What to Expect: when your child leaves for college

farewell letter to our daughter by loopylocks
Our daughter’s new home away from home.

Yesterday marked a month since we kissed and hugged our eldest daughter good bye and drove back to our Toronto home.  This came after settling her in to residence at McGill in Montreal.  Our first to leave the nest. Nothing really prepares you to let your bird fly away. You can try but I guarantee you that it will be hard. No sugar coating here. A big adjustment for me and also for my husband. Still is. I remember personally owning a copy of “What To Expect When You are Expecting” and “Dr. Spock’s Baby & Child Care” when I was pregnant with her. I also had a copy of “What to Expect: The First Year” and “What to Expect: The Toddler Years”. While I took morsels of wisdom and information from anything parenting over the years from books, parents, friends and even strangers, I felt abandoned and truly at a loss on how to get through this transition of what to expect when your child leaves for college.

Every parent wants what is best for their child. So I figured the best way to deal with this change would be to treat getting her ready to go as the the main objective. Emotions could wait. Wait for the car drive back. The kind of project where you make a list, plan, shop, pack, get ready and go. Yet, even though I took care of all the necessary details,  I naively thought that if I made myself busy enough I would be strong enough to say goodbye when the actual day came. I focused so much on preparing for the goodbye that I did not see what was yet to come.

Here is what you do not expect. You do not expect to feel like you have experienced an amputation as soon as you walk through the door when you get back home. Everything feels different. You do not expect to have to deal with appearing to be fine for your other kids when really you want to curl into a fetal position like your first child once was inside your body. The feeling of loss is very powerful.

Yes our daughter will be back in four days for Thanksgiving and yes, again at Christmas. In fact, she just bought her train ticket home today and we could not be happier. But each of those reunions means more goodbyes. More tissues. I have a feeling that we are in for and emotional rollercoaster ride over the next few years. The day we said goodbye is the day I took the photo below. Was the only way I could capture the moment. It is one my husband and I will never forget.

yes...it is hard to say goodbye by loopylocks

Knowing that the goodbye above would be difficult, I chose to write our daughter a note. I knew I would not remember to tell her all we wanted her to know about how we were feeling. We gave it to her with a gift that she really wanted: my old black Roots leather knapsack I had bought and worn myself when I was back in university. She had worn it over the whole summer and begged if she could keep it. The note was written in a card I got while we were on vacation in Barbados back in the summer of ’09. I had been holding on to this card in my bedside drawer waiting for the right occasion. I chose it because it had a photograph on the front of the same palm trees that sit in front of the home we stayed at:

Darling H,

The last 18 years have been the greatest gift and wonder in our lives to prepare you to start this journey. You have made us such proud parents because you are remarkable in every sense of the word. You are smart, confident, determined, funny, creative, beautiful and even a little loopy. 

Adventure awaits in Montreal and now is your chance to share with everyone what we already know. McGill is so lucky to have you and we have no doubt that you are going to shine and succeed. All we ask is that you learn from your highs and lows, have fun, be safe and enjoy the ride.

Like the pillow on your bed says, “Yes” we will miss you, “Yes” we love you, “Yes” you will always have a room at home, and last but not least, “Yes” you are ready! 

Wish Big,

Mum & Dad xo

sisters in barbados by loopylocks


2 Replies to “What to Expect: when your child leaves for college”

  1. R – I loved your post and share your sentiments. I cannot believe our girls have already entered this phase of their lives. It seems like just yesterday we were dropping them off at kindergarten. I wish H all the very best. xo

    Liked by 1 person

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