It seems like only yesterday that I was the tear-streaked mom sitting in the bleachers watching two daughters graduate from high school. Two best friends, two sidekicks, two sisters leaving the nest at the same time. Two beautiful young women going their separate ways…and leaving their mother behind. I was definitely not ready! Yes, I had two more daughters, also teenagers, still running in and out the door, sometimes sneaking out the window before getting caught in action (severe consequences, like missing the prom and being grounded for a month). I have learned much raising five daughters who are all—much like their dad and me—quite social and free spirited.
Would they survive? Could they survive the real world? We would not be there to catch their mistakes or their wrong choices. Dad’s famous last words were, “You are who you hang out with” and mine, “Make good decisions!”
Our house had always been the “go-to house” after school and on weekends. Great kids came and went; some we wanted to keep while their home lives were temporarily upside down. We listened, loved, had family meals, prayed, and talked about our day. Kids were always welcome and food was plentiful. Many parties happened in our basement (some we monitored a little closer than others).
I don’t know much about raising sons, but I do know the joy and the heartbreak of bringing up daughters. They can generate your worst nightmares and the most joyous moments of your life. Many times I felt like the enemy, especially when I said, “No way are you ever going out with that guy again, and some day you will thank me!” Yeah, right: “You are ruining my life, mom, you don’t understand!” I’ve heard it all. Daughters may despise you for a moment, but joy comes in the morning, or at least the next day…or maybe the next. One thing I have learned about raising daughters is that moms are easy targets when a daughter’s day goes awry. You have to let it roll off your shoulders as you teach them self-control by keeping yourself in control. Take heart! When your daughter has a daughter of her own, she might call you and say, “I’m sorry” or even, “Thank you.”
Would they survive? Could they survive the real world?
As I watched my daughters walk the long graduation line, holding hands with tears in their eyes, I realized they too had to say goodbye after graduation. One was off to college and the other beginning her life as a married wife; two polar opposites embarking on life in different worlds and without their mother’s daily influence. How would they survive without irreplaceable me telling them what to do? Flashbacks of their lives flooded my head.
At that moment, the tears rolled down my cheeks as I faced the reality that it was me who was afraid of saying goodbye. I didn’t want to let go, at least not yet. Had I done enough, taught them enough? It seemed like yesterday I was changing their diapers. How did 18 years go by so quickly? Were they ready for the real world, and was the world ready for my strong-willed, talented, and independent daughters?
We tried to teach them well and build a strong foundation as they grew into young adults. Now we had to get out of the way and let them go their own way. They would make wrong choices and choose wrong friends. They would stumble along the way with relationships, jobs, finances, and all that goes along with journeying through this messy life on earth. I knew they would have trouble, but they know where their strength comes from. Intellectually, I knew they would make it, but in my heart I was a hot mess.
Now for the good news to you fellow moms who are also a hot mess because your baby is leaving the nest: my daughters not only survived, but thrived. They fell a few times, but are stronger because of it. We remain a strong family who loves unconditionally and builds one another up. I reflect on all of this as I sit here on yet another graduation day, watching my daughter’s eyes fill with tears as my handsome grandson walks across the stage to receive his high school diploma. He too will travel many miles off to college, far from the watchful eye of his mother. He too will survive and thrive because she brought him up in the way he should go. I feel my daughter’s heart as she, like me before her, has to trust and let go. Eventually, I look into her eyes and see my little girl grown into a strong woman who loves her son the way I loved her.
More good news: I, too, survived and thrived after all my daughters’ graduations. It wasn’t an easy journey for me, nor will it be for you. Remember that your kids have to stand on their own through the triumphs and the pitfalls of life. It is their journey and their story. You are just a cheerleader and a prayer warrior. A mother’s job is never-ending. They will always be your babies. Life must go on for you and those around you. Enjoy the journey as you take a bench on the sidelines and watch their story unfold. Feel the pain of letting go, while knowing joy comes in the morning.
You’ll also like Teaching Your Daughter How to Stand Out from the Crowd, Anatomy of a Strong Woman, The Wedding Sway, Your Son’s Wedding Day, Parenting Adult Children—The Great Shift of Motherhood, True Beauty is Found in a Woman’s Strength, and Dear Parents of Millennials: It’s Time to Stop It