Motherhood

Life Advice for My College-Bound Daughter

Life Advice for My College-Bound Daughter

Elisabeth Egan is a novelist and essayist, and when she writes about parenting, we drop everything to hear what she has to say. Even if, like today, it means weeping a little. OK, a lot. Here’s a brilliant letter she wrote to her daughter, who is heading off to college…


I was 14 when my family moved my sister into her freshman dorm at the school where our parents met. I don’t remember the official goodbye, but I do remember what happened when we got back into our mauve Mercury Sable with its suddenly huge backseat and opera blaring from the speakers. My mom turned to my dad and said, “If she doesn’t wave one more time, I think I’m going to die.”

Despite her passion for ear-splitting arias, my mom doesn’t do emotional outbursts in real life. Her response to any injury, from a paper cut to a fractured pelvis, is “You’ll live”; she tosses heartfelt cards in the garbage without a second thought (“What? I read it already”); and, on the morning of my dad’s funeral, she actually said, “No blubbering, girls. We’re channeling our inner Jackie Kennedy.”

The day we dropped my sister off at college was the one time I’ve ever witnessed the faltering of my mom’s stiff upper lip. I can still see her profile — hand clasped over mouth, eyes filled with tears — as she watched her firstborn walk across a courtyard to the high rise she’d call home for the next nine months. Thankfully, at the last possible moment, my sister turned and shot us a dazzling smile. Then she lifted both arms overhead, gave us a double wave and stepped through a door held open by someone else’s sweaty dad.

She was gone. We drove away.

My mom cried for the next four hours, then sporadically for about a week. I didn’t have much sympathy. I was deep in the sneer and loathing phase of adolescence, and my sister had been so ready to go, she’d taken her shower caddy for a summer-long test run, leaving me without shampoo or saline solution in the bathroom we shared. Plus, there were the clothing leftovers for me to feast on in her closet! And the cassette tapes to steal!

Now that my oldest kid is graduating from high school and getting ready to leave for college, I see my sister’s leave-taking in a new light — the light of parenthood, which is one of the brightest bulbs there is. In a funny, happy twist, our daughter is going to the school where my husband and I met 25 years ago. She is as ready for the next phase as her aunt was, and as likely to make a beeline into it with arms open wide. She may toss us a bonus wave at the last minute, but will not permit a love- and advice-fest in the parking lot. And, unlike my mom, I’ll definitely want to host one. So here, in no particular order, are the important things I’d say to my daughter if only she’d hang around long enough to listen. The most important one is at the very end.

  1. I love you. I’ll miss you. Thank you.
  2. Ignore the New Jersey jokes. Not everyone can be from a state as great as ours.
  3. I hope you’ll consider a hiatus from social media for the first ten days. Scrolling through other people’s pictures may give you the false impression that your friends have settled effortlessly into their new schools. This is just a filter. If things are so great, why are they on Snapchat?
  4. Give orientation activities a chance even if they’re weird, boring, too early, too late or too far away. I met one of my best friends on the bus back to campus after a canoe-jousting competition. Have you ever known me to canoe-joust? No. But I gave it a whirl that day, and we all love the wise, sparkly woman I met as a result.
  5. Along those lines: you’ve grown up among my college friends, but that doesn’t mean it was love at first sight with all of them. Some are people I discovered after graduation; others I never would have stuck with if I hadn’t peeled away a few layers. My point is, give people a chance. Give them five chances. However:
  6. Trust your instincts. If someone seems like a creep, they probably are.
  7. Take your work to the library even if you have everything you need to get it done in your room. There’s no place cozier than a college library at night.
  8. If you’re lucky, you will have long, late-night, soul-searching conversations with new friends. You’ll trade stories about your high school, your town and your family. Please go easy on us; we did our best!  And I’m definitely not the only mom who gossips, uses foul language, gets tons of parking tickets, drinks Diet Coke and steals her kids’ Halloween candy.
  9. Do not, under any circumstances, drink from a cup you haven’t filled yourself. You never know what someone has slipped in there. And definitely avoid punch, which is a recipe for trouble.
  10. I’m sorry I complained so much about picking you up from swim practice. I’ll miss your red cheeks, your chlorine perfume and the gravity-defying bun on top of your head.
  11. I’ll miss your half-finished friendship bracelets taped to the dining room table.
  12. I’ll miss your trail of Cheez-Its on the kitchen counter.
  13. I’ll miss the thud of your backpack in the hallway and the particular rhythm of your feet on the stairs.
  14. Thank you for loving the books I love, with the glaring exception of Anne of Green Gables.
  15. Thank you for being the best big sister. I can’t say anymore on this topic without crying so, moving on…
  16. Your room is an appalling disaster. Still, I understand why the pets flock to your bed.
  17. When someone invites you to do something you don’t want to do, you don’t owe an explanation for why you’re declining. You might say, “Sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it,” or “I have other plans, but thank you for thinking of me!” Or just plain, “No, thanks.” Don’t wait until your forties to learn how to say these words.
  18. You’ve already had the experience of not being invited to do something you wanted to do. Watching you make other plans reminds me why I picked Grace for your middle name.
  19. Complicated relationships aren’t more meaningful than easy ones, they’re just more work. The best people are the ones who make you laugh. This applies to friends and lovers. (Yes, I said lovers. I couldn’t think of a better word!)
  20. Have fun! Ride a cafeteria tray down a snowy hill, jump in a pile of leaves, make mug cakes at midnight. You’re there to learn, but your brain needs a break. And I’m not talking about back-to-back Grey’s episodes on your laptop.
  21. Listen carefully — to classmates, professors and the sound of the wind.
  22. Ask questions, ask for directions, ask for help. Even if you think you can find what you need on Google, ask a human being. We still know more than our phones.
  23. You’ve come to me with problems I didn’t have solutions for. This is a strange feeling for a parent, like being upside down on a rollercoaster. The upside is, I’ve watched you make good decisions on your own — which is not to say all your decisions will be good, or have to be good. Just that you have the tools to make a smart call. I admire that.
  24. You don’t need an earth-shattering reason to go to your professors’ office hours. Just show up; they’re waiting for you and sometimes they have snacks.
  25. There are free condoms in the health center.
  26. Get a job, and please don’t waste all your money on chai lattes.
  27. I’d aim to do laundry once a week, which is roughly three times more than you do it at home.
  28. Be brave. Go rock-climbing (on actual rocks); take an engineering class; join a singing group; be the hallmate who organizes a trip to see a lecture you saw advertised on a flier in the student center. (Do they still have fliers?)
  29. Failure is an option, although I prefer to call it redirection. You are the daughter of a writer, so you know what it means to start a story that doesn’t go anywhere. The point is to start something, have the guts to admit when it isn’t working, and the gumption to begin again. The world has an infinite supply of stories, but courage is a diminishing resource as you get older. Dive in now.
  30. Try to resist the urge to “brand” yourself, which is so much less rewarding than establishing a meaningful, nuanced identity. For instance, Daddy went for Deep Philosopher during our first semester of college; I went for Cheerful Girl (I’m sure this is hard for you to imagine). Twenty years into our marriage, we still bump up against these boxes, which are empty and take up more room than they deserve. Worth noting: we didn’t find each other until we’d stepped out of them.
  31. You know how I told you I’m your mother, not your friend? I lied. I’m both.
  32. When you were in fourth grade, going through normal friend gymnastics — high bar, low bar, balance beam, backbend — I gave you a locket that my mom gave me for my tenth birthday. Inside, I slipped a little piece of paper that said, “Be you.” The locket is long lost to the sands of Maine, but the message remains the same. Be yourself, no contortions required. And know, with each step you take away from our house, that you are the living, breathing, blue-eyed, big-hearted embodiment of the word engraved inside your parents’ wedding rings: Beloved.

Elisabeth Egan is the author of A Window Opens and the chief correspondent behind @100postcards.

P.S. 21 rules for raising teenage boys and 21 rules for raising teenage girls. Plus, the best thing my mom did as a parent.

(Photo by Daniel Douglas.)

  1. Shayna says...

    Just what I needed this morning. Thank you.

  2. Libby says...

    I’m sobbing. My daughter is 5 and has not even started kindergarten.

  3. B says...

    Some of these things I tell my 7 year old. Be you, be brave, learn from my mistakes … maybe they’ll go over her head, are lost on her ears but I will keep repeating them and crying as she enters the next grade, graduates, leaves us (or not) etc. The growing up part is bittersweet for this momma who never knew she wanted to be a momma, until suddenly she did … and then it took years and thousands upon thousands to get her precious first born. Weeping at the thought of my precious, beloved first born walking into college. I hope and pray its what she wants when the time comes and she goes happily, ready and knows she can always return to her momma’s wing at any moment!

  4. D says...

    Broke my hand in two places freshman year sledding down a snowy hill on a cafeteria tray (after a few beers) so I’d gently suggest avoiding that tip (#20) LOL. On that note, don’t wait a week to hit the Health Center if something feels off.

  5. Marta says...

    So beautiful….Brought tears to my eyes… Tomorrow is my daughter’s nursery graduation…it’s not going to be any easier…

  6. DJ says...

    No kids yet here but I would also add-take your lightest course load your first semester and last semester of college (it can still be a full course load but don’t overdo it in quantity or difficulty). They are the two semesters filled with transition, emotion, and processing. A professor told me that my senior year and it has always stuck with me!

  7. Cassidy says...

    Go Noles!

  8. Olivia says...

    I just handed my second daughter, three weeks old, over to her dad and started to read this. Couldn’t make it past the first ten without crying. Going to have to revisit when my hormones have settled a bit!

  9. JoLynn says...

    Kleenex Alert! Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt, meaningful words. Now, where is my box of Kleenex? Sniff.

  10. Tina Schrader says...

    Love this. When I went away to Florida State University from Nebraska at 17, I left out of the Kansas City airport because it offered a cheaper flight. I was flying by myself and I hadn’t seen the university beforehand, so my parents were probably quite nervous for me (I was a little nervous, but mostly excited). Later I was told that my mother wept the entire 3-hour drive back to Lincoln. And my mother never cried. I guess my dad cried, too, but he’s always been the softie, so that was less of a surprise. Thinking of it now makes *me* teary. One’s heart really can fly.

  11. Kathleen Acker says...

    This is such a magical map for all young adults -and many of us in kid ones! Thank you for writing this and for sharing this. Oh that I had said something remotely like this when our two children were headed to college.
    To “Grace” -never let go of this life line. The cord will stretch as long and as thin as you need just hold onto it. Gems like these come once in a lifetime.

  12. Jeanne W says...

    Yes to all of this. Crying. My youngest graduated high school yesterday. I’m going to miss her so much but she’s ready to soar.

  13. Michelle says...

    Love this—crying on my morning bus! And please, keep up the postcards!❤️

  14. Sybil says...

    I love this so much. Wiping my eyes now. Thank you

  15. Cora says...

    Mind blown. I had NO IDEA the Elisabeth Egan behind 100postcards (a favorite Instagram feed) and the Elisabeth Egan behind A Window Opens (such a great book) were the same Elisabeth Egan! My heart is happy at this revelation.

  16. Tammy says...

    I sent my daughter off to college a year ago and this still hits home so hard. I’m crying my eyes out! She captures all the feelings in such a beautiful manner.

  17. Vicky says...

    Crying and warmhearted from Madrid, Spain. This mother/father feeling is a worldwide one.

  18. Holding my 10 month old a little tighter while breastfeeding him right now. Love this.

  19. Allie says...

    In college I was told a great piece of advice by a drunk roommate who often gave unsolicited terrible advice. She – very drunkenly – told me that it was important to tell people that you appreciated them and their actions. Literally say “I appreciate you!” I still make a point of doing this when it’s true with personal and professional relationships and it’s so fun and heartwarming to see people’s reactions. People don’t hear this enough!

    • Kate says...

      so true! The bartender at the airport chili’s told me this last week when I tipped her for my takeout, and I felt good ALL DAY LONG!

  20. Nothin’ going on here. Just big tears streaming down my face. I vividly remember my mom outside planting flowers when my boyfriend picked me up to head to the dorms. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, we’d already moved all my stuff and I was going to the local university after all. But my mom told me later she was planting flowers so she could watch us drive off without me realizing she was sobbing behind her big hat and sunglasses. To this day, the thought breaks my heart, and I’ve never again turned down her offer for a ride.

  21. AC says...

    What a wonderful and poignant letter. Thanks for sharing it. Coincidentally this week I received a charming out of office reply from a colleague acknowledging similar feelings.

    It said “I am out of the office spending time with my family in Japan. I won’t be back for two weeks. Crazy right? Such a long vacation? But it is the last vacation before my kids go off to college, so now is the time to do something! Then again, everyday is a good day to do something…”

    • JessicaD says...

      I absolutely love this.

  22. Nina says...

    I love this: “Don’t wait until your forties to learn how to say these words.” Just the other day someone asked me to do something I really, really didn’t want to do. (watch their dog for free for 6 weeks) Initially, I said yes. And was miserable thinking about it. Then I said I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that, can you find someone else? They gave me $120 for SIX WEEKS OF DOG CARE and I said “I really prefer NOT to do this.” I have a foster dog and I said I need you to bring your dog by to see if they get along on Sunday. They never came. And then texted me on Thursday and said “I can bring my dog by in 20 minutes” I responded with: “That won’t work for me, now and I don’t have any other time before you leave.” I had so many things I typed on that I deleted before I hit send. They NEVER responded. but the next day they told me “I found someone else.” And I gave them their check back. And I have felt so relieved. Every day since they left – Monday – I feel relieved I am not watching their dog. And I thought, why didn’t I learn that sooner? Just say “that doesn’t work for me.” and leave it at that. Everyone who knows us were outraged for me that she even asked. Say it now: That doesn’t work for me. And then practice it again and again. (that’s what I’m doing). I also love this: “Complicated relationships aren’t more meaningful than easy ones, they’re just more work.” I think I might need to tattoo that on the back of my hand :)

  23. Kate says...

    I have been reading your lovely blog for a while now, and appreciate your conscientious diversity on so many levels. But sometimes your articles leave me feeling like an utter stranger, separated by class/economic circumstances. For example, none of my children were able to afford the adventure of an “away” college–they all worked, or are working, their way through state college, usually preceded by two years of community college, and have either lived at home for reasons of economy or rented not far away. While I am able to appreciate their closeness, I grieve that they never had the “real” campus experience, the joys of trying their “wings” enclosed by all the traditions and support of varsity life. Many American students really have to grind away to obtain their education and this is another, important part of this picture. Many gain their adulthood in a grittier way. Thank you for letting me speak my heart.

    • Katherine says...

      Good point. Well written.

    • Em says...

      I took this path, not necessarily by choice, but because my of my parents’ persuasion. At first I did feel like I missed out on a ‘real’ college experience, and sometimes I still feel that way (I am in my late twenties now), but I also have what a lot of other people don’t have- no student debt. I also worked throughout college and I think that I have learned so many lessons that other students did not. I am so thankful that my parents guided me to this path as it made my future easier. Although it may not seem like it, there are benefits to whichever path a student takes. Your children are lucky to have you!

    • Laura says...

      Hi Kate! If it is any consolation, in Canada it is super typical to live at home with your parents through university when possible to save money. I did, my husband did, our siblings too, and in my immediate circle of friends only two went to ‘away’ university, and that was because they entered into very specific fields that were not offered at the universities in our home city. Granted, there are many students from rural communities that have no choice but to move into the city and rent while attending university, but even then, most will venture into the city closest to them.
      I realize that none of that takes away the sadness you shared in your comment, but I wanted to broaden the picture for you, and let you know that many students in North America have living arrangements like your children.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your beautiful comment, kate. you’re so thoughtful and i really appreciate your taking the time to write. i thought about this when we were editing this piece and hoped that the college topic wouldn’t make anyone feel disconnected. her story is about her loving advice to her daughter for the specific path she is taking — but we know there are many kids who don’t go to college for many different reasons, or don’t go to a four-year school away from home. thank you so much for commenting and sharing your story. i agree that it’s a very important part of this picture. i really appreciate it and we’ll work hard to keep getting better at representing and reflecting a range of experiences. xoxo

    • Elisabeth Egan says...

      Kate, this is an excellent point, well-taken. I chose to leave out the financing of this college education, but you have my word that the conversation is alive and well in our house. My dad, who I mention at the beginning, was the first person in his family to graduate from 8th grade. My husband is still paying school loans, even as we start paying another generation of tuition. I hear you and appreciate your note. Thank you for reading! —Elisabeth Egan

    • Sasha L says...

      Kate, just want to say you’re not alone in feeling this way. Our economic reality is far more working class than many others who comment here. We’ve not been on a European vacation with our children, nor sent them to private or even out of state college. They are paying their own way, as we had to. Content that speaks to this reality isn’t glamorous enough for bloggers that need to make a living I think. Not would it attract sponsors which are necessary to keep a blog going as well. I think the lack of representation of working class (or heaven forbid, poor) people is just a by product of our capitalist culture. I feel like Joanna and COJ do much better than most at being inclusive on every level, and show a level of compassion absent most places, but economic disparity is real for sure.

    • Asa says...

      This was a tough piece for me to read too, mostly because I have always yearned for a mother like this one. My mom was always there as a physical presence, and to provide for our every material need, but now I understand that she was not emotionally available (to me, or any of my siblings). Same with my dad—no emotional intimacy or depth to our relationship. When it came time for me to go to college, I wanted so badly to have the classic freshman experience but my parents “forced” me to live at home and commute to a state school nearby. (I know now that I could have made the decision anyway, but I didn’t feel I was in a position to dissent from my family). I was completely devastated, and felt so isolated from the many students who got the experience I hoped to have. I felt like I missed out big time since I so desperately wanted to find my independence and grow. I worked hard and saved up enough money to move to campus the following three years (my parent’s concerns were largely financial) but my mom wasn’t there to support me. She made me feel like I was being a terrible daughter for wanting to leave her, and she would run to her room crying any time I had visited home and needed to return to school. So incredibly difficult and confusing. Ten years later, I am still very sad about the experience I missed out on. I have been through much therapy surrounding my past as I intend to sever the root of emotional neglect before I have my own children. This article inspires me on the journey to becoming a healthy, supportive, loving mom (someday)!

  24. Sasha L says...

    Ugh. I miss my daughter so much. Away at law school now, four years away from home. It hasn’t gotten easier for me to have her far away. I like our cozy empty nest and the peace and the simplicity and the tidyness and the freedom of no kids at home, but……. But but but. You just miss them so much, and it doesn’t go away. Weekend breaks and texts and phone calls, all good but also not enough.

  25. Megan Lec says...

    This post has me in tears. All at once I am thinking about when I left for college and the idea of my little guy (only 2) leaving one day as well. My mom prides herself on always being stoic, I can count the times I’ve seen her cry on just one hand. And my goodbye at school was not full of tears and hugs but resolved pragmatism and focus on getting my mini fridge stocked just so. That said, years later my little sister, who was just 12 when I moved away for college, told me my mom was tearful in the car and after a long period of silence after pulling away declared I would need a fish to keep me company and focused on that in the weeks between me leaving and my first visit home. Thanks CupofJo for today’s post and all the heartfelt comments <3

  26. Sarah says...

    Wow. I am late to reading this, but I wish someone had told me the one about complicated relationships not being more meaningful than easy ones. I’d like to think that I appreciate my easy (easier) relationship now after going through hard ones, but my goodness that would have saved me a lot of angst.

  27. Simone says...

    Oh man… my oldest just started swim lessons today. When I got to #10, I lost it.

  28. When I dropped my older kid off at college, I was surprised at my reaction. He was an emotionally high-need teenager; he was ready to leave and I was ready for him to leave. I was fine during drop-off, fine on flight home. The next day it hit me and I cried for 2 days straight and off and on randomly for the next six weeks. I cried like I had never cried before, like someone died. Luckily, I had good friends who had gone before me and could help me through it. After some time I realized that I was crying because yes, I missed him but mostly it was a shift in motherhood – and I still had another kid at home. But this kid, my son, I would never quite parent the same way again. That shook me to my core. In some ways it was freeing. After my grief (because that’s what it was) I felt a weight lifted because like I said, that kid took a lot out of me. And it was constant for 18 years so I didn’t even really notice until I wasn’t living with it day to day. It was nice having only my 12 year old daughter at home. The house felt lighter. But still, after every school break and we said good-bye, I cried.

  29. Shannon says...

    My only daughter is officially a Junior in high school so the college search is getting real. #11 & #12 got to me because just yesterday I went out to our porch & grabbed the Cheezit box to put it away & saw the tape on the table knowing she had finished working on her latest friendship bracelet. Even though it usually drives me nuts I left that tape there knowing someday soon I won’t be finding signs of her in our house as often as I do now & it makes my heart hurt.

  30. Alyssa says...

    This post and this comment section – trying to keep it together in my communal workspace.

    As an only child who had an incredibly close relationship with her parents, my parents dropping me off at college felt somewhat unremarkable. I felt ready and excited. They seemed fine.

    It was only a year or two later, heading back from a school break to college, that my mom told me how hard it was to drop me off at college and how hard it was to say goodbye to me each time I went back. She cried when she told me. She still gets weepy when we say goodbye after a vacation together or an extended weekend. I’m exceedingly grateful to know such love.

  31. AW says...

    I got misty eyed at this even though I don’t have kids and am not even that far removed from being in university myself. From the perspective of someone that graduated 5 yrs ago, can I just emphasize one piece of advice? Do really try things outside of your comfort zone, and try not to feel too shy. I went to a random seminar on a Friday morning during a time where I felt super lost (long story short, law school hopeful that realized 3 years into undergrad that my grades wouldn’t be high enough – really traumatic for a lifelong overachiever that thought my grades would stay extremely high in university.. especially since I rarely partied and studied hard).

    I was too shy to talk to the lecturer ( and I always felt like people would crowd those lecturers and nothing came of it anyway) but luckily for me, a friend who was also at the lecture (and not shy) pulled me into talk to him and said that we should chat. We hit it off and I ended up working for him for 2 yrs and he is still one of my mentors. It’s a totally different field from law, I didn’t think I’d ever do this, but I am so grateful for this random event happening. It’s hard to find people that will take a chance on you, and this random series of events changed my life entirely – more than any class I ever took, especially since I never really talked to any of my profs. I was also super hungover from a friend’s birthday party the night before, almost skipped the lecture because it was such a random seminar unrelated to my field that I had only a mild interest in but decided I’d check it out anyway.

    Oh that brings me to my second point – get to know at least 2-3 of your profs really well. You will need references at one point, whether for more school or for work. Go to those office hours. I never did that, I was too shy and most of my classes were like 500 people. Once you get to upper year classes and your class sizes shrink down (and office hours aren’t run just by TAs), GET YOURSELF SOME PROF TIME. You need those references!! I can’t even tell you how many of my friends had to resort to a “so I took your class last year.. you probably don’t know me but I did well and I need a reference letter”. Even if you don’t think you want to go to grad school/other schooling now, you may in the future. And even if you don’t, you may need it for jobs or internships.

  32. Zara says...

    As a university lecturer who works with many anxious and stressed out students, may I add: just breathe. This too shall pass. Failure is not the end of life as you know it. Your mental health comes first. It’s okay to take a reduced course load, or step back for a term, or take a year off. School will be there when you get back. University timelines are arbitrary–nothing bad will happen if you need some extra time. In fact, university isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. We are rooting for you, always.

    That said, procrastinating and then feeling very worried about missed work is NOT the same thing as having an anxiety disorder–don’t confuse them. It does a disservice to those people who truly need support for their mental health issues.

    You are an adult learner and thus responsible for your own learning experience. Grades are earned, not lost. You will get out of school what you put into it. Which is to say: keep up with your studies! Go to class (most of the time)! Do your readings! Check your school email!

    Don’t have your parents call me (I will not and cannot discuss an adult student with parents). Instead, work on developing your self-advocacy skills. These will serve you as a student and in the world beyond.

    These are great years. Don’t waste them on social media, with people who dull your sparkle, or in a major that doesn’t make you curious. Go on an international exchange. Volunteer. Be a do-er. Live it up.

    Oh, and there are still fliers :)

  33. Alice says...

    Due to an eventful year for me, my younger brother and I ended up moving to university on THE VERY SAME DAY. My poor mum, she had to pick which child to drop off and which to entrust to others. Because of the events of the previous year, I was the one she dropped off in person. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful to my younger brother who, on our last night together, hugged me absurdly tightly and told me “you’ve got it this time” as my mum looked on and sobbed. It must have been so hard for her to go from having the two of us at home (my older brother was already gone) to none of us being there!

  34. Juana says...

    So beautiful and heartfelt that I couldn’t stop tearing up as I read it. Every daughter should hear those words from their mother. Thank you for writing it for those mother’s who haven’t got the words, but who have got the emotions.

  35. Anna says...

    …and I’m crying on my commute. Thank you so much for these wonderful words (and I’ll take some of that advice for myself)!

  36. Minn says...

    Crying silently in bed next to my 1 year old (who is turning one today!) with the top of my nightshirt wet from all the tears I wiped reading this post and all the comments. I have a four year old daughter asleep in the room across the hall who is so achingly independent but also always wants to sleep with me at night. I can’t imagine the day when I have to leave her somewhere for days/weeks(/months?! Gasp!) but I can which is why I’m bawling. I hope I raise her well to have more grace and love than I ever did because I was that horrible daughter that had to appear strong and cool in front of her parents and didn’t give them that extra hug/kiss/squeeze/wave and my heart will break into a million pieces if my daughter does that to me and oh I feel so horrible I did that to my parents (but I did ugly cry in front of them later so maybe I’m forgiven a bit?).

  37. katie says...

    The sweetest.

    I’m a college counselor, so halfway through, I had to cyberstalk Elisabeth until I found out where she went to college. (I needed to picture it!)

    (Middlebury. :))

  38. Steph Gilman says...

    Number 30 particularly got me. So full of truth! I have struggled for years with wondering if I can be a writer and a rock climber and a runner and like expensive clothing but also Goodwill finds and if I’m too high maintenance to be a traveler, etc, etc. But the beauty of being a human is not being a brand. We’re full of depth that can’t fit into the boxes we’ve imagined up. Authenticity comes with having enigmatic parts inside us that don’t always meet expectations. And those are the places where we find those “lovers” and best friends. :)

  39. K says...

    Some of these even I needed to read! #17 and 18 especially and I’m in my mid-30s! I’ve read over these about three times now and cried early on each time. Fear and sadness about my toddler one day going to college, and memories of my stoic mom with tears she tried to hide as she said bye to me before leaving me at college a 10 hour drive away. A self-absorbed 18-year old, I never thought about what the drive home would be like, or how it was like for my siblings and parents at home, or why my mom called and left messages on my answering machine randomly at night (“how are you doing? Are you ok?”). I remember dying to live away from home – not a fan of my high school years, I was eager to be away and start fresh. It didn’t hit me until later how much I took my parents for granted. Oh the blindness of teenage hormonal angst! My memories of my mom as a child were of a strict person who made me adhere to the rules; and it wasn’t until I left home that I started viewing her more as a friend. Now a best friend I don’t know what I’d do without. I always tell this to my friends with teenage daughters who they fight with often…she will come around.

  40. Laurel says...

    Blown. Away. All I can say is I’m not ready for this. Grace is surely your middle name too!

  41. ls says...

    “Complicated relationships aren’t more meaningful than easy ones, they’re just more work.”
    YES, this is absolutely 100% true. I feel like we’re always told that relationships take work, so we put in the work and end up forcing things that never should’ve been because we don’t know better. When it starts to feel like “work,” it’s time to move on.

    • Courtney says...

      This one resonated with me as well. I’d actually been having a deep “shower thought” this morning about it (always the shower, right?!). It’s all relationships that we seem to internalize take work – romantic, friendship, professional. The reason we’re taught that is so we come to normalize, and therefore more readily tolerate, bad behavior that keeps us controlled and staying small. It’s taken me 40 years to get that one!

  42. Abbey says...

    Phew who is cutting onions in here?

    I remember dropping my older brother off at college. Both my parents and I got into the car, drove back to the hotel, and sobbed for two hours before splashing our faces with cold water and going to dinner… And I didn’t even LIKE him.

  43. Nicole says...

    The friendship bracelets got me too. I’m going to read Elisabeth’s book now :)

    • Barbara says...

      At my son’s kindergarten graduation last week, his teacher made a short speech that had the room in tears. She quoted the movie Hook and said: “Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts?… We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that you’re going to be running after them for a bit of attention… Just a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful And you are missing it.”
      She then kindly reminded us that if we truly spent quality time with our kids, they would surely meet us half way when they got older! With three young children I cannot think about this without tearing up, and this post is so timely and beautiful! Thanks :)

    • Amy says...

      Yes the friendship bracelets! I was reading along until then…uh huh, yes, smile…..and then lost it at that one!

  44. liz says...

    maybe it’s because college age girls are already so mature, but this is just good general advice in my opinion! I’m 6 years out of law school and think this all still applies!

  45. Tara says...

    Yes! My dad gave me a letter and I will never forget opening it my first few hours in my dorm. I had totalled my car on the way to college and my roommate was obsessed with Hillary Duff in a very odd way.

    I keep this in my Gmail in a folder called Dad.

    “My love for you runs deeper than the ocean…..higher than the Colorado Rockies that I’m looking at right now…..you live in my heart every day…….my participants sometimes complain about their children which is hard for me to comprehend….our lives have taken us across the US…….you make me so proud…….you’ve grown up right in front of my eyes from tiny feet dancing on mine to your own footsteps…..enjoy the dance of life…..every day is an opportunity to meet new people and enhance your perspective…….diversity is not just skin color……..I hope I’ve taught you tolerance…love is being tolerant……you will always be Daddy’s little girl to me…….memories are to cherish….your past has created your today……..whatever challenges life throws at you I’m here to listen, coach and offer my opinion(if asked)…..my love is 24×7…….the course I deliver each week is about deepening relationships …..my goal as your Dad is to deepen our relationship…..love drives our relationships…we may be many miles apart…….love lives within us……..enjoy each day knowing my love grows for each of you…..your 20’s is a decade of discovery, confusion,joy, passion, pain, heartache, impatience, learning and sheer enjoyment of life…….as you grow and learn to keep me in your heart……..save a space in there for your Dad.
    Love always,
    Dad

    • M says...

      Oh this is so dear, tara. ❤

    • Kristie says...

      Oh my god, I was teary reading the essay, but this got me bawling. How sweet and thoughtful is your dad, reminds me of my dad!

    • Maria says...

      Your dad sounds like an amazing man! And the fact that you have a dad folder sounds awesome, too!

    • Emily says...

      tears!

  46. Annie says...

    My daughter doesn’t go to college for another 6 years, but I already get teary eyed thinking about it. Reading this basically gave me a preview of how I will actually feel in 6 years. Too many tears for a Monday.

  47. I’m the oldest of three and my brother is 6 years younger than me and my sister, 10. My brother just started his first real job and my sister just finished up her freshman year of college. I think having younger siblings is a blessing in that it shows you how fast time goes by.

    It was last year that my mom told me she was pregnant with my little sister, it was last week that she was 8 years old and standing with me at my own college drop off. I’m going to go snuggle my 19 month old extra hard because I know he will be 19 in what seems like a moment.

    • Rebecca says...

      A friend of mine told me last summer that it’s not a big deal that she’s turning 40. She said it will be a big deal when her younger siblings turn 40. That really resonated with me.

  48. Marie says...

    My awesome, independent daughter is only 7. I so fiercely want to nurture the strength and boldness in her spirit, and yet at the same time, I can’t imagine ever being separated from her!!!! This post has me all kinds of choked up, knowing that all of this love I’m pouring in to her is so that one day, she can walk away from me and stand strong on her own.

    • Amy says...

      Darnnit Marie. You got me crying again.

  49. Lauren E. says...

    Wow, this was beautiful. I was beyond ready to go to college by the time I left but at the same time, I knew the shift in my relationship with my parents was permanent. Sure, I’d move back home for the summer and for those 2 months after I graduated, but I’d never again be a permanent resident. It was a very strange moment.

  50. Mindy Walker says...

    “You know how I told you I’m your mother, not your friend? I lied. I’m both.”

    Beautiful, EE! This will stick with me! And I’m glad I like to cry! Thank you!

  51. Jennifer J. says...

    Thank you for writing this. My mom didn’t get to take me to college due to a work trip. She threatened my dad within an inch of his life and said “Buy her whatever she wants and if you make her cry on her move-in day, I will make you cry when I return home”. I heard this story after I had moved out for good but didn’t think much of it until now (#kidsbeingkids). After reading this, I understand so much more.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope I one day get to share a similar list with my children.

  52. Ceridwen says...

    Beautiful. The tears are here… the pick up from swimming practise and half finished friendship bracelets.
    I took my daughter with me to the city to shop for a gift. She wore sparkles on her eyes and I felt this incredible swell of…I don’t know…motherhood. Her being a small child holding my hand yet grown up, as tall as me with golden sparkly eyeshadow, all at once. I remind myself to soak it all up.

  53. C says...

    I spent almost a decade in graduate school teaching and mentoring college students (at a very selective school) in various roles while teaching them literature for a relentlessly popular class that taught them the meaning of life. Too many of us forget that college is about testing and failing and learning to respond, “how fascinating!,” not about choosing the right major. The strongest, most successful students of mine valued curiosity and vulnerability above linear success, and the emotional intelligence and self-awareness that brings cannot be substituted for anything. I wish more students, especially at highly selective colleges, had more license from their parents to take a break from thinking about their careers and more chances to become consciously defined individuals because there’s no playground like college (the privilege!) to do it.

  54. Dana says...

    Bar none, the best advice I received upon leaving for college came from my older sister: “the first whole semester, and especially during Orientation, everyone is panicking and trying to make friends really fast. Relax, be nice to everyone, say yes to opportunities, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket (or friend group!). Real friendships take time. The ones formed in the first month will be really intense for awhile and then fade.”

    This is advice I turned to during that first semester of college and then time and time again since — during that summer abroad, the first city I moved to after college, the second city, the next job, and so on. Be nice! Say yes! And also, chill out and give friendships time to develop naturally!

  55. Jennifer Struebing says...

    I just added a link on my google calendar to this post for the year 2029 when my daughter goes to college. I want to remember to read it to her in 10 years. I hope it’s still out there in the cyberworld. :)

    • Jackie Callahan says...

      Genius idea! Stealing it.

  56. Lynn Mckoy says...

    Simply beautiful. My daughter is a senior and I send her off with a letter that she is to open on her first night away from home.

  57. Rachel says...

    Started crying uncontrollably at “Thank you for being the best big sister” #cupofjodeskcry – leaving early to squeeze my daughters and thank God for the ten more years before I have to live this :)

    • Elly says...

      Same! (Love the hashtag!)

  58. Megan says...

    This advice is amazing, but I think my favorite line from the post is about “the light of parenthood, which is one of the brightest bulbs there is.”

    There have been countless things I’ve gained and cherished about motherhood since giving birth to my daughter 18 months ago, but words can’t express how newly appreciative it has made me of my parents’ lives and endless work and love for me and my sister!

  59. Dee Paulino says...

    No.32 touched a string in my heart. Thank you for writing this.

  60. Erin says...

    This is just beautiful. Saving for a few years down the road…

  61. Hilary says...

    Oh my goodness, my daughter isn’t even 1 yet, but I’m leaving her to go on a trip with my husband for 5 days and I am a ball of anxiety and sadness. I’m worried I’ll panic on the trip and not enjoy myself. I can’t even fathom dropping her off at college and driving off without her *sob*

  62. Cooper says...

    I just dropped my baby off at daycare for the first time today, and so much of the advice reminds of the hopes I whispered for her this weekend . . .”Have fun! Be brave! Seek comfort!” This post reinforces that she’ll always be my baby and my heart will perpetually live outside of my body.

    • Courtney says...

      Just wanted to remind you that you’ve got this, mama! It’s so hard to leave them, but you’re just adding to your team, not “having someone else raise him” as some mama-shamer will inevitably say to you at some point. My son is now 10, and I consider his early childcare providers as the MVPs of our team. They helped us plant the seeds of love and cooperation in our son that are thriving today, and sometimes just gave me a hug when I arrived clearly looking like I needed one.

    • Lisa says...

      When my oldest started nursery (at 10 months), my friend said to me “you’re giving him the gift of independence. It’s one of the best things you can give him”. I have insane mom guilt – I was raised by a mother who was very firmly in the “mothers belong in the home” camp, and my baby is currently having issues at nursery. But then I see how confident he is, how easily he makes friends and how independent he is, and I know (hope!) he’ll turn out fine. It’s tough, but you’ve got this

  63. Michaela says...

    My parents got a puppy the week after I moved away to college. At the time I remember being so mad that they “replaced me with a dog.” Now that I’m a mom I totally understand. Such a genius move.

    • Hah! My parents got a cat!

    • Rebecca says...

      My parents got cable TV when I left for college.

  64. This is so beautiful! My daughter leaves high school next week and starts college in September so this has really made me emotional.

  65. Anna says...

    I just graduated from college and had a very rough freshman year. I’d tell any new student that it’s normal to cry, have low moments, and wonder why you went to school. College- and especially freshman year- is glamorized as a life-altering, role-affirming season, and I definitely struggled with feeling upset that my experience was anything but that. I struggled with severe OCD, dorm theft, and depression my first year of college and shocked my family and friends when I went back. I can look back now and see how I grew in empathy, understanding, and character through those times- traits I only developed through a new and hard season. Persevere through the challenges and don’t feel discouraged when your year is anything but glowy!

    • Kenzie Randall says...

      YES!!! I cannot count how many times I cried that first semester. It’s so so hard and it’s even harder because it seems like it’s easy for everyone else! I just graduated, though, and all of those first year struggles were 10000% worth it!

  66. Chloe says...

    My oh my – there is so much heart in this post and all the comments. I’m 29 going on 30 but I can still remember being dropped off for my first year of college. Moms, when your daughters go through their teens, it can be tumultuous but I promise that they will come out on the other side as your best friends. College is a very maturing process and for someone that has always been close with both of my parents, the first few weeks were tough but I really thrived with the newfound independence. Being away only brought me closer to them <3 and it was my dad that was the most emotional the week after I left. Since I'm the baby of the family, he was not anticipating the quietness of an empty nest bringing him to a sobbing/sulking fest every evening. I only heard about this from my mom but I still cannot imagine my giant, jolly father in such a state. Life moves so fast and I really try to cherish each moment but sometimes you can't help but try to relive these milestones wishing you could be a fly on the wall of where you weren't. Hugs and love to all.

  67. Maggie says...

    I went to college across the country from my family and was so ready to be far away. My mom and my sister left me in my dorm room after saying goodbye with no tears. I will never forget my new roommate coming back to the room that afternoon and telling me she had seen my mom crying as she walked back to the car. It was a glimpse into my mom’s perspective that I wouldn’t have had but for my roommate running into her and something I still think about more than a decade later.

  68. Therese says...

    Love Elizabeth Egan, 100 Postcards is so great, and I really wish she would write another book! Thanks for sharing, saving this for my oldest who has a few years before being college-bound.

  69. Allyson says...

    Sorry- follow up comment from the daughter point of view; my Dad took me on a basketball recruiting visit to the college I ended up choosing. We stood outside between the practice gym and the fieldhouse on a GORGEOUS, sunny, warm but not hot day, and the song “Simple Man” (the Shinedown version) floated out of (I’m assuming) a football coach’s office window. And my Dad stopped and said “hey, my favorite song.” So we stood there until it was over. And I will not forget that fact, that sun, that spot, that moment.

    • Heather D says...

      That is beautiful! What a wonderful memory you can treasure forever.

  70. Starla says...

    I was fine until the last sentence.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i lost it at the friendship bracelets.

    • Rebekka says...

      Ugh same!

    • Karyn says...

      So sweet! The weeping warning at the top already had me primed, and the sincere “thank you” in #1 (“I love you. I’ll miss you. Thank you.”) had me in streaming tears from the get-go!

  71. Christie says...

    Love this so much.

  72. Allyson says...

    I made it to number 12 before silent-sobbing with my hand over my mouth while my toddler, firstborn, dream-come-true daughter Marion sleeps upstairs. I never want her to leave but I can’t wait until we have so many memories on our tires. Especially friendship bracelets. So fun.

  73. Marie says...

    Oh man, number 11 and 13 really got to me. I have just one year left before my dear daughter leaves for college. This is a good reminder to cherish ALL the things. Great list!

  74. Alec says...

    My mother was exactly the same as Elizabeth’s – never one for sentiment or hugs, and who showed her love by setting high expectations and splurging on the fancy toilet paper. The day I left for college, I gave her a quick hug and set off, thinking that would be all she needed.

    But I was on the other side of it when my youngest sister left for school. My mom insisted on sitting in the back seat with her and held her hand for the drive to campus (I have never seen my mom hold hands with anyone, including my dad). We watched my sister walk into her new life and piled back into the car. As soon as we were out of her sight, my mom said “This sucks” and cried the whole way back.

    It was (and continues to be) striking to me at how much joy and sadness could live in the exact same moment.

  75. A Martin says...

    Crying.

  76. Kristin says...

    I’ve sent two of my three off to college. With each child, it is hard for different reasons, but I also found that the anticipation is far worse than the reality. Our relationships change and I swell with pride at the adults they are becoming. I did give one piece of advice that didn’t appear on this list. I told both of my daughters that college is a lonely place at first and that without the structure of moving through hallways to pre-set high school courses that it can take a little while to get past the loneliness, but to look around and realize that this loneliness is the one common experience we all have as freshman.

  77. Laura says...

    Cried my guts out at #1. My oldest is 5… I may be in trouble here.

  78. ciara says...

    Writers are brilliant and beautiful with their words. At our town’s concert in the park Friday my almost 7 year old told me she didn’t want to be with the parents and wanted to go off on her own with her friends…I hope she continues to have that confidence & independence with the love of her mom in the background 11 years from now.

  79. Jeanne says...

    I was that mother…stoic, practical and non sentimental. My friends and I commented that when we it was time to drop our first born to college many states away, it was going to be so much harder for my husband than me. Boy did that prove to be wrong. I spent 3 days with a huge lump in my throat and would begin to weep at the most unexpected moments. In public! As we said our final goodbyes and drove for the airport, Landslide by Fleetwood Mac began playing on the radio. Of all songs!! My husband casually remarked that I was holding up well. That caused me to burst into tears and announce that my heart felt like we were driving in the wrong direction…away from my baby. Even now, hearing Landslide brings back those very raw emotions.

    • Catherine says...

      Same! The morning we left to drop off our daughter at college, Landslide came on in the bagel store, where I had gone to fetch our bagels for the car ride (like I did every road trip for the 18 years leading up to this trip). I burst into tears, and all I could say to the concerned patrons was “daughter…college…today”. Even those moms with babies in strollers got teary.

    • Jillian says...

      Teary and sad throughout the piece and comments… but Catherine is the one who brought me to the full on sob/wail. I just want to go back in time and hug you in the bagel shop.

  80. Alexandra says...

    This is a wonderful read. My children are not there yet, but the years have been flying by, and my oldest will start high school in fall, and I have so many different feelings about seeing him grow into a young man. He still loves giving hugs and kisses though (when nobody looks …). I am trying to instill in my 11-year old daughter to be herself, it’s such a hard age. So many transitions …. I am proud of my children growing up and slowly becoming more or less independent people, but I am also a bit scared of the day they will go to college.

  81. emily says...

    I am in tears! I work in Family & Alumni Relations so this was especially nice to read for the perspective. My babies are only 4 years old and 10 months old so I’m not quite here myself!

  82. Cynthia says...

    Part of being a parent is giving your children wings and allowing them to fly.

  83. f says...

    what a gift…. your wise words, to miss someone, to have someone miss you. to be loved.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a beautiful comment.

  84. Greta says...

    What a wonderful post! When my older sister when off to college and I went to boarding school for high school, my mom shared so much advice. We jokingly referred to each snippet as a “lecture.” Sometimes, even though we are all grown up, we still smile and say, “Mom, is this lecture number 234?”

  85. Crying…we are still in the crux of dirty bedrooms, homework fights, and chlorine, any my God do I try to relish in each and every moment despite the hectic days that leave us in a flurry of chaos, but it is our chaos. Oh, but to imagine my life and our home without our two children gracing it with their crazy infused selves, seems far too quiet and unnatural. I love this piece, not only for the parents embarking on their children’s college days, but as a subtle reminder that time is fleeting and we must embrace all of it. Each and every moment. Thank you!

  86. Amanda says...

    This was my mom; It was the only time I had seen her cry when usually she is so stoic, private, and strong. I was so annoyed at the time – why aren’t you happy for me? This is what you wanted for me?!? Now that I see how quickly my own daughter is growing up, I really wish I could have shown her some grace that day and thrown in an extra long tight hug. Hopefully the delayed “thank you” and “I never knew parenting was so –fill in the blank–” texts and conversations have made up for it.

  87. Natalie says...

    Crying. I was my mom’s only daughter and her youngest child, but the first one who moved out of the city and went to university. I still remember our goodbye in my dorm parking lot and crying in the bathroom by myself afterwards. I’m so glad I moved and yet am still sad about how little time I get to spend with my mom living in a different city.

  88. Traci says...

    My oldest leaves for college in 2 months and I don’t know how I’m going to get through it. I sent this link to her to read in hopes she will take these things to heart.

  89. Dawn says...

    Last year, I sent my daughter a letter like this and hid it in her sock drawer after unpacking her things in her dorm room and leaving her to her new home. She had had a few turbulent years before and I wanted her to know amongst other practical things, to always know her worth, that it was (is) an honor to be her mother, and that the door is always, always open. She texted me a photo of herself crying upon finding it. This year, my son (the baby of the family) is going out of state to college, and he’ll be getting a letter too. There’s a big lump in my throat, but I’m so incredibly proud of them both, and looking forward to a new chapter for all of us!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so beautiful. xoxo

  90. Rosie says...

    Number 30 is so real. My life blossomed when I finally stepped out of the box I put myself in. I am not just a cynical alternative bookworm.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!!!!!! so so so good and such a well articulated reminder to a young person! it can be so easy to fall into a “type.”

  91. Justine says...

    Ha! Laugh/cried at Anne of Green Gables. Thanks, this was lovely.

  92. Christine says...

    I’ve had a conversation with my three nephews that I will probably have with my stepson one day when they were college bound. College is a good time to make mistakes and experiment. It’s a lot easier to deal with whatever failures they bring then if you make the same mistakes at 30. The one big thing to remember-don’t make mistakes that are permanent. Don’t screw up your credit, watch your alcohol and substance intake, and don’t get anyone pregnant.
    Their parents have had the more detailed, nuanced conversations over the years (about consent, trusting their gut, etc) but I am extremely grateful I got out of college with my credit, health and non-mother status intact.

  93. April says...

    This morning I dropped my 13 year old son off at basketball camp. We walked into a gym of numerous kids shooting hoops and laughing. My son was next to his mother and untamed hair of his 4 year old sister. I wanted to hug him with all my might and tell him to have the best time, but held back to not embarrass him, which I get. Then he tells me I can leave now. It’s so emotionally hard, I love watching him grow, but my goodness does it hurt my heart lately. This was beautiful and touching. Thank you.

    • Kim says...

      It hurts so much.

  94. j.d. says...

    oh this made me so teary eyed…all the things she said she missed…those every day moments….I can’t wait to hug my kiddos today when i see them. thank you for this…

  95. Jenna says...

    No fair Cup of Jo! We need NSFW warnings on things like this! ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha i remember a comment a year or two ago that said: “#cupofjodeskcry is real.”

      xoxoxo

  96. Gill F. says...

    I’m a newly turned 25, without kids, so I want to offer the perspective of a daughter. That too cool saunter we do when we get to that new campus, it’s all for show. When you mail us a letter telling us how proud you are of us, we’ll read it in the bathroom stall while tears drop down our faces. We’ll miss you so much more than we can admit. We’ll wait anxiously for care packages and phone calls, even if we roll our eyes through the whole thing. We’ll count down days till vacation not for the home cooked meals or the pet love or friends but for the warmth of your hugs. We’re trying to find ourselves and we’re putting on a brave face, and we’ll rarely stop to tell you we need you, but remember we do. It might take us a few years to admit it, but we need those words of advice and those letters and those hugs and those extra ‘I love yous.’ We need our mom (or dad or aunt or big sister or whoever was there all those years holding our hands and cheering us on and wiping our tears and cleaning our cuts). I promise you we think of you as much as you think of us, and that goodbye broke our heart just as much <3

    • Katie says...

      I’m not crying, you’re crying!!

    • Becky R. says...

      Thank you Gill. It’s so lovely to hear the other side! Tears are falling, knowing my kids feel this way, but don’t express it.

    • Sam L says...

      I’m newly 25 as well, went away to college, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything above. Perfectly said!

    • Megan says...

      Oh my god, yes. This reminded of a phone call with my younger sister after I, the oldest, was dropped off at college. She told me that she looked over at our mom while they were both watching the news that evening and saw our mom was quietly crying. Cue some serious waterworks for me alone in the stairwell (and lets be honest – again now at my desk at work, typing this, lol).

    • kara says...

      thank you. Love, a mom

    • Glenda says...

      This is beautifully stated.

    • Sarah says...

      hear hear. you said this so beautifully, Gill. I echo every word of it — especially the care package bit. for what it’s worth, I don’t know that I ever cried saying goodbye to my mom in college– always tried to play it cool. Now at the age of 30 I think I cry a little more each time my mom and I part ways. Oh, emotions! It’s such a relief to feel without concern for what people think.

    • Sarah says...

      Awww!!! Nominated for comment of the week!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for this comment, gill xoxo

    • Em says...

      My daughter’s only 19 months, but I pray I remember this comment 17 years from now . . . thank you.

  97. Lisa says...

    beautiful.

  98. MKW says...

    Our girl leaves for college in 60 days. I’ve been gulping back tears since her high school senior year started, progressed, and ended. Now this. I can hardly hold myself together.

  99. Amanda says...

    How beautiful is this? Blubbering away at my work desk. My son is 2 years old, but I know these words will long stay with me for when his time to leave the nest comes.

    xx A

  100. Annie says...

    My baby turned 11 month yesterday. She clutched at me crying this morning because she had to move to Older Infant room instead of her familiar Infant room. I circled the Day Care three times, peeking in her classroom window to make sure that she stopped crying when I left.
    I am not ready to read this at work today and I don’t think another 18 years is enough to prepare me for the day my baby will go to college…

    • Dominique says...

      I didn’t cry until this comment. Mine are 4 and 7 and I’m home from work with the 4 year old who has a stomach bug. I hate the pull of needing to be two places at once, but god do I love those kids.

    • Le says...

      Annie, same boat. I dropped my chickadee off at the 18-month-room for the first time today. That warm clutching. Another kind of heartache.

  101. Chandra says...

    You know, I’ve been trying to wait until mid-week for my first cry. Failed again! I love this!

  102. Mary says...

    It was all cool till the last sentence, then 😭

    • Katrin says...

      Same here – and I thought I‘d be able to keep it together!

    • Raeka says...

      Me too. I was reading along happily until that one. My daughter is in 4th grade and I know one day I too will be dropping her off at college. Wah.

  103. AJ says...

    Oh my goodness. Just wow. To receive a letter – and love – like this. What an absolute gift your words and heart are ♥️

  104. MelTown says...

    One day, not long after my father-in-law died, I looked around and realized that most of the older women I know are alone. Their husbands were dead or had otherwise moved on, their children were grown, and they were living on their own for the first time ever. When I realized that I would probably be similarly alone someday (despite my loving husband and gaggle of children) I decided right then to quit my horrible job, and start slowly building a life of my own. I had built a life for my family, but I was lost in the shuffle. This post reminds me once again that my children will (and should) leave me and that I need to keep building the life I want but also really encourage them to build their own so they don’t lose themselves along the way.

    • Rachel says...

      This is such a beautiful and thought-provoking comment. I am not married, but have seen versions of the scenario you described in women around me. A touching reminder to stay true to oneself and cultivate a rich satisfying life as an individual❤️

    • Heather says...

      Jesus. This is shaking me up a little bit.

    • Andrea says...

      Meltown: Amen! My Mom, who has been divorced and single for 50+ years, is now seeing a renaissance in social options as other wives are widowed and start Girls Night Out, etc. A generation younger, I see my friends who have kids start to surface again after their kids go off to college.

  105. Well, dammit. Now I’m crying.

  106. This is the most wonderful thing. Hugs and positive thoughts for the soon-to-be empty nesters and the bird-children who are about to fly.