There’s Nothing Left to Say….

Wow – It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was letting go of B for the first time.  When I say “letting go”, I’m referring to the separation that takes place when your child begins their college journey.  I soon discovered that the “letting go” isn’t just a one time deal.  It happens over and over again – each time you reunite with your child, and then separate again.  I can’t say the “letting go” gets any less painful, but with time, I’ve learned to accept it.

This was last year’s post as I was about to “let go” for the first time.  Hoping it might bring some sense of  peace to those moms and dads “letting go” of their college freshman for the first time….

Given that writing is my way of analyzing, processing and understanding life, it’s kind of a no-brainer that I would have the notion to write a letter to Ben before he heads off to college.  When I first sat down to attempt this overwhelming task back in June, I realized there was no way I could say everything that needed to be said in a typical letter.  Instead, what was created, was more like a journal – sharing my thoughts, experiences, worries and wonders as this summer unfolded.

The following is an excerpt from a recent entry:

As I sit here less than 2 weeks from taking you to Colorado, I really struggle with what to say.  What’s left to say?  What could I possibly say NOW, that would make a difference.  The mommy side of me wants to run through a checklist of life lessons, things to remember to do or say in certain situations.  But I chuckle even as I write that.

There’s NOTHING left to say!  Much like it’s pointless to study for the SAT test the night before you take it.  You are either ready for it or you aren’t.


YOU ARE READY!  You have been ready for this for quite some time now.  I know you are ready, in my head and in my heart.  I know you will grab onto the opportunities that lie ahead of you – and take full advantage of them.  I know you will make countless great choices, and probably a few bad ones – because that’s life and that’s how we learn and grow!

 So while there’s nothing left to say to prepare you for this major life change, there ARE a few things you’ve heard before, that are worth repeating!

  • I am proud of you!  It’s easy to be proud of your academic and athletic accomplishments.  But I’m way more proud of your character, your attitude, and your choices…..I am beyond proud of the man you are becoming!
  • I am grateful I get to be your mom!   There are hundreds of reasons why I’m grateful to be your mom.  But at the core of it all – you have allowed me to parent you, to practice on you and make mistakes, to guide and direct you, to catch you when you fall down and to gently nudge you off the ledge when you were too timid to take the leap of faith.  You have laughed with me, cried with me, sat in silence with me.  You have taught me as much about life as I hope I have taught you.  You have loved me, with the adoration of a child and now with the compassion and respect of a growing young man.
  • I believe in you!   You can (and will) do whatever you set your mind to.  You have already demonstrated you have the desire and discipline to succeed in life.   You have set and accomplished one goal after another.  You don’t quit when things get hard.  You have a clear understanding of right and wrong.  In the midst of that laser focus, you are kind, compassionate, considerate and respectful of other people.  Who you are, makes it easy to believe in you!
  • I love you!   I love you, I love you,  I love you!!!!!!!!!!  This is one thing you should never, ever question!  I hope through your first 18 years you have embedded in your heart and soul the truth that you are both lovable and worthy of being loved.

Now go fly Ben!

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How I Survived My Son’s Freshman Year in College

And just like that….


9 months have come and gone – and it’s time to move my B out of his freshman dorm. I wish you could see me now, typing and shaking my head in total disbelief! I just don’t know where the time went?

If you followed my journey through his senior year in high school, you know I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Honestly – I wrote so much I felt like I wasn’t just wearing my heart on my sleeve – but vomiting my every thought and feeling out into the world.  I may have gone to the other extreme this year, by writing very little about B’s freshman year.  But here we are, 9 months later – and I’m happy to announce that I SURVIVED!

If you read no further – I can leave you with the fact that this life changing transition IS survivable.  It’s not an overnight thing.  It’s a long, slow transition.  And while I can’t say I’ve gotten used to B not being home, I think I’ve learned to accept it.  Looking back, there were a few key things that helped me survive this past year…

How I Survived My Son’s Freshman Year in College


Establish communication boundaries & expectations

About a week before B left for school I asked him to have a conversation with me about communicating while he was away at school. Then I burst into tears. Not an uncommon reaction for me at that time! I wanted to hear his thoughts on how often he thought he’d like to be in communication with me, and I of course needed to share with him what my expectations were.

I was beyond grateful when he volunteered the idea of talking on the phone once a week, since that completely matched my desire. When it came to texting, he only asked that I not blow him up (aka – text constantly, repeatedly and non stop). That was probably a smart request on his part, since I could have easily worn the skin on my thumb pads from over texting those first few days (weeks and months!).


I told B that texting him would be a way for me to reach out when I was thinking of him (aka – missing him desperately!), and that it would actually help me move on in the moment, versus dwelling in my sadness.   So we came to the agreement that if my text contained a question, I would expect a response. But if I was just touching base, sharing a thought or letting him know I was thinking of him, he wasn’t required to reply (although he usually did anyway – because he’s just that kind of guy!).

Every family is different. Our plan may not fit you and your family. But I guarantee that having the conversation ahead of time, setting rules, boundaries and expectations that work for your relationship, will ease so much of the transition.

Be patient and listen

The first few weeks (and months) of B’s freshman year I felt like an addict in need of my drug.  Our planned talk day was Monday.  So on Saturdays, I was counting the hours until we spoke again. By the time I heard his deep voice say “Hi Mom”, my need for feeling connected had turned into this unbearable sense of urgency.  I would bombard him with questions, but never really give him enough time to answer fully, before I threw the next question at him.  My excitement (and need) for information caused me to break all the relationship rules I had previously lived by.

The conversations felt awkward at times. Probably because we needed to transition from a face to face relationship to a long distance phone relationship.  Without the visual cues we’ve come to rely on, we have to relearn how to have a conversation by phone.  Moments of silence go unnoticed when you are face to face. But on the phone, those quiet gaps are so loud!


I’ve learned to be quiet and patient through those gaps. In fact – I’ve discovered that the magic happens on the other side of that silence.  As I stopped talking (duct tape helps), I found that B began to open up and share more, which in turn resulted in the ebb and flow of a real conversation versus the question and answer sessions of those first few calls.

With patience, comes the ability to really listen. When I say “listen”, I don’t mean to use your ears to hear their voice, nor do I mean to simply not talk.  What I mean is, LISTEN to the depth of what they are really saying, the emotions they are feeling and the meaning behind their words.

I didn’t just survive B’s freshman year this way – I think the two of us thrived in our communication skills and our relationship as a whole.

Learn how to parent – an adult child

There was a 48 hour time frame in August between when we arrived in Boulder as a family and when we departed as a 3-some, leaving B to his new life. It was during this time that I first began to experience this phenomena of needing to relearn how to parent…an adult child.  My mothering instincts wanted to take over; to plan, schedule, organize and control all the details of this physical transition. But I pulled back, not wanting to embarrass him.

However, each time I’ve been with B this year, I find myself parenting him like he was a child. I reminded him daily to take his antibiotic when he had strep throat over the holidays. I reviewed his packing list for our ski trip, making sure he had all the necessities. I even found myself sharing details of his shell fish allergy with a waitress, while he sat right next to me. When she left the table, he actually turned to me and said  (with a smile on his face)“I can order for myself Mom”.

Uugghh – stab me in the heart!


Parenting an adult child is an art, and I feel like I’m coloring outside the lines with chunky crayons. We will always be our children’s parents. But the job of parenting transitions over time. We don’t communicate with a 2 year old the same way we do with a 9 year old.   An 11 year old needs different boundaries and conversations than a 16 year old. While our adult-child grows and develops, so must we, in our parenting. I know I’m right in the middle of this long transition.  I don’t think I will ever stop parenting – but perhaps I need to learn to stop mothering, at least unsolicited mothering.

You might have a fear – but it’s not reality

Fear can be paralyzing!  The more we think about the thing that scares us, the bigger the fear grows and the more power it has.  When B was a toddler, I was afraid he might choke on small toys, so I baby proofed the house. When he was 8, I was afraid he might get hurt riding his bike, so I made him wear a helmet and limited where he could ride. When he was 13, I was afraid he might get mixed up in the wrong crowd and make bad choices, so as his circle of friends grew, I made a point to meet each of them, as well as their parents. When he was 16, I was afraid of all that could go wrong with him being a new driver on the road.  So I set non-negotiable driving rules regarding texting, speeding, curfew and more.

The reality is that I can no longer control the situation in an effort to both protect him and ease my fears. There have been times during these past 9 months when the fear has risen like spit-up in my throat.  I hope and pray that I have done everything possible to raise him to make the right choices in his life. But I was a 19 year old college student once…that did a lot of things that would scare many parents.


I survived my moments of fear this past year by acknowledging that I HAD my fear, but that it wasn’t a reality – and as simple as it sounds, just accepting that I had absolutely no control in the matter.  That instantly took me to a place of peace.  The most challenging part has been trying not to act on or make decisions from a place of fear.

So here I sit, 9 months later…

His dorm room has been packed and put into storage.  His freshman year has come to a close.  I might have just survived it – but thankfully B thrived in it!  Now, I am just hours from boarding a plane home…without him!


While I fly back to Virginia, he will be heading to Argentina for 3 weeks of education, adventure and fun!  The fear is choking me.  My head knows how freaking amazing this opportunity is, but the mama bear in me (my heart) wants him to stay here, safe on U.S. soil.  I had to make the choice to not allow my fears to impede him living his most awesome life.

I survived his freshman year of college – I can survive 3 weeks of travel abroad.  It may not be a pretty 3 weeks – but I’m going to take all that I learned this year and put it into practice.

with Gratitude, Joy & Love