“There are two things we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings.” – Unknown

When I woke up this morning and walked down the hall past my son’s bedroom, I thought, “only one more sleep.” I stopped, turned around, and went toward his bedroom door, pausing for a moment. It was 4:30 AM; the house was dark and quiet. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear his gentle breathing, coming out from under the duvet.

When my son was a baby, I used to lean up against the door frame in the early morning hours, listening to him breathe and make weird noises babies make. In those early days, it felt as if time stood still, and now here I was, 18 years later, getting ready to let go.

As I made my way downstairs into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, I thought about all the items on the “To Do” list before we pick up the rental car and make the drive to Denver.

I carried my cup of coffee into the guest room and looked at the pile of things my son had amassed over the past two months: two 66 gallon Sterlite boxes, three IKEA Frakta bags, a 3-1/2 thick mattress topper, two pillows, and a 6-cube shelving unit from Target.

Over the past six weeks, I texted back and forth with my new DU mom-friend; her son is also an incoming first-year student, but my new friend has been down this road before: her older daughter is in her 3rd year of college. My new friend has been a fountain of useful information, providing me with details about dorm insurance, move-in experience, and all the tricks (“pack a mallet”) that only someone who has been-there, done-that can provide. I feel fortunate to have access to her knowledge base.

I stare at the pile and wonder what is missing. Yesterday I asked my son; he simply replied, “it’s all under control, mom, “and if I am missing anything, we can get it in Denver.”

He’s an Eagle Scout; he is prepared, I tell myself.

I pad into the family room, sit down and sip the hot coffee; the warmth of the coffee and the jolt of caffeine help me focus.

My mind wanders. My son packed new socks, underwear, pants, and shirts; he has new pillows and bedding. Two dozen plastic hangers are set aside for hoodies – this makes me laugh: never hangs anything; he prefers to fold his clothes.

The feeling that something is missing is still overwhelming.

I remember a sense of relief when I dropped my son off my mom’s home when he was a few months old; she had offered to watch him while I went to the salon to get my hair done. As a new mother, I worried about leaving him yet so relieved to get a break for an hour. I trusted my mom with his care.

Each night when I poke my nose into his room and tell him, “I am going to bed. Don’t stay up too late,” he always replied with, “Good night, mom, I love you.”

That is what is missing, knowing this routine will soon end.

My mom used to tell me, “It goes fast, Karen!” and boy, was she right. Hugs and kisses. The screams of joy when I walked into the room, shouting out, “Mama!”

My mom was right; it went by fast. I would give anything to have one more day with my boys as “littles” instead; we continue to move another day closer to his departure.

A friend texted me a few nights ago: “How are preparations going for your 9/5 departure?” She had just moved her daughter to her university in Montana. I couldn’t answer that question right away as I pondered “preparations.” Stuff for the dorm room? Around our house? Preparing to cut out a piece of my heart? I’d done a great job avoiding the latter, instead, just focusing on the things my son would need in his dorm room for his life as a college student—those preparations I can handle: towels, sheets, and pillows. Check.

Right now, the process of “doing” is much easier than “being.”

On Wednesday, my son stopped at my dad’s house to say goodbye; his eyes had filled with tears as my son shared the details of the trip and his classes. This “goodbye” is bittersweet as my dad’s memory erodes a little bit each day. From the time my son entered pre-school, my mom talked with him about going off to college; her absence is so apparent; that she’s not here to say goodbye is difficult.

There is no preparation for a range of emotions.

As I finish my coffee, I think about our new routine, staying connected via phone, FaceTime, and text.

I don’t want to be the mom who asks, “Where are you? Why haven’t you called?” so instead, I come up with a few witty lines: “Hey! Do you want some money?” and “I have an extra $100 – shall I transfer it to you?”

I laugh in spite of myself and know that everything will be okay.


“Thanks for your wise words of patience in my waiting. I really needed that and kept going back to it when I was feeling lost.”

— Janice Z – Coaching Client




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