Mothering Through the College Years

No matter where you go, you will always be in my heart. – Mahatma Gandhi

Our oldest daughter left home yesterday to return to college after winter break. It seems like a strange thing to say, let alone write, “left home” when it feels like I was just dropping her off at preschool yesterday. I have written a lot over the years about letting go and learning how to parent through the different ages and stages of childhood. And with each year that passes, I am amazed by all there is to learn about parenting, especially the part about letting go. And leaving home, well, no one told me about this one.

Home is the place where we raise our kids, help them through good times and bad, through scrapped knees and friendships, where they can be safe and grow into young adults. And although I knew this day would come, as it did last year around this same time, it’s still a surprise when the day comes, and we are hugging goodbye AGAIN.

Saying goodbye, and watching as she hugs her younger sister, sweet pup and dad was hard. You would think she was driving off to join the military or a war-torn country by the way I stood frozen, staring out the window watching her wave her little hand out her car window as she pulled out of the driveway. Away from the home where she grew up, and to her new “home” on a college campus.

I thought I would be okay this time around, but honestly, her winter break was a month long and, in some ways, it was harder than the first time I said goodbye. Last year, there was a lot of excitement and energy as she set off on her college adventure. As the oldest grandchild, she was the first to leave, and there were goodbye dinners, parties and lots of hugs and well wishes as she entered into this new phase of life.

As is common in our family, we like to celebrate milestones – big and small. And so, during our farewell dinner last night as her sister, grandparents, aunt and cousins wished her a great spring semester, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness begin to wash over me. I was counting the hours I had left with her. We had such a nice time during her break. I got to “mother” her, cook for her, watch her nap, make her favorite meals, workout together, have coffee and just great talks. I loved watching her and her sister make tik toks and laugh, as they scrolled through their phones incessently. I thought I would have more time.

More time before I had to let go.

Every time she comes home from college for a holiday break, she is older, more mature and a lot more independent. We have more in common, have deeper conversations and I love this older person she is becoming.

It’s a beautiful thing to witness, heartbreaking, but beautiful. I can see who she is without me. New York Times bestselling author and one of my favorite podcasters, Glennon Doyle, has a word for this: BRUTIFUL.  When something is both beautiful and brutal, she calls it “brutiful”.

I think this is exactly what mothering is: BRUTIFUL.

It is beautiful and amazing and all the things we feel watching our little people grow into the best version of themselves. Then one day they are these amazing independent people, and they are off on their own, and don’t need to lean on us anymore or need us quite as much. BRUTIFUL.

As I think about my girl happily enjoying her college experience, making new friends and declaring her major, I am continually amazed at this life she is creating for herself. She is smart, strong and compassionate and much more fearless than I ever was at her age. And although she may lean on me from time to time, she is becoming this beautiful independent person, separate from me. Brutiful.

Glennon also says we can do hard things. I think this is one of them.

9 thoughts on “Mothering Through the College Years

  1. Always love an Adria post. Each writing resonates to me, as my children (or need I say young adults) are the same age Same milestones. Yep …winter break is over for my daughter. Brutiful.


  2. Great article Adria. As you know our youngest has moved to AZ and is on a plane right now for 2 weeks in Puerto Rico for business…he’s 34 but nothing has changed~I still miss him, worry just as much and love when he calls to chat…once a mother always a mother ♥️


  3. Amazing story!! With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I remember too well and too often how hard it’s to say goodbye when any of my girls leave home.


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