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We Became Friends Because of Our DaughtersAmy Baldwin, Ed.D.
Over the course of several months, I’ve collected an assortment of items my soon-to-be college student will need.
My daughter will be going to school several states away, and the thought of her being that far pretty much guts me. I've been managing my growing anxiety and utter excitement with this ongoing project. Working on gathering all her essentials has helped me feel just a little bit more at ease about her departure.
I’m buying too much, I’m sure of that. But there’s so much I won’t be able to do for her when she’s gone. Each item I’ve bought presents itself as one less thing I’ll need to worry about, and one more way I can take care of her when I’m not there.
I’ve poured my energy, my time and my heart into caring for her every day for 18 years, and soon I won’t be able to. I’m not quite sure what to do with this new reality. I can’t imagine not seeing her every day and helping her with all the day-to-day details like I’ve done all these years. I have to trust she can do it on her own and that's not easy for me to do.
I have countless concerns about her being so far away and living on her own in an apartment with five other girls she has yet to meet. Will she get along with them? Will they get along with her? Will my girl pick up after herself? Or will she leave toothpaste smears on the sink and dirty dishes in her room? How neat and respectful will her roommates be?
Living together is a tricky trek involving all kinds of intimate details that will slowly surface as the newness fades and they discover one another's strengths and weaknesses, habits and virtues. At the ripe age of 18, they will have to figure it all out together. They will have to learn how to care for their home and each other, how to budget and shop and meal plan and clean and work together for the common good of six teen girls living in a home on their own.
I’m not quite sure how that will go. Somehow, they will need to fill their living space with order and accountability, healthy communication and boundaries. This sounds like a nearly impossible feat for their age. It will take a new level of maturity and responsibility to make this giant leap into adulthood. They will all be leaving their safe, secure, organized launching ground to begin building a brand-new foundation on their own. I only hope and pray that it will be stable and structured enough to live on it successfully.
There are so many unknowns, and they scare me.
I imagine every possible piece of my daughter’s life I won’t be present for and the hard parts of her days I won’t be able to help her sort through, and all the countless moments in between that I won’t know much about, and I come undone. It will be such a difficult process of letting her go and trusting she will make good decisions without me there.
I am confident in her potential to lead a full and productive life with all she has learned here at home and yet, I still question it all. Did I teach her everything she’ll need to stay safe and healthy? The lessons to learn are endless, and I know I couldn’t have taught them all. There are so many skills she has yet to acquire and countless experiences she has yet to have, and it’s all so unpredictable. Did I do too much or too little while I had these precious 18 years to raise her?
I know she'll make mistakes. She'll have to figure things out as she goes and sometimes that will mean she will inevitably struggle or fumble along the way. I know this is part of the long and sometimes arduous journey of growing up. But she’s still so young and my heart twinges with unease as random worst case scenarios erupt in my mind.
I try to stay positive, shifting my thoughts to the amazing opportunities she will have, because that's the best part of this letting go process. I keep believing in who she is and all she can do and I know this is the right plan for her — and she does, too.
As an anxious mom, I'll often throw myself into functional tasks that allow me to do something to help settle me down and give me a sense of control when I feel things are slipping out of my grasp. It gives me a practical mission that helps put order in one area of parenting when other areas are unraveling. Hence the list of college necessities and the project of shopping, sifting and sorting.
Sure, my daughter could buy these items on her own, and it would be easier to shop in her new town instead of traveling with this heavy load. But with each new item I’ve added, a little bit of my anguish has been released.
These necessities may not protect her from heartache and pain, from the stress and strain of learning to live on her own, but that's out of my control. I can only hope that having a home filled with all the things she needs will somehow put me there with her, loving her and caring for her from afar.
And deep inside my aching, excited and anxious heart, I hope these provisions will be attached to my love, my guidance and my support, when I can’t be there myself.
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