My story about letting go…

August 27, 2014

Today I am reposting one of the most favorite stories from my archives.

Every year in August thousands of parents wonder how to gracefully let their kids go off to college.

A few years ago when our daughter left for college, I wrote a story for my friends about my biggest lesson learned.

This story was forwarded by email around the globe. I hadn’t realized that so many moms were going through the same emotions. That is why I am posting this again. If there’s anything you want to let go, take three minutes and read ‘til the end!

wave

As the sun rises this morning, I can’t believe it’s really happened. It almost feels surreal. The house feels empty and so do I.

When I walk into the bathroom, the emptiness strikes me like an unexpected punch in the stomach. I don’t stumble over hairdryers, make-up, or piles of laundry. All signs of my daughter are gone. I turn around and go downstairs. In the fridge is her vegetable juice that from now on will never be touched.

Yesterday, I took our 18-year-old daughter, to the airport and gave her the final push. She left the nest to spread her beautiful, strong wings to fly across the ocean and start her new life in Amsterdam.

Hours before her departure, I drove to the shopping mall to buy her a pair of black suede boots. As my last gift to her before she left, these boots were symbolic. These specific boots will “fit” her into the new world of being a college student in Amsterdam.

For days before she left I pondered about what to give her. I wanted to come up with something special that would help reduce culture shock and help her shift from being an “All American Girl” to a down-to-earth Dutch girl. These boots would surely do the trick.

The day before she left, I saw her go out of the house in a bikini. I wondered whether she was ever going to pack. We were getting pretty close to departure day, but when I asked her if it would be a good idea to start packing, she announced that today was a “Beach Day.” Of course, the sun shone brightly and the sky was blue.

What more could I have wished for her?

I admire this brave, courageous girl who takes her first footsteps in Amsterdam today. At our final goodbye, I whispered in her ear that her wings are powerful and strong, and that the world would welcome her with arms wide open. She just stood there and looked at me. She must have been wondering what the future will bring for her.

Upon arrival in Amsterdam she has no housing (in Holland you don’t live on a campus) and the arrangements for the school she’ll attend aren’t finalized because she still has to take a language exam.

I ask myself why our life isn’t simple and easy, or maybe even less extraordinary. The answer is simple, because deep my heart I know I didn’t sign up for “simple and easy.” This extraordinary choice of my daughter’s brings extraordinary challenges, and – as we trust – extraordinary results, not only for us, but for her too.

Sometimes even I worried about why she didn’t worry more herself, about all the things that were unsure. But I know why. In her mind, there’s no place for worry about anything, about how she’ll find housing on the day of her arrival in a city where the housing need is beyond telling, about how she’ll become enrolled in school without the language exam, about whether or not she’ll be “lucky” in the sorority lottery.

Her mind’s not programmed with worry or fear, but with lots of faith and trust. She firmly believes that all will be well, that she’s safe no matter where she lands.

Yesterday, she told me that her level of anxiety goes only as far as finding it annoying that nothing is finally arranged. The rest of the “how” she leaves to her parents and to the Universe.

In the last weeks before she left, I watched her having non-stop fun with her friends. Her life was One Big Party. I smiled a lot because I saw how she stayed in the NOW. It almost seemed that she was never going to leave.

Then the day arrives. As I wave my final goodbye, tears stream down my face. I run to the car and drive away, and it goes against every fiber in my being to leave her behind. I wonder how we mothers do it.

Back home, before I go to sleep, I climb the stairs to her pink room. I must admit that it takes some courage to face my pain. Her door is wide open and the room looks like a hurricane has paid a visit to our attic. Clothes are strewn everywhere, the bed is a mess – indeed, nothing has changed. It looks as though she’ll be coming home tonight.

But in the doorway I find one black Cinderella mule from her prom – forlorn and forgotten in her hasty packing. How could it be more symbolic? Is this a sign that she hasn’t completely landed on the other side? Is one foot still here in this world she just left?

I pick up the mule and put it on the mantel above the fireplace. My mind drifts back in time. Oh, how I loved her first footsteps in her golden sandals, and all her steps in all the different shoes that came after.

I close my eyes and tell the Universe, “Now it’s your turn. You take care of her.” I promise myself I’ll make sure our son who flies to Amsterdam next week, takes that mule to our daughter so she’ll fully land, so she has the right shoes to dance in, until the morning comes.

And as I watch the sunrise this morning, I surrender.

Much love,

Saskia

P.S. Right now I am getting our fourth kid ready to fly out into the world. He will go to Peru in September and to Thailand next year.

P.P.S. If you know anyone who can benefit from this story, feel free to forward.

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