Leaving A Piece Of My Heart

The Countdown to Saying Goodbye Any Mother Can Understand

(published with permission by Michelle Lieberman)

It’s Five Days Until We Leave…

It’s been a long process. Starting with college tours to finally choosing that one school. It seems so long ago that we started this — the leaving part was always so far away. It was in the future. Until now. Now, it is 5 days away. My little girl is leaving home.

We’ve done the whole Bed, Bath & Beyond thing. We’ve shopped for clothes, she ordered her books online, and the luggage is pretty much packed. Now we just have to take her there. And leave her there. I’m just not sure how I will physically be doing that. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond excited for her. She is going to have an amazing time, experience new things, make new friends, maybe meet a fella, and hopefully learn a few things, too. Sort of like sleep away camp; it’s a little scary, but we know they will have fun, we know they will be well taken care of. But this is definitely not that.

Our Flight is in Two Days.

No one is taking care of her at college; she is on her own. Okay, so she isn’t paying her own bills or cooking her own meals (which she can do very nicely, by the way), but she is now in charge of herself. She makes the decisions. She comes and goes as she chooses. She has to budget her time with classes, homework, laundry, if she’s sick figure out how to see a doctor (and get medicine), and then there is all the social stuff (aka parties).

On top of that she will have to navigate all the college email and/or documents she gets from the university. I am out of the loop, in the dark, incommunicado.

We Leave in a Few Hours…

I am having this sense of panic. Did I teach her everything she needs to know? Will she actually remember everything I have taught her?

But what I really worry about, the most important things to me are: Will she be safe? Will she be happy? Will she respect herself and others?

Will she remember to not let anyone bring her a drink in a cup or leave her drink unattended because it could get spiked? Did she tell a friend where she was going?

Will she remember that she can’t text on her phone while walking at night because she must be aware of her surroundings? Will she remember that stairwells and underground parking structures are dangerous places?

Will she remember to wear sunscreen every day? Will she wear the raincoat we just bought? What if her books or worse, her computer, gets stolen and she can’t write her paper? What if she loses her key, her ATM card, phone? What if she gets lost because she took the wrong bus?

And worst of all, what if she just gets sad? What if someone hurts her? Or rejects her? Who will be there to comfort her? What if my greatest fears come true?

It’s “D-Day” and it feels like I am leaving my baby.

It doesn’t matter that she is 18. It’s scary and sad and unsettling. It is just about the opposite of everything I have done since the doctor first placed her in my arms. How did so many others before me do this?

They get older, it becomes less hands-on, but parenting doesn’t get any easier. This is my baby. For18 years I was there for every tear, laugh, and challenge. Every first, I have witnessed. Every illness I have nurtured.

We are so close and talk all the time. We share so many things — nothing is off limits. Will she remember this? Will she remember I am always here for her? Does she know she can call me anytime and can tell me anything? Because she can. Always. Does she know I will drop everything for her?

As this day of reckoning has fast approached, I have both sought and received advice from many. One common theme I have heard from people is, “You raised her right. She knows everything you taught her. She will make good decisions”.

Intellectually I believe this. In my heart, however, she is my baby and there is no one there to look after her, no one to protect her.

So , I wait for our plane to board.

As I look at her sitting across from me (on her phone, of course) I count down the minutes and imagine the scenario when we will actually say goodbye. Sometimes I imagine I am crying. Sometimes I imagine I’m brave and hold it together until I’m in the car and she is gone. However it plays out, I know it will be hard. One of the hardest things I will ever have to do.

But then it will be time. I will have to say goodbye. And I will have to trust that this smart, strong, funny, sweet, beautiful young woman I have raised will do great. I will have to believe that she will make good decisions, be responsible, take care of herself, ask questions, speak up, and most importantly, make the most of this incredible experience that lies before her. And I will have to trust that she will be just fine.

Then, I will have to leave. Without her. Because she is staying.

As will a piece of my heart.

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Jay Lieberman

Jay Lieberman

Adoring Husband and Father, Author, Host of the Conejo Podcast Show, Dog Lover, Attorney and Realtor