It was one of the toughest days of my life and yet I couldn’t have been more excited for, and more proud of, my son. It was time for college move-in day. For the first time in my life, I physically felt my heartbreak, like someone had gone in and ripped out a piece of it.
We’d been planning this day since soon after he started kindergarten, but didn’t we just take our first, first day of school picture? Standing by “his tree” in our front yard before the bus came. He couldn’t wait to get on the school bus with his buddies and went bounding on with barely a wave back to mom. He had places to go and people to see.
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We blinked and then it was time for his first day of middle school. Another first-day picture standing by “his tree.” Both had grown so much since that very first picture. Again, barely a look back. He was so excited to be heading off to this new adventure.
What seemed like only a week later, it was his first day of high school. But, we still had plenty of time before college started, didn’t we? There was still time to enjoy this stage in our lives. Watching him grow into a young man that I was proud of….well, most of the time anyway.
Move-in day was here
And then it happened. Just a few short months later, (It couldn’t have been any longer than that, could it?) my dining room was full of Rubbermaid tubs filled with everything he needed for his college dorm room. (And a lot of what he didn’t need, but mom felt better just knowing he had it!)
There was so much excitement in the air, knowing that this next chapter in his life was about to begin. Did he remember everything we had taught him? Would he remember to apply everything we had taught him? (Or perhaps a more accurate way of stating it would be, “would he choose to apply everything we had taught him?”) Would he study hard or choose to party harder?
Would he know where to go when he had a question? Who would take care of him when he got sick?
If you haven’t picked up on it already, my son has been very independent from day one. He’s never had trouble with new chapters in his life. He takes them head-on and isn’t afraid to tackle them. This is such a great characteristic that I am so proud of, but couldn’t he have a little bit of a struggle leaving mom?
College move-in day was no different from any other chapter he had started. He was ready and couldn’t wait to be left on his own to get this adventure going. He knew I was struggling, hugged me often and told me multiple times how much he loved me. But it was time for me to let go.
We stayed the entire weekend in Radford. Not because my son needed us to, but because I couldn’t imagine driving away without him. We certainly didn’t expect him to hang with mom and dad all weekend. We did our own thing and enjoyed this new town our son would be living in. I just needed to be close. To know that he was near.
A final farewell
After a final breakfast, we left him at Radford University and for the first time in my life, I could actually feel my heartbreak. It wasn’t just a phrase I had used, like in the past. My heart truly hurt, and yet, I was so incredibly excited for him. How on earth could someone have both of these feelings at once? Honestly, I really can’t explain it, but I did!
That day is coming very quickly for you. I understand every single emotion you are going through right now. Total excitement for them to take on this new adventure. Apprehension on whether or not you prepared them well enough to handle life on their own. And complete sadness that this chapter in which your child, who owns a piece of your heart, is beginning without you.
It’s going to go by quickly, and those much-anticipated breaks come before you know it. They are the times that all you want to do is breathe them in because, all too soon, it’s time to say goodbye again.
Before you know it, that first year is over and you’re picking them up for summer break. And truthfully, I cried a little over that too. I was sad for him that his freshman year had already come to an end. He would never again get to experience his first year of college.
Fast forward just three short years and his graduation has come and gone. Yes, he figured it out. He blossomed in school and became a very determined young man. One who gained a better appreciation for home and mom. One who is so incredibly fun to be around. And one who I couldn’t be more proud of. Oh, don’t get me wrong. This kid had quite the social life in college, but he figured out how to make it all work.
So I say to you, mom. Go ahead and cry. Tears of joy, tears of new beginnings and chapters closing. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not ok to be sad. It just shows how deeply you love this child that you raised.
But don’t forget to feel the excitement and celebrate their accomplishments too. The excitement for what’s to come, for watching your child go off into this big, bright world and do incredible things.
There will be mistakes made, but every one of them will be great stepping stones to something so much bigger!
As we prepare to go through this all over again with my youngest, I know it won’t be any easier than it was the first time around. But this time, I’ll try not to blink!
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Until next time, my friend…..
P.S. While you’re here, be sure to read 12 Tips for Sending Your Child Off to College!
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