When my kids were younger, I used to get a sinking feeling whenever I thought ahead to the college years. I’d be gripped with the desire to pause time, to just soak them in more, even wishing I could go back in time.
You see, most of what was written and talked about painted such a bleak, sad picture. The message was that we have 18 years with our kids and that’s it. And there were plenty of Facebook posts with moms sharing their sadness and pain.
And to some extent, I understand. The dynamic shifts when our kids are no longer living at home full time, and we miss them. But as a mom with one in college and one who graduated this past June, I have made some beautiful and comforting discoveries about the college years, and motherhood in general. Here are 7 of them.
1) Our nests are never truly empty
We, not our houses, are our kids’ forever home. This means we stay connected, always parts of each other’s lives. This could look like regular Sunday night dinners at our family home. Or maybe our kids host family dinners. It can look like spending holidays together, and kids coming over just because, to hang out.
2) 18 years is just the beginning
We don’t say goodbye to our kids when they turn 18. In fact, we are likely to discover that we not only have children for life, we also have friendships that blossomed along the way! As moms we are needed in new and rich ways by our older kids. We listen, consult, guide and comfort. And as you know from reflecting on your relationship with your own mom, we never outgrow our moms. Motherhood never ends.
3) This time apart helps us cherish our time together even more
That old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is really on point. What I’ve found is that the emotional bond between each of my kids and me grew stronger during the time we were (and are) apart. When my husband and I would visit them, or they would come home for a weekend visit or a long summer break, we could all feel a renewed appreciation for each other. Deeper love.
4) Connection is not dependent on proximity
Even when we’re miles apart, we can remain tightly connected. One of the great things about technology is the gift of staying connected. From the time each of my kids went to college, we would either text or talk daily. Sometimes we Snapchat and occasionally we FaceTime. And to address the groans I’m sure some are uttering, I let them lead the way with this. I rarely reach out first, unless one of them is having a rough day or not feeling well. The point is this: when you love and care for one another, that outlasts physical separation.
5) We never stop getting to know our kids
Casual conversations turn into deep dives into how we think and feel about meaningful topics. We explore and share our own thoughts, as a result. As our children learn and grow, we learn and grow right along with them.
6) College kids often live at home after college
What a treat this can be! I treasured living in my childhood home for almost two years after I graduated, and I am cherishing having my daughter living at home for the time being. So for all those times you try to envision and prepare for the “final” launching of your young adult, you just might be working yourself up for nothing. My advice: just enjoy your now.
7) Love always finds a way to bring us together
We’ve built rich relationships and nurtured love and this is eternal. So even after our kids are living on their own, that doesn’t signal the end of our time with them. Does it look different? Of course. But we are their moms and they are our kids forevermore.
Love is like an invisible force that draws us to each other, creating opportunities for us to spend time together. My daughter and I take a beach vacation every summer, and sometimes escape for a long weekend to a fun destination. My son and I love to have coffee together, and to work at desks that are next to each other in the office that we share at home. We have a show that we watch, just the two of us. Both kids still enjoy taking family vacations with my husband and me, and this is priceless together-time.
The college years have proven to be so much more fulfilling than I’d pictured. While they brought a certain kind of letting go, they have also brought new and precious ways to hold on.