Four years ago, my husband and I took our youngest daughter Talee to college. Time has flown. This weekend we’ll watch her graduate.
I clearly remember moving her in to the freshman dorm. Walking up three flights of stairs multiple times on a hot September day, our arms filled with everything she could possibly need: clothes, shoes, school supplies, toiletries, bedding, and decorations to make it homey. She was excited to meet her two roommates. I hoped and prayed they’d have a great year.
It was difficult for me to believe my little girl was going to live away from me for the first time. Talee had severe separation anxiety in preschool. Growing up, she’d been painfully shy. In fourth grade, she had anxiety and so many panic attacks that she missed several weeks of school.
Talee matured into a strong, smart, and confident young woman. She was still nervous about starting college and living on her own, but knew she was ready.
It was bittersweet. I was proud of her and happy she was beginning an amazing adventure. But I didn’t know how I was going to manage without her at home. It was hard enough when our oldest daughter, Mackenzie, moved out. Now both girls would be gone.
On that freshman move-in day, I tried not to dwell on my status as an empty nester. I focused on organizing Talee’s new space. It seemed an impossible task to fit three girls and all their stuff into a tiny room. Somehow we managed.
By late afternoon it was time for the welcome celebration in the football stadium. Excitement and nervous energy filled the air. Students, anticipating living the college dream. Parents, anticipating life without their children at home.
The band played, the president of the university spoke, and cheerleaders helped rally the crowd.
The speech that impacted me the most was given by Paul Wesselmann, The Ripples Guy, a motivational speaker. I’ll never forget what he said. This isn’t word for word, but it’s the basic idea of what he told us:
“Parents, I need you to really listen. Your children are beginning a new adventure, adjusting to life without you close by. They’ll have successes, but there will be missteps along the way. Let them know you love them. Be patient. Be kind.”
And then he said this:
“Students, I need you to really listen. Your parents are beginning a new adventure, adjusting to life without you close by. They’ll have successes, but there will be missteps along the way. Let them know you love them. Be patient. Be kind.”
The woman in front of me couldn’t stop crying. I choked back tears. The end of the ceremony came too fast. In a whirlwind, my husband and I gave Talee huge hugs, kisses, and told her she’d do great.
Talee learned a lot about life in the past four years. College was everything she’d hoped it would be — and much, much more. It’s going to be so hard for her to say goodbye.
Huge changes are coming. She was hired at a wonderful company and will be working in the city. She’ll commute from home for at least a few months. Working in the real world (at a “big girl job,” as she calls it), will be challenging for her to get used to. She’ll miss her friends, sorority sisters, classes, and of course, her boyfriend.
It’s going to be an adjustment for my husband and me as well. We’re thrilled she’s moving back home, we love having her and Mackenzie around. But it’ll be different.
Life is changing. I know it’ll all work out. Right now, I’m looking forward to the graduation ceremony this weekend.
Once again, we’ll head into the football stadium where it began. We’ll watch Talee walk in her cap and gown while Pomp and Circumstance plays. We’ll listen to speeches and cheer as the graduates toss their caps high into the air.
When I’m sitting in the stands, I’ll think about how far Talee has come. From a shy little girl with anxiety and panic attacks, to a confident college graduate with a bright future ahead. A shining example of hope.
One season of life is ending. Another is about to begin.
First image courtesy of here
Paul Wesselmann’s website is here
Second image courtesy of here