’m obviously not the only mama who has sent a daughter out into the world, but she reminded me that my daughter only has one mama, and that’s me. So, I’m the only person on the planet who knows what it’s like to send HER out into the world and it’s OK for me to feel sad.
It’s OK for me to flip through her baby book. It’s OK for me to text her and video chat with her every day. It’s OK for me to own (and proudly wear) a sweatshirt from her college and a t-shirt from her dorm. It’s OK for me to require daily selfies, so I know exactly what she looks like today. (If she goes missing, I’ll have no problem telling the police what she’s wearing.) It’s OK for me miss her. I’m her mama.
It’s OK because I’m blessed to have such an amazing daughter. It’s OK because I’ve done my job, and she is now thriving on her own. It’s OK because she’s happy and confident, learning and growing, maturing and spreading her gorgeous wings wide. It’s OK because she is a light shining in the darkness. It’s OK because when I fought for nine months to keep her alive inside of me, I kept a piece of her in my heart that can never be severed.
It’s OK because no matter where she is in this world, she will always be mine. And I will always be her mama.