The number of days until my daughter, my first born and my favorite friend will leave home to start her next chapter in life. I’ve been doing count downs to moments before she even existed. Days until our next fertility attempt, days until we find out if it worked. The longest count down of my life were the days until I got to hold her in my arms, especially since she was 10 days late. There were the days until she started school, days until she would finish elementary, then middle, and finally high school. Days until the big birthday party or school event or vacation. But this count down, the one where she leaves home may be the most emotional one of them all. In 86 days, we will pull out of the driveway and make the 621 mile trip to Chicago, together, to deliver her to DePaul University so she can start her next adventure.
This bittersweet feeling is one that all parents are familiar with, I know I’m not special in that way. It’s the feeling of excitement for them to move on and start their life, while at the same time you are literally falling apart inside from the idea that they won’t be there when you wake up in the morning or go to bed at night. Even as I write this, I’m having trouble finding the words or even seeing them as I type through the blur of my tears. This is hard.
Madison and I have always been close, in all the ways. She has been my shadow her entire life. She always had some social anxiety so that meant I would stay and be with her in many social situations. Over time she gained confidence and now makes new friends easily, but she still likes to be home with me and likes to invite her friends to be here too. So that means it’s not just Madison that will be missed, but also the energy that comes from all the kids coming and going. This last couple of years, since the separation from her dad, we’ve become even closer. We’ve spent many nights on the couch getting into conversations that last well after midnight with many laughs and sometimes tears. I’ve been getting to know her in a very grown-up way, it’s like having a built in BFF and we have to stop ourselves and shut it down so we can get some sleep. I remember when my brother left home and when I moved in with my friend Aubrey, we were both ready to be on our own and away from our parents. The time comes for all of us to make that move and to make our way without the same daily safety that our parents can create. I know all the logical things about this transition, I know it’s time, I’m just not ready.
In 86 days, I will be a mess, I know this, and I’m giving myself the grace to say, “this is big, this is a lot, so feel all the feels and don’t apologize for it.” But my goal up to that point is to enjoy every minute that I get to have her here, every day, and not worry or dread the next part. We have big plans over these 86 days with moments to be lived and memories to be made. There will be graduation and so much celebration. We will enjoy a vacation with friends in the Carolinas and a trip to NYC to celebrate her 18th birthday. It’s going to be a packed summer and I am here for all of it. Hopefully that little tug on my heart that is present every day will only be a reminder of how much I love this sweet girl and how lucky I am to have her in my life and be her mom.
The good news is that when she leaves, this time, I only have to wait three months and she will be back for a long break, thank you DePaul! And of course, I will be in Chicago twice before that even happens. But it’s not the same. She will be starting a life and living every day in a way that I won’t see or fully understand. She will be making new friends that I may never meet, doing things in the city that I’ll never hear about or see (because she’s not a social poster) and feeling all kinds of feelings without the ability for me to notice and easily “check in” and be there when she doesn’t even know she needs a place to share it, or feel it. This is how it happens; this is how growing up looks. This is beautiful and also painful.
So, for all you parents out there doing the same thing in approximately the same timeframe, I see you, and I’m with you and I know that this will be just one more milestone, one more moment that we get to experience. I also know that all parents have done this, and life moves on, but right now it’s my biggest moment and I’m gonna let myself feel ALL the feels on this one. Because I only have one little girl and she is the most amazing person I know.
Things may never be quite the same and I will never be the same. I’ve had 18 years of learning and growth to get to this point and there’s no looking back now. I’m grateful for the relationship I have with Madi, the love and understanding we have for one another and the person I’ve become being her mother. This has been the ride of my life and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
And this was going to be an Open Letter to Madison but I couldn’t manage to write that one yet, maybe in 85 days;-)