How To Send Your Child Off To School and Survive

As August approaches, are you like me? Do you start to think about back to school? School supplies? Clothes shopping? I love being able to provide my two children with new ‘back to school’ clothes, shoes, backpacks and supplies. It’s like a line out my one of my favourite movies – You’ve Got Mail’ “ Don’t you love New York in the Fall?  It makes you want to buy school supplies”  

If you haven’t read my Are you a Daisy? blog post yet, click HERE to read more about how much I love the movie You’ve Got Mail and how it all ties in to the friendliest flower around – daisies – with respect to you.  

Now, my children are not little anymore. My oldest (Rachel) is heading into her third year of university and my youngest (Callum) is heading into his final year of high school.  Many emotions will occur this year for this mama bear.  My sweet daughter is half way through her university career and my darling boy is completing the milestone of high school graduation. Which then involves him getting prepared for university (a lone tear falls from my face….) 

Rewind back to 2018 (actually 2017 if I am honest).  Preparing our daughter for university.  In all honesty, I did not handle this very well.  As mentioned, it really started in 2017 – her heading into her senior year of high school. There was getting her prom dress.  Her graduation dress.  Each milestone seemed to pull harder and harder on my heartstrings.   

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path…. Agatha Christie

Which then brought me to the summer of 2018.  One thing that helped me stay focused was to keep busy.  Lists and more lists of ‘To Do’ ‘ To Buy’ ‘To Complete’ filled my days and kept my mind at ease, but as August approached I had such a loss feeling in my soul.  Have you ever felt this?  It is so deep inside of you that it feels like you will break at any moment.  You’re whole purpose in life (well, at least for me – my whole purpose in life is to be the best darn mom I can be to Rachel and Callum) was leaving the nest.  

I would lean on my husband so much.  He’d do his best to encourage me, cheer me up, lift my soul, but underneath for him… he was struggling as well.  He did very well disguising that for me. Showing me his strength – giving me all his strength.  He helped me through that summer tremendously.  

I would lean on my friends.  Especially those who have had their own children already head off to school.  Again, so many encouraging words and hugs.  

One piece of advice if you are struggling with this as well – don’t be afraid to turn to your spouse. Don’t be afraid to turn to your friends.  They are there for you.  Whatever you are feeling or going through, they CAN and WILL help you.  

The day before we were taking Rachel to school, I went for a run.  I had a mix of songs playing in my ear buds.  The song Overwhelmed came on.  It’s a Christian song by Big Daddy Weave.  Now, some of you may be wondering why I’d be listening to this and not some upbeat, pound the pavement, keep in stride tune like Stronger by Kelly Clarkson?  When I run early in the morning, I have a playlist that consists of worship music.  It grounds me. 

Well, I must say. That song stopped me – dead in my tracks.  I couldn’t breathe.  It was hard to move forward.  I was stuck; physically and emotionally.  Tears poured out and my heart emptied.  I was broken.  

It’s amazing what happens in a broken state.  That moment, although it seemed to last forever, only lasted seconds.  God stepped in and gave me strength I did not know existed.  One foot at a time, I moved forward.  The pace increased and I was running again.  I was determined to get through that song without crying.  I hit replay over and over and if I cried, I pressed it again.  I ran until the tears no longer fell.  I was ok.  Rachel was going to be ok.  We have done our job at raising her and it was time for her to spread her wings and fly.  Excel at the God given gifts she had inside of her.  

Until…. we brought her to school.  Move in day was a whirlwind.  Chaos surrounded the school with leaders, students, moving boxes and emotional parents (so emotional that after picking up her move-in package, we started to drive away with Rachel’s leg still hanging out of the truck, door wide open and scratching the vehicle parked next to us – which ended up being owned by her roommate’s Dad. We were a bit distracted to say the least) .  

The moment had come to say goodbye.  Even writing this stirs up that sad emotional memory deep inside bringing tears to my eyes.  I had to say goodbye to my angel.  I was strong.  I had to be. Not only for myself, but for my daughter.  She was also emotional, sad, scared, excited and nervous.  This was huge for her.  I made it back to the truck and the sadness poured out.  I think I cried for close to an hour.  All the while my husband and son were doing their best to fight back their own tears (my poor husband was driving, so he had to muster up all he could to drive. I don’t know how he did it) and my son was saying goodbye to his best friend.  

university, leaving the nest

The moments and days following and throughout her first year away were a mixture of highs and lows for me.  A saving grace was Face time.  To see her pretty face would fill up my heart. Hearing how well she was doing. Stories about her classes, her friends or the events occurring made it seem like she was right here telling us her stories.  Sending her items in the mail – letters, small gifts or cards.  All would let her know we were thinking of her.  We made a point to always look ahead at when we would be seeing her next.  

Do you have a child heading off to school this fall? (I know in the course of events happening right now, it may look a bit different, but some schools are proceeding as normal).  Are you struggling with letting go? Do you feel like you are losing your purpose? Are you scared?

All of those questions and feelings are completely normal.  I felt ALL of those at any given moment leading up to her moving and throughout her first year.  It is only natural for a mom or a dad to feel a sense of loss when your child moves away.  

How did I survive? Day by day, I prayed.  Day by day, my husband and I encouraged each other.  Day by day, I was there for my son.  Day by day, I found a new purpose or rather a newly evolved purpose of encouraging my daughter from afar.  The struggle is real.  It hurts.  It sucks.  It empties your heart.  But!  Just like when I was running, God will provide the necessary strength you need to Just. Let. Go.  That was all I needed.  The ‘ok’ to let go.  Once I made that realization, the struggle lessened, the pain began to disappear, and a sense of calm entered.  

Steps That Helped Me Before, During, and After:

  • Tasks: I am task oriented and leading up to move in day required multiple lists.  We checked off each and every box of necessary to-do’s that kept me focused and clear headed.
  • Devotionals:  There are so many devotionals to read about your child leaving the nest. Pick one and read.  Then, pick another.  The strength in those verses and scripture WILL give you what you need.  Try The Joy of Letting Go by Vicki Caruana.  This is just one of the many I read.
  • Fun Activities:  We planned a trip to Boston that summer and created so many memories and laughter moments that we lost count.  Laughter fills the soul.  (check out my Boston Blog for reference).
  • Fun Surprises to Send in the Mail:  we would send cards, a note, or even a gift card every now and then – just as a surprise to brighten her day.  
  • A Memory Box:  We created a memory box filled with fun items for her dorm room, a journal that my husband and I wrote in filled up with encouragement, kind words, love, and stories, a photo book with pictures of us, her friends, milestone moments like prom and graduation, envelopes of “open when” (open when you need encouragement, open when you are sad, open on your birthday) and also some money and gift cards.  Putting that together was a gift of LOVE straight from our hearts directly into hers. 

These are just a few things that helped in the transition process.  I am sure I will need to step back into these steps throughout this coming year as my son steps into his milestone moments of prom and graduation and then begin to prepare for his first year of university and leaving the nest.  A whole new bag of emotions will occur I am sure as my baby leaves home.  I must be honest in saying I am unsure how I will handle those upcoming months as my husband and I become empty nesters, but I do know that there is strength in God and He will give me whatever I need to now let go and prepare my son for life.  

As you encounter these next couple of months leading into your child’s sendoff, remember that you have all the strength you need. God provides that.  That you have provided everything your child needs in order to conquer their new world and that although the pain and struggle seem hard right now, it does get easier.  You have been the perfect mom (or the perfect dad).  You have raised a confident, smart and driven child who is going to excel at their school career.  You will have moments of tears.  You will have moments of laughter.  You will have moments excited to pack that luggage for a visit and you will finally have moments of “I’m ok”.  Treasure each and every moment and you WILL survive.  

If you need encouragement during your time of struggle, please email me.  I’m just one click away.

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If you’d like to read the book – The Joy of Letting Go by Vicki Caruana, click the link below to find a great deal.

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