How am I going to do this?

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life108 Comments
I don’t know how I’m going to do it.

I’m not just saying this to be sappy and melodramatic but I honestly do not know what life with Aidan Isabella Zielske in college looks like. Factually, I am in the dark.

I don’t know what it feels like.

I don’t know what is smells like; what it sounds like.

So when I think about how I’m going to do it, I go a little blank.

Part of me thinks this is a good thing. Why good? Well, it means I’m not living in the future and neurotically creating scenarios that have zero basis in reality. I’m not inventing drama that doesn’t exist. You can thank my therapist for that small victory.

But as I write this, she will have moved out in less than a month. Less than a month. This fact tends to make me a little emotional.

I’ll let you in on a secret I’m just now keying into: whether you’re 18 years away from this day or just under 30 days, it is no less unfathomable. When you’ve got toddlers at your feet, the last thing you’re thinking of most days is, “Wait! Some day you won’t live here anymore?” At least not in a nostalgic way.

At least I sure didn’t think that. I was more concerned with, “For the love of ALL THING HOLY, will you ever sleep through the effing night?”

Now I’m the one who doesn’t sleep through the night.

Now I’m the one who’s staying put.


I don’t how how I’m going to do it but I do know how I will approach it.

I will see what shakes out.

I will make sure this transition is all about my amazing girl and getting her set up and ready to roll.

I will respond to the days as they come.

I may have ideas about what the next few months will look like. But this is her story. This is her adventure. This is her life.

I will not make this about me.

(And yes, you can thank my therapist for that last little nugget, too.)



Cathy ZielskeHow am I going to do this?

108 Comments on “How am I going to do this?”

  1. #1
    Laura A in Oregon

    Thanks for those words this morning, Cathy. I am experiencing the same feelings as my son prepares to go to college. Thank you for those last four lines.

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I am not gonna lie: this is going to be a transition, but… I’m very grateful that my therapist has helped me make a few shifts in my life, namely to not make everything about me. 😉

  2. #2

    We are going through the same thing here except we leave in a week to take our daughter. And while there are days we are both ready there are days when I think ” no way is she leaving me, I still have things to teach her and do with her.” She is the one that taught us how to be parents and she will teach us how to handle this phase too. But my heart hurts thinking of her being so far away but luckily she has three siblings at home to keep me busy.

  3. #4

    You do it and you get through it, as any stage in life. I remember having those same feelings as you 3 years ago as my oldest girl left the house. I was both excited for her and admittedly sad for me–because she was more than a daughter, she was my friend. Who would I crack jokes with? Laugh like a nut with? It would all be different. In spite of myself, I cheered her on. There were days I cried for no reason, other than I missed her like mad. Now, she is entering her senior year and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Next year she will move even further away for grad school. My stomach and heart will lurch once more as I watch her transition and grow. I just keep telling myself to enjoy every moment. Every.single.moment.

  4. #5

    Trust me, a 15+ yo boy will give you plenty to occupy those brain and heart cells! and that was about 25 yrs ago for me! The oldest, the responsible one was off in college, and the younger one came into his own.

    btw, it looks like your Aidan is now a Zoey Zielske! like the look a lot.

  5. #6

    Hmmm. I’m getting ready to send off nr. 3. You would think by now I had it down to a T. Well. Almost. 🙂 I can actually honestly say that I am closer now to my oldest who left five years ago, than I was the last couple of years she lived at home. (And we were always pretty close. ) I am really loving interacting with this newly emerged adult who is so much more mature and interesting and brave than I ever was. I promise Cathy. You will love this. You will miss her, but you will love this new phase. I thought it would leave a void, but it just made room for something new and delicious!

  6. #7

    This just breaks my heart because I remember her as a little girl swimming with my kids in a pool at CKU. Somehow, I am going to find a way to keep mine little. I have to. Not to make their lives ALL ABOUT ME, but I feel like I need them here with me forever and ever and ever…. She is stunningly beautiful by the way. Sniff, Snifff….

  7. #8
    Deb @ PaperTurtle

    Oh man, Cathy, I don’t envy you. My girl is 26 and when she left for college I cried like it was the end of the world. Then, I pulled myself together and got used to the new way – what else could I do, right? It didn’t take long before I was rejoicing for her and feeling so proud of the way she was maturing and coming into her own life. It’s a really amazing thing to witness. You sound like you are well on your way to grasping that mode and I think you’re actually going to really dig this. Best of luck to all of you during this transition! xo

  8. #9

    You will survive it. You may not think so, but you will. My 4th and final child left for college a year ago (my only daughter) and I truly didn’t think I would survive.
    Good luck and God bless.

  9. #10

    Starting to feel this way about my son, who is special needs, and just turned 11. He started a new school which has a program to transition the kids into either a special college program or work once they graduate. We are sending him to this school so that he will be prepared once the day arrives and he needs/wants to be independent. He is only 11 and I get a lump in my throat thinking about it.

    That said, I try to focus on all the exciting things. What it will be like to set up his first dorm room, sending care packages, parent’s weekend, home comings at the holidays, trips abroad. All the wonderful things that are ahead of Aiden are things for you to be excited about also. Try to think about how much fun and wonder if ahead of her……and you.

    1. #10.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, this is good to remember. It will be fun to surprise her with care packages, see photos she sends home, hear about how all of these experiences are unfolding.

  10. #11

    Just remember she is taking the best parts of you and Dan and her little bro with her. She seems like a bright, insightful young woman. She’s got this. She’ll help you.

    1. #12.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You can always email me. She lives in Southern California and our sessions are by phone. She has changed my life.

  11. #13

    I went through this last year with our oldest daughter. The first two months were tough for me and we struggled with finding a balance again with her an adult but we came out on the other side with an even better relationship than before. She had a great first year of college and is getting ready to head back for the next. And the transition this year will be a breeze!

  12. #14

    I won’t lie – it hurts. The final month before my daughter left for school (my only daughter) it was so hard. up. There was like an elephant in the room. I tried to act cheery, supportive and excited for her. She was going off to NYC – a very scary place for someone from the Midwest.
    Setting her up in the dorm kept us busy, but we both knew that we had to say goodbye. There were many tears hugs. We drove off and I sobbed – how can I leave her in NYC? She’ll get mugged, lost, who knows what can happen? It was a long 10 hour ride home. It was hard to go past her room once she left. The house seemed so empty. But I knew this was her dream. You just gotta let them go. I knew that I did the best (well – my husband did too – I can’t take all the credit) and I had to trust. She has been there now since 2005 and she is thriving. She is doing what she loves in a place she loves. She visits a few times a year and we also visit. We talk almost daily and our relationship has grown. We are so very close. But it’s always hard to say goodbye when we leave.
    Just typing this up brought back so many memories. I have tears in my eyes and a sadness. I remember like it was yesterday walking away from her as she went back to her room and we went to the car. It’s hard Cathy. Not going to lie. You will get through it. Hugs and good thoughts to help you get through this life transition.

  13. #15

    I sent my son off to college last year.. and I’m not going to lie, it was rough. I came home and cried… a lot.

    He didn’t call me very often and it made me sad. But friends told me that was a good thing. I think they were lying. It felt horrible.

    He’s home for summer for another 2 weeks. I’m sure I will cry again, just not as much.

    Somebody once wrote that we are only a chapter in THEIR lives, not the entire book.

    I try to remember that.

    but. it’s. hard.

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I love the truth in this, Marcy. I know it will be hard. I want to be a very good chapter in her book.

  14. #17

    Trust me, Cathy! You will get through this with flying colors–along with bottle of wine or two! She seems like an independent girl! Kudos to you and Dan! When our boys left for school (one is 24 and the other is 21) we took comfort in knowing we gave them the “tools” they needed to survive being away from mom and dad. And issn’t that is one of the goals of parenthood? Raising your kids to be independent and giving them the confidence to go out on their own? Actually our youngest didn’t have a choice. My husband and I moved overseas just as he was moving into his dorm (hubby’s job). We didn’t even have the chance to help him move! Now three years later, I just dropped him off at the airport for a 6-week study abroad course at LSE in London. Couldn’t be more excited for him!

    Good things are ahead for her and the Zielske family!

  15. #18

    As I’m reading this oldest child is travelling in New Zealand on a career break. The day we dropped her at Heathrow airport I just managed to keep it together as we left her ! Now I’m living vicariously through her amazing photographs but I so miss her. Cathy this is the next step along the road to creating new memories. You have a talented and creative young woman there who you have instilled with strength, courage and kindness. I hope the transition will be as tear free as it can possibly be..

    1. #18.1

      Oh exciting – where abouts in nz?? I’m in wellington – the oft en windy capital 😉
      Hope she has a great time Julie

  16. #19

    As a mother of six who just sent her youngest and only daughter across the country, I can tell you it will be OK. You might not like it…I don’t, but you wouldn’t really want it any other way. You raise them up to be independent, confident kids, to be capable of living on their own, and when they do exactly that….you have mixed feelings. I totally get it.

  17. #20

    CZ, your inner goddesses will surely struggle with many different emotions.

    As a senior in high school, my only daughter child turned 18, got her driver’s license, graduated and left for Sweden for a whole year as a Foreign Exchange Student. I have to say that the home life she left was not in a good place but i knew that those families would take care of her and yes, even offer things i could not.
    Her FES training was to keep in mind that while immersed in a different culture, nothing will be the same, and the mantra; “it’s not right, it’s not wrong, its just different” will get you through it.
    And you will too!
    The technology as it is today will keep you “close” and that my friend will help you get through it. While it is about her, plant the seed that a text now and then is ok, and cryptic messages on FB could cause undue worry. Know that she can and will post on all social media outlets about the last bong party…er…welcome party, but as long as you’ve heard from her that she is ok, at least when you see those pictures of that momentous occasion, you’ll giggle about those memories, not gasp out of horror.

    “it’s not right, it’s not wrong, its just different”

  18. #21

    Yep, nothing prepares you for the l.o.n.g. drive home after saying goodbye! But just keep telling yourself this is a victory! You WANT them to become mature adults able to keep themselves alive and well, not the other way around :-). I can tell you, though, that’s the low point – it only gets better from there! Thank God for texting – otherwise I’d not know nearly as much. Seriously – back when I was in school my mom was lucky to get a weekly call from me (and that was after 11 when the long distance rates went down – whenever I tell my kids about the whole per minute long distance charge thing I can see the “oh my god my mom grew up in horse and buggy days” look in their eyes), and now we text all the time. I get those little snippets throughout the day of both the good and bad. Nothing obsessive, but still enough to know how’s she’s doing. I’ve made it through a semester abroad in Spain, another in Ireland, and my little girl who I used to put on the bus for kindergarten and then follow the bus in my car to make sure she got to the school okay managed to keep herself alive all over Europe. She’s getting ready to graduate in December, and who knows where she’ll end up-? But it’s a change I’m so excited for – for HER! And now I’m getting ready to do it all over again with my youngest. And I’ll also cry when I drop her off. That’s just a given ;-). You’ll be fine (and so will she!).

    1. #21.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Aaaand cue more tears. 🙂

      I do remember waiting until after 11 p.m. to call. Sigh. Technology will make the transition easier. But I did tell her, “Don’t worry. I won’t text you all day long.” 🙂

  19. #22
    Angie K

    I want to “like” this blog post – because that described us a year ago. The boy moved on to college, and we were totally in the dark about the future, and didn’t want it to be about us. It was “his adventure”, and it still is. He is spreading his wings, and relying on the foundation he was raised with – and really, isn’t that what any parent ultimately wants?!

  20. #23
    Kimberly Lund

    Oh, Cathy, I’m right there with you. My daughter is moving into the dorms two weeks from tomorrow and I have no idea how our family is going to function without her. I know we will function, but I can’t even picture what it will look like. Her dorm is less than a mile from my workplace, so she’s not going that far, but it’s still going to be a huge change for our family not to have her here every day. I love to read what you have to say about the change.

  21. #24

    I’m feeling what you are feeling, but with this exception – my kid is going off to GET MARRIED in a few months. When he leaves home, it will be to start his own, with a young new wife who means the world to us. If he was leaving for college, I could look forward to summers with us, maybe. But Dear Son won’t be back … which is what you want when they marry! But I am already sad … and thinking things like “no more Christmas mornings together, opening gifts with his sibs.”

    This is life, and a good change, but it hurts my heart, just the same.

  22. #25

    Ah yes! I am familiar with this – and yet it’s new again. My 18 year old son (4th child to leave the nest) leaves for Marine Corps boot camp in 10 days. It’s the right move for him (and he’s going to rock that uniform!) but my heart is hurting. I know that we’ll both be ok – but I’m not going to lie, I will cry! And I will be one of many mommas rushing across the field to be the first to hug her child … now a man. God bless!

  23. #26

    Love reading this and hope to hear more about how you do this. I have 365 days to prepare myself as my daughter just agreed to play for Amherst. I live in Washington state…so she will be flying clear across the country…a 6-7 hour flight and then 1 -2 hour drive away. I am a mix of emotions as I am sooo happy for her and sad that it is so darn far away. Thank god for technology…Skype…cell phones etc.

  24. #27

    Having sent 3 off to college I can certainly relate to your thoughts/feelings/emotions. Happy for your child but sad for ourself! Hang in there, it does get easier. As my dad told me and my sister, you girls never left home for good, just long enough to bring more (husbands, grandbabies & pets) back with you!!!

  25. #28

    My kids are still little (8 & 3), but I work at a University and we are just wrapping up our new student orientation, so I give this considerable thought every summer. We have a fantastic counselor on campus who talks to the parents during orientation in a session called “Letting Go”. When my son was about to start kindergarten, he came to give the same talk at my son’s daycare, and what he said was really helpful. We wrote down our wishes for our children, what we hope for them to be as adults (healthy, happy, responsible…) and talked about how letting go helps them move closer to those goals. Also, he said he reminds the parents of college-aged children that they are simply continuing a process that they began with their children as infants. While sending your child to college is a huge change, it is also something that you have been slowly building up to over the last 18 years. Your first night away from her as a baby, sending her to her first day of school, getting her drivers license… it was all part of the process.

    Thanks for sharing your stories, you’re the kind of mom to teenagers that I want to be!

    1. #28.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, I need to keep this in mind. It’s just part of the process. A process I’m extremely lucky to be a part of.

      1. #28.1.1

        “A process I’m extremely lucky to be a part of.” You’re doing great already Cathy!
        good job! Blessings to you!

  26. #30
    Audrey V

    Yup, 3 weeks until my first born son goes to college. While there are days that I am ready, because he is so ready to be on his own (he just turned 19 yesterday), there are other days that I worry that I haven’t told him all of the life lessons that I think he needs to know. Money, love, sex, friends, honor, morals, values, just a few little things, lol. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked to him about all of these things, and he frequently tells me that it would be OK with him if he never talked about sex again. Thankfully we have tied up all of the practical details of going to college. I know he’ll do great and I’ll see him for a few weekends/holidays/and hopefully next summer. I do worry about our daily communication because he is a man of few words on the phone or texting. Ahhhh, everyone told me that his childhood would fly by, and it’s so true. Hold on to those babies mamas! I feel blessed that I moved from a full time working status to part time after he was born, so I was lucky to have lots of time with him while he was growing up. Maybe we could start an internet therapy group for moms who just sent their babies to college!

  27. #31

    About 26 years ago this month my first one took off for college. Months before he had told me, sternly, to prepare for this day. It was going to happen; no commuter college for him, regardless of my pleadings! As he climbed into his buddy’s car, I handed him a package full of his favorite, custom-made rice krispy treats. Then I went back to my other children and tried not to worry about the 2-hour drive to college.

    There have been trials and tribulations in the intervening years, but he’s stayed close to us even while living far away, and we’ve grown, too. Today he is successful beyond our wildest dreams. He has a wonderful wife and two beautiful children, all of whom we adore. Whenever we get together I make one of their family’s favorite treats: my rice krispy bars. OK, I’m bawling now, too (but I’m happy, really!).

  28. #32
    Kaye R

    Have a nice box of tissues with you, you’ll need them. Our youngest left for college 15 years ago, but I’ll never forget our heavy hearts and the long ride home with each child. The good news is that your relationship with your daughter will mature and grow. She won’t be gone a week until she’ll realize how wonderful her parents are and she’ll have a new appreciation and respect for you. You’ve done a good job parenting and she’s doing exactly what you’ve taught her – work hard, be independent, live your dreams – and when they do it, it hurts! We did it to our parents, too. You’ll be okay and I’ll be thinking of you.

  29. #33

    Oh, I’m feeling this pain, too. My youngest moves into her dorm 3 weeks from today, and I’ve been a mess for months. We’ve been in transition for a few months and it’s been stressful. Hubby got a new job out of state, youngest graduated high school, we sold our house where the kids grew up, and I closed my photography business that I started a few years ago in order to stay busy after the youngest went to college. So here I am in a new city/state, no kids at home for the first time in 25 years, and no business to distract me. I’m left feeling totally off kilter and unprepared for this phase.

    But I need to remember your words: this is about her, this is not about me. This is her adventure. Although I can’t help but wonder what new adventures await ME once there are no kids to occupy my time and wallet.

  30. #34
    Ginger Watson

    Oh gosh, letting go. Yikes. It IS about you in the sense that your day to day life will be different. It DOES mean change for you. When you love big, you hurt big too. It’s two sides of the love coin! I appreciate you sharing your process with us so much. Your honesty makes it easier for the rest of us to be vulnerable, and honest, about the transitions in our lives.

    Did you read Rob Lowe’s piece about his son going to college? So beautiful —

  31. #35

    My daughter is turning 30 this year. 30. How did that happen? When I look back to her leaving for college, I felt all the same things you are feeling. I always felt my job as a parent was to work my way out of a job. My job was to give my children roots and wings. The roots part is easy. Letting them fly- that is the hard part. You will make it. Your relationship will thrive, mellow and age. It will only get better.

  32. #36
    Amy K

    My daughter leaves for college in 20 days(but who’s counting…) I put on the happy face and act strong for her. We went shopping last night for many supplies for her dorm and had dinner together. I love and cherish these moments with her. I love her so much. I do have her younger sister(age 15) home with me half the week, as I am divorced. But it will be hard to not have 1 of my children with me everyday. We are very close and I look forward to her growing and maturing ..
    And I thank you for sharing your feelings with us, so we feel less alone as our lives change.

  33. #37
    Judy in Huntsville, AL

    When our youngest left for college six years ago [he’s just finished graduate school and starts a REAL job in a couple of weeks! Yikes!] He said to me – in the driveway, before we got into the cars… “nothing will ever be the same…”

    And it kind of broke my heart a little – but I said, “You’re right. But it will still be good and wonderful – just in a different sort of way.” [i’m a social worker, afterall…]

    I won’t lie – the empty nest is HARD. But doable.

    I remember once when they were both home for spring break [ a couple of years into emptynesthood] and I was watching the clock, waiting for them to go back to school – ready for them to leave….

    and within twenty minutes of them being gone I was sitting on the patio sobbing…

    Thus the ups and downs of letting them spring their wings and fly….

    1. #37.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Aidan recently said something like that to me… that nothing will ever be the same. And I said, “That is true.” 🙂

  34. #38

    You will do just great Cathy. The hardest part is missing the day to day communication. My girls are all grown, but I still miss that daily banter. The good part is when they are home for holidays and such you cherish the time so much. Hang in there.

  35. #39

    OK, so my daughters are 7 and 5 but I just printed this post and put it in my purse.. I’ll put it up as soon as I get home, somewhere I’ll see everyday, just to remember always, that I might live my life for them, but its their stories. Thank you Cathy, and thank you, Cathy’s therapist! Lovely post, made my eyes water a little bit (OK, I sobbed).

  36. #40

    As I am approaching another loved one leaving me, I reflect on the future and watching his growth. I keep reminding myself that I will get to see him again and get to talk on the phone. Another loss I am facing is that of my mother passing. Those are the phone calls I will miss the most. You will make it and you will love the new relationship that you two will form, via the phone.

  37. #41

    Cathy, you had a great life before you took the plunge and became a parent. You just have to reconnect with the person you were before. The bonus is the wonderful woman you and Dan whipped up gets to stay part of your life forever.

  38. #43

    boy this hits home….as a mother of 5 and having done this drill x3 so far… does it get better? HELL NO! …The first one we dropped off and immediately started drinking champagne at the hotel and took lots of pics of us celebrating..Yippee !!! 1 down out of 5….the second, not so easy, do not….. and I repeat… do not watch siblings say goodbye to each other, just sayin. The third.. well I was good until the official hug goodbye and I lost it. I never cry and and I cried all the way home which was quite disturbing to my husband. And even when he comes home to visit and leaves to go back to school I get choked up. Something about his long hard hugs kill me inside. He chokes up and I feel it and then I fight back the tears and walk away…But as I walk back into the house I try to picture the next upcoming event and the total chaos it always is when they’re ALL here ..the noise, the cooking, the cleaning and over the years I now know as they come back they multiply.. and bring others (marriage , grandkids) People keep asking me how are you going to deal with it when they’re ALL gone???…this house? oh.. it will never be empty..just sayin 🙂

  39. #44

    Been there, done that, have the mascara streaks to prove it 😛 (I actually quit wearing mascara for awhile when my oldest went away to college since I cried it all off anyhow!) Like you, I was really happy and excited for my son, but it was tough for me AND the rest of the family (my sons were/are really close and it was tough having the biggest brother leave). Now I’m a few years on the other side, and yes, you will get through it. It’s actually pretty exciting to see the impact and influence my son(s) has had on the other people around him, and to see the amazing man he’s become.
    And now, like Dar, I’m facing the whole marriage thing, as now two of my sons are married, and yes holidays are changing, and we are no longer together, and I miss them terribly, but such is life…as you said, it’s not about me. And it is exciting sharing in their new lives.
    The paradox with parenting is that just when they’re grown and things start to get easy and you REALLY enjoy being with them, they leave home!

  40. #45
    Veronica Zwiers

    It is a numbing feeling, watching your kids grow up and not knowing how it feels to be. How it feels to be post “move out.” Speaking from experience… as I pack up three boys, their laundry, their personal belongings, and arrange dorm needs, pay their tuitions (GASP!), and make sure they have the right textbooks, and send them all off to University etc, etc,…. a piece of me is eager to get the busyness over with, however another part of me realizes that after all the kerfuffles and last minute emergencies…. we will be alone. No more noise, no more summer games on the deck, no more outdoor movies, no more jumps in the lake. Well, we can still do these things, but is it so much more fun with a family of five than two.

    You will cry. I cry. I cry for the first few weeks (and drink a lot of wine).

    Then I clean their rooms (which hasn’t been done in the four months they have been home – they are boys after all) and breathe.

    Thank GOD for Facebook, iPhones, and holidays.

  41. #46

    I think this is at least a little about you – you can go through the moving day and the days after with a big smile on your face about the success of your daughter and your role in her becoming an independent woman! Good job, mom! You are succeeding in your job as a parent to help her attain independence and follow her own journey.

    Yes, it will be hard to adjust to the fact that you won’t know what is going on with her day-to-day. No way around that. Questioning whether you should text her, or are you texting her too much and being a bother? Should you call? Should you wait for her to call? Sheesh. That is a balance that I think is hard. But the two of you will figure it out over the first weeks and months, and then you will find the right rhythm. And it will be good.

  42. #47

    My friends who had been through the college farewells all advised me that it was just another chapter; I was incredulous and could not imagine I’d ever feel at ease in an empty nest. But then I remembered my own excitement when I left for college, and how my mother helped me fix up my dorm room, sent me care packages, and called me often. Looking back, I realize now she grieved the same empty nest. I’m so glad she made it about me, and didn’t focus on the departure as much as the journey.

    And it turns out, my friends were right, it really is another chapter and now when my child is home I realize how much I’ve gotten used to having my own space and schedule as a freewheeling empty nester!

    But I would like to share another perspective as well, that of the child left behind. Cole is also experiencing a separation from a beloved sister. But he is also going to relish being the “only child” as he has never done before. You will find that you experience times with him that you cherish further down the road. When my older sibling left for college I missed her terribly but quickly grew to enjoy being the “only child” for the first time in my life!

    1. #47.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I really love that Cole will be able to relish the role of an only child at home. I hope that it can be a positive experience for him.

  43. #48
    Katrina Kennedy

    “But this is her story. This is her adventure. This is her life.”

    And you’ve done a beautifully amazing job of writing the story to this point. You’ve given her the love, security, and support so that YOU CAN trust her adventure will be fabulous. You may not be the main character in the next chapter…but you weren’t in the last either 😉 I can only imagine what you are feeling. I’ve felt from the day my son was born that he was leaving me in such a visceral way it hurts. Know you’ve got a crowd of people here for you!

    You’ve got this one mom! You’ve done the hard work know just enjoy the show!

  44. #49
    Lynne Moore

    Just did this last year. With both kids, but especially the Small Child since she went out of state to college and the Giant Child just moved into the apartments across the street.

    Texting and stalking them on Facebook helps. I only got (really) worried if I didn’t see her on fb within a 24 hour time frame.

    I enjoyed the freedom of not having to make food just for her (picky eater). I knew she had good choices at the Campus Caff. And the freedom of not waiting up nights for her to come home. (I could drink my wine with dinner and not wait until after 10 pm, just in case I needed to go get her from somewhere.)

    I didn’t realize how weird it would feel when she made friends that were not connected to anything I was connected to in any way. Even her band friends in High School I knew because of being a Band Mom. But these are adult friends with adult complexities. As it should be, but whoa….

    Likewise, the Giant Child keeps coming over to chat with his Dad. Not me. Guy stuff like cars and things that blow up on TV. Just to chat and have a beer. Like an full-fledged adult. (He brings the dog so I can babysit the Grandpup. And hopefully invite them to stay for dinner. At least I don’t have to do his laundry anymore.)

    She’s getting ready to run off to school for her 2nd year. I am a little better prepared. But worrying about how she will get her campus refridge from storage up the 2 flights of stairs without me. Yeah, like my cutie couldn’t find a few big, strong friends to help.

  45. #50

    Been there and have to say at first it feels like someone has reached into your chest and squeezed you heart and doesn’t let go. I told my daughter before she left to just contact me every day – text, call, e-mail and share some details so I would know she was ok and so I could continue to share in the bits and pieces of her life.
    We got a journal and started sending that back and forth – we would each add pictures and comments and then send it to the other to do the same. No time requirement and sometimes months went by before it showed up in the mail. Still do this with her and it is so great to get it each and every time.
    Fast forward ten years – she still calls me every day, to share joy and sadness, talk about work (she is a special education teacher) and include me in her everyday.
    You will find a new normal and learn to be what kind of parent Aidan needs now. She is going to fly and you are going to watch in wonder. Amazing days are ahead.

    1. #50.1
      Cathy Zielske

      wow. I love that journal idea. what a lucky mom you are. Might have to send her one in her first care package.

  46. #51

    It hurts, and it’s hard, I won’t lie. My daughter is an amazing girl and a good friend. I have seen your relationship unfold with your girl through your blog and your scrapbook pages, and I think you should take comfort that you have built an amazing foundation with her. She will want to share the highs and lows of college with you (and Dan) because of it. (I will let you know that the first few weeks I heard from her a lot, then it tapered off when she found her friends, then it started back up again when she felt confident with her new relationships.) And your relationship will probably take on a new flavor as she becomes more of an adult through this new experience. I feel like my relationship with my daughter is richer and fuller because she has learned to be away “from the nest” so to speak, and I have learned to be away from her (and OMG it was hard for the first month, especially because the cats wandered the house looking for her, reminding me she wasn’t just at band practice or at a friend’s house). I wish you both all the best as you enter this new phase.

  47. #52

    I was in your shoes two years ago. And I’m not going to lie, I cried a fair bit leading up to her leaving. I was so excited for her, and so very sad for me. I never let her see anything but the excitement thought. The day I dropped her off, it was a busy day and I did fine while we made her bed, got her stuff organized, dealt with getting her computer hooked up to the campus internet. But when all those activities wound down and we headed over to get her her student ID and I’d be leaving after that…holy shit…it took everything I had to keep it together. When it came time to say good bye and leave her to the freshmen orientation activities…I doled sage advice about money and eating balanced meals and sleeping and laundry and told her I’d text her when I got home. Somehow I managed to keep it together as I walked across campus to my car, but all the other parents looked so happy and unphased. I put gas in my car for the 4 hour drive home, got on the freeway and cried for the next half an hour.

    It’s funny, because (don’t judge) we watch the Real Housewives and one of them was sending her daughter off to college and was a hot mess all season long. She cried like a baby in the taxi on the way to the airport to send her daughter off and mine made poo-poo’y noises about how ridiculous she was being. If she only knew…

    1. #52.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I got weepy just reading this. Just those details, you know? It WILL be a busy day and then we will be saying our goodbyes. I have focused very much on the excitement of the change, keeping my tears to myself, too. I’ve been encouraging her when she seems a little nervous (going shopping for dorm supplies wasn’t something she loved). I’m sure it’s going to be a whole new world to navigate for everyone. 🙂

  48. #53

    *I guess I should also mention that while the actual sending off was hard, it got easier and then great. It’s so exciting to hear her adventures, what she’s studying, the fun stuff they have for them to do, the concerts, the human v zombies all campus games… She’s going into her junior year now, and next summer she probably won’t come home because her school is big on internships (yay!) and I’m not going to lie – that sucks, but it’s so much easier now. She’ll go, we’ll miss her, but email, send packages, and visit. And Christmas is even more special now. 🙂

  49. #54
    Ann English

    I’ve launched five, and it never got easier. Oh, sure, adolescence does tend to prepare us for this, but still… You’ll get used to it. She’ll never leave you, not completely! And, as she matures, your relationship will, too. I adore my girls. They’re all grown up and independent. I miss the little girls they once were (though I still get an occasional glimpse), but adore the women they have become!

  50. #55

    We sent our son off 3 years ago and our only daughter 2, I will admit it was rougher on me to send her than it was him. There are still some hard times, in fact I shed a few tears just this morning over my son that I have not seen since March and likely won’t see until Christmas. But let me tell you, watching these 2 come into their own far outweighs any sadness. Our relationships on a more adult level is far better than they have ever been. We are still their parents and they will always need us. The phone calls asking for advise are some of the best. As they have learned to live on their own, they have have also learned the value and show appreciation for all we have done for them. I tell people over and over, that this stage of parenting is by far the most rewarding. It’s as if if we are reaping the benefits of all our hard work, so to speak. We can see now that all the hard work, tough times and sacrifices that parenting involve are all so worth it. We still have 2 at home but they too are at the age of leaving. Having grown children has given my husband and me the opportunity to reconnect on a different level. We don’t have the day to day stresses of games, practices, homework etc, we can focus a bit on just the 2 of us. As I prepared to send my first son off, I will say that I was a little, ok a lot, self absorbed. I forgot to realize that it wasn’t only me being affected. My other 3 were also sending off their big brother and I wasn’t ready for their reactions.

  51. #56
    Theresa Grdina

    When my oldest daughter left I wouldn’t let her see me cry….but CRY and CRY and CRY I did, all the way home…and then some. I didn’t want her to worry about me or the difficulties I had ahead of me. Then the 2nd daughter left, one year later. I stayed brave while we were unpacking the car and feeding her dinner before we left….and then I CRIED and CRIED and CRIED all the way home….and then some. And finally, 3 years later, our youngest daughter left. My husband and I unpacked the car and left her in her dorm room….we BOTH CRIED and CRIED and CRIED. And then we began living our lives like we started the relationship – just the two of us. It has been a transition for everyone and the girls have moved both miles and continents away. BUT, we got through it – FOR THEM. You will get through it – FOR HER. And you will be amazed at the unbelievable things your bright and beautiful girl will do. Good luck over the next few weeks. And remember we are all here for you.

  52. #57

    One of my twins who has been at SF State for the last two years made the decision to leave and go to Penn State. She leaves on August 11th and when I let myself think about it I start crying so I try not to dwell on it. I remember the day we first dropped her off in SF (that is only an hour and a half from home) and I bawled like a baby all the way home. I can not imagine having her so very far away but I am so very proud and happy for her to be following her dreams at the same time.
    We will have to get through this together!
    Many hugs and lots of prayers

  53. #58
    Lisa Russo

    As your friend, and someone who could also use your therapist, I’ll admit I’m happy you’re going through it first…so I can watch how you handle it with aplomb and grace, which will inspire and help me when I have to let my own Aidan go in 3 years. <3

  54. #59
    Kim Smith

    You’ve got this, Cathy! You’ll make it through and we’ll be right here helping you along the way!! Big HUGS!

  55. #61

    Oops about that last post! What the what…

    So, it’s funny you mentioned therapists, as *I* brought up in therapy having a mom who always makes things about her. 🙂 It is maddening to me as her daughter, and accepting and working on it will help you and others around you. Go you!

    Now, I have loved following you because Aidan is a year older than my older son. So, I have a year until this arrives in real life. But, right now, I have to say, it feels like someone is routinely squeezing my heart. I have been blessed to have had this wonderful ride with my kid the last 4 years. I won’t say easy, as he is a young adult with Asperger’s, and nothing about navigating school is “easy.” However, I will say I have been delighted with him. And that makes the reality of what’s coming so hard.

    We got this, Cathy. It’s a goodbye to a part of her life and a hello to the magic to come. Keep sharing here, please. Make it as much about you as you need to. 🙂

  56. #62

    I echo so many of the comments here. Our daughter — our only child — is starting her 5th and final year at college 8.5 hours away. Although it was agonizing leaving her there, I’ll tell you that her college years have been amazingly fun. It has been completely delightful watching her grow and develop into who we’ve always known she could be. We love visiting her at school — love the energy and vibe of a college town, love attending her performances and special events. Now that she’s getting ready to start her final year, I guarantee I’ll be much sadder for her college years to end than I was when left home. You are in for an amazing ride, Cathy. Even with the miles between us, I’d love to do it all over again. <3

  57. #63
    Laura Turcotte

    It’s like you are reading my thoughts!
    You will be able to get through this, albeit difficult, transition, just as so many before have done, and as I will be going through the same thing with my twins shortly. <> No one said that parenting would be easy….does it ever??
    Hang in there….we’ll miss our kids together!

  58. #64

    I thought my son’s first night at over-night camp was bad – oy; I can’t even begin to project forward and think about that day! Good luck to you both! By the way, Aidan is rocking the bangs! Hang in there…..

  59. #65

    I was there 12 years ago and I am not going to lie – it was hard. But she kept coming back and in the end, moved just a few miles from us so I see her a lot and it is amazing. But I think you have to through the letting go to get to the coming back.

  60. #66

    “I may have ideas about what the next few months will look like. But this is her story. This is her adventure. This is her life.

    I will not make this about me.”
    Best advice ever for kids any age.

    1. #66.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I really do have to credit my therapist for helping me to understand how I used to make everything about me. It’s been eye opening as I’ve worked to change this. 🙂

  61. #67

    This is so great to read – and so very honest, thank you. I am going through the same thing and am just having trouble wrapping my head around it. I think I’m just in denial, mainly because when I went to college that was it – I truly started down another path and home was a place a visited vs. lived. And I am so, so excited to see what her future brings for her and want to see her become her best self. Which I am confident will happen. But my brain just can’t process he disconnect – how can something so awesome be so heartbreaking at the same time? I think trying to keep the “it’s not about me” thing in mind will help a lot – I’m going to work towards that. Much appreciated!

  62. #68
    Kim L.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!
    I am one year away from the same thing, and I just don’t know how I am going to do it.
    So I am going to try to enjoy and celebrate this year with her instead of crying the whole time. I know that the tears are unavoidable, so I want to make them happy tears; tears of celebration and anticipation. Tears of pride and joy instead of tears of sorrow. We’ll see how it goes!

  63. #69
    Sue Treiber

    I will be watching very closely and reading about how you do it, so that next year when it’s my turn I will know how to handle it. Because for real, I don’t know how i’m going to be able to do it either.

  64. #70

    I haven’t read all of the comments, so someone may have said this already…

    One thing that I kept in mind when Hope left for university is that Austin would feel the loss, also…and might not really communicate it (b/c, as you know – teenage boy). So, we planned monthly “dates.” It was so good for both of us. Now that Austin is entering his senior year, I think I’ll bring back the tradition…

    1. #70.1
      Cathy Zielske

      We are definitely hoping to make sure Cole feels connected. He is 15 and is not always wanting to talk about stuff he’s going through. 🙂

  65. #71

    It truly is a marker in time. Just like the day/night you drove to the hospital to have her….life is not going to be the same. The day we drove our daughter to college, as we rounded the corner, the bus was waiting for all the kids on their first day of elementary school and I instantly burst into tears….time was my friend and my enemy. How did it pass so quickly? I remember how older women at the grocery store would stop me with the sage advice….it passes all too quickly…and I kind of laughed to myself. Well now I am that older woman with those same thoughts. I will be thinking of you and holding your hand from afar….it truly is a new chapter that you get to write the story. Remember…you ARE a wonderful writer. Hugs to you. Love IS tough!

  66. #72
    Christine K.

    This is only the beginning. First they go college. Next they graduate. Then they take jobs in far flung places. Thank God for Facebook and Skype. I have launched 2 daughters and I am 2 years away from launching my last daughter. I am already missing the “little kid” things I used to do with my kids. I guess I need some grandchildren stat!

  67. #73

    My kids are relatively little – 8(today) and 6 and I already feel them growing away from me. It makes my heart ache to read this. But you are right, it is about THEM finding their wings and their way. Thinking of you at this time and thankful you are sharing this journey.

  68. #74

    I remember holding my newborn daughter in my arms and sobbing that someday she was going to leave me. (Postpartum hormones be damned!). Then, exactly 18 years later that baby girl did leave me to move 45 minutes south to Seattle Pacific University. And strangely enough, we were ready. We prepare our babies for life and we have to let them go. Yes, there will be tears and a little heartache, but you’ve raised your baby girl into a beautiful human being and she is ready. You will be just fine Cathy! ☺️

    P.S. On my little girls very last day of college, a shooter opened fire in the building at SPU where some of her classes were held, only a block from her home she shared with four other baby girls. Even though she was not on campus at the time, when I heard about the shooting I was instantly transported back to that sobbing new mama for days to come. It still brings me to tears to think about that day. But again, we raise them up and teach them how to deal with life. I learned what a strong, capable young woman we raised that day.

    Hugs Cathy…you all are going to be just fine!

    1. #74.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I saw that in the news and was horrified. I went to UW for my Freshman and Sophomore year, so Seattle is always so near to my heart.

      There is so much to let go of, in letting them go. So much.

  69. #76

    Thank you, thank you. I’m at the “when will you sleep through the effing night?” phase, with a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old. I sometimes spend my days wondering when I’ll be able to get a break from this 24/7 mothering madness. And then, I read this, and realize that it’s all going to change so fast. So I take pictures and scrapbook like crazy, trying to capture all the madness… and look at it as if it’s magic. Thanks for the reminder.

  70. #77

    You got this. It is awesome to watch your baby grow into the woman she is going to become. It also hurts like mad to drive away and leave your daughter behind at university. I still feel that pain and it was 13 years ago that our first went away. I can still see her being brave and me crying all the way home. But we both got through it. You get through it the same way you get through the fear you have when you bring your new baby home and wonder how on earth you are going to parent this tiny bundle, the way you manage two babies when you didn’t know if you could actually love another when your heart was so full of the first, the way you send them off to kindergarten when you really want to keep them home forever. It’s part of the process and has pain and fun and tears and laughter like all stages. Ride it out, live all of it and record it. It is about her but this is also your story too.

  71. #78

    Oh my, I get weepy just remembering August 2012. Not only did my daughter leave for college, her twin brother left. The only saving grace, they decided they were both in love with the same college. yippee!!! It was a comfort to me to know they at least still had each other. Especially when he had kidney stones and had to to the emergency room the very day we left them. They handled that situation quite well.

    It’s different, but I adjust. I get weepy every August. But I get over it faster and faster with each that goes by. Good luck to your daughter and to you as you adjust to the new normal.

    1. #78.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh my, my daughter had those when she was a junior. Poor thing. I know how painful that looked, anyway!

  72. #79

    My philosophy has always been “it’s their turn. I already had my turn, and now it’s theirs”.

  73. #80
    renee @ savoring life through the lens

    just came over from Tracey Clark’s blog…and wow, i love reading this!! especially the part about toddlers, “will you ever effing sleep through the night???” oh yes, that’s my life right now with my oldest, who just turned 5, who starts kindergarten next week. i always say, once she starts school, that’s it…it’s gonna FLY by!! but, i will say, i think about all the school transitions a lot…and i, too, think, how am i going to do this. just the the thought of her being gone for 7 hours already freaks me out. lol. but, like you said, i have to keep reminding myself that this her life, her story, her adventure!! and i always say, “renee, you NEVER really thought about your parents while at school” because wow, i never realized how much moms think about their children!! it’s definitely difficult to let them go in the world so again, i have to tell myself, she’s going to BE so nourished at school and she’s gonna grow more and more into WHO she is…but yeah, it’s still hard. thank you for sharing this b/c it’s nice to have words of wisdom from fellow mothers who are on this path before me!! 🙂

  74. #81

    Been there. Done that. Sill have one in high school and am NOT looking forward to seeing her go as that will create the “empty nest” in our house and I have heard that is UGLY. Trust me when I say you will adjust quickly to the change in your house this fall and your son will LOVE being the only child for a while. Next May you will be posting about the next big change: adjusting to her moving back home for the summer! hang in there . . . . .

  75. #82

    so totally been there. sort of there again. my daughter, my only child is starting her senior year in college. by this time next year she’ll have a ‘real job’. no home for the summer and no long holiday breaks. so grateful for these four years of transition…but yet sometimes this motherhood gig royally sucks.

    i totally agree with you about making this about aidan and her journey. but i will also argue that this experience is also about the momma. learning a new way to be. how to be wear your mom hat a little differently. for me personally it was also learning that i was a whole person, not only a mother. in some ways, (even though at the time it felt like it was the end of the world as i knew it) my daughter going away to college was the very best thing that ever happened to me.

    you can’t see it now, and no doubt there are always some bumps in the road in this new frontier, but this part of life can be so awesome. you and your sweet girl have such a great relationship, and it will only get better.

    hang in there momma…you can do this.

  76. #83

    Mine are only 13 and 11, so I can’t truly relate or reassure, but I’m quite sure I’ll feel just like you do when the time comes….

    I’ll never forget when I went off to college two years after my brother (my only sibling) and dad took a deep breath and said “It’s the end of an era.” His words stuck in my head and stayed with me as I started my college life, and still do during each life change since. He helped me slow down, savor the moment, and start my journey with my eyes wide open.

  77. #84
    Cathy Zielske

    It’s totally the end of an era. Big sigh. I hope she savors every moment of this new journey too!

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