Saying Goodbye to Your College Kid Without Turning Into a Blubbering Idiot

Well, I did it again. I said goodbye to my son and sent him back to college this past weekend. You’d think I would be good at this by now. I have done it over and over again with two children. But no matter how many times I do it, it always has the same effect on me.

To say that it’s gut-wrenching may be a bit over dramatic. I did hug him far too long, and I kissed his beautiful, square jaw a ridiculous number of times. He just stood there patiently waiting, hugging me back, until finally I stopped kissing and released him from the mom vice grip I had on him.

Of course I knew this was coming. In fact, I have been preparing for it for many years.

When babies are born, we immerse ourselves in caring for them, holding, feeding, changing, teaching, changing again, feeding again, and on and on. But then they do this unbelievable thing – they grow, and grow, and GROW.

No matter how many times we witness the phenomenon, it always seems to amaze parents, grandparents, and every other adult in society. Children grow, and grow, and then something really weird happens. They become tall enough to look you in the eye. Eventually, some even wind up taller than you are. My son is now 6’ 4” tall. I get a crick in my neck just looking up at him.

For some reason, the teen years really throw us for a loop. Maybe it’s because, in some cases, the kids are taller than we are. I must admit, when my son crested that 6 foot mark sometime before age 13, I had to get accustomed to looking up at someone whose diaper I had changed.

Parents of teens are in a difficult phase in their lives, and perhaps that’s why so many people have problems dealing with it. The 7 teen years (and really only the first 5) are the last official years of their childhood. THE LAST YEARS OF THEIR CHILDHOOD! We grapple with the knowledge that they might not need us anymore. We have the impending doom of knowing our job is drawing to a close, and some of us are just not ready for that to happen.

When teens make their inevitable bid for independence, we frequently misunderstand it and label it as “rebellion.” We don’t want them to not need us anymore. But the fact is, that’s what we should want most of all – for them to become responsible, self-sufficient human beings who know how to manage in this big, wide world, without Mom and Dad holding their hands.

When my son left on Saturday, I fought the urge to break down and sob. I kept reminding myself I still had my husband and my daughter here with me, so that helped a whole lot. I prayed for his safety. I stayed very busy all throughout the day. I made an effort to keep my mind occupied enough not to dwell on the fact that my second child was all grown up and leaving us again to finish his junior year of college.

And that is a very good thing! He is happy, most of the time. (Except in circuits class, but who could blame him?) After all, isn’t that what we as parents want? We want them to be happy and to do great, just not so darn quick!

But it is quick. Quicker than we can sometimes handle, but handle it we must. Not only for their sake, but for our own.

It sounds so final, but it really isn’t. It’s all in how we look at it.

If you are the parent of a teen, you are in some of the most precious and rewarding days of your child’s life so far. Just think of all you and your teen have been through and accomplished during those years. You are now an experienced parent, able to give advice to new parents who are struggling as you did with the infant, toddler, and young child issues. You are the parent of a teenager! That deserves a “Wow!”

Admittedly, it takes a lot of work and soul-searching to begin the process of letting go. But we as adults should be equipped to do just that. We have already been through this before, on the opposite end of the spectrum, when we were teens ourselves.

We know all too well the need to get out and be on our own, the need to spread our wings, the need to feel like we can fly off on our own and make great things happen!

So I will continue to love them, continue to teach them, and continue to say goodbye to them because I know it is the best thing for them. Your teens will love you for letting them go peacefully, and it paves the way for sweet relationships with them when they become adults.

How have you done it? How have you said goodbye to your kids when they ship off to college, or just – life? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts and experiences.

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4 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to Your College Kid Without Turning Into a Blubbering Idiot

  1. Honestly, we knew it was time for our 23 year old, successful son to move out. However, when he called me at my office to say he got a job in Texas, my heart sank. We had 2 weeks to give him a blessing as he packed and flew from northern California to Dallas, TX! I love seeing them grow. I just don’t like seeing them go!

    • Totally agree with that! Our oldest daughter got married last year. It was the end of one era, but the beginning of a wonderful, new one for all of us.

  2. That article is worth its weight in gold!! How blessed the family would be who approaches their children’s teen years with such a constructive attitude. Keep up the good work Anna. You can be a great service to many struggling families.

  3. Love this!! It is always reassuring to know that other parents are struggling with the same feelings! We really do have to keep telling ourselves that this is (or should be) the goal as we are raising wonderful little human beings!