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You’re Supposed To Let Them Go

Perhaps the hardest lesson to deal with as a mother: You’re supposed to let them go.

My oldest son leaves for college this week. He will be going to school back East, 2986 miles away from where we currently sit next to the Pacific Ocean. He’s ready to go, and I’m ready to let him go. This is his dream and his life. People keep asking me, “Are you okay with him going to school so far away? Aren’t you going to miss him?”

Of course I’m going to miss him. I’ve been missing him since the day he was born, over 18 years ago on the Japanese island of Okinawa in the East China Sea. The Japanese have a saying: “If we are lucky, we miss people before they are gone.” I’ve been very lucky.

Will it hurt? Yes. I expect to miss Justas with a deep and painful longing, despite the presence of his younger brother Sam, who is still here for another three years before college knocks at his door. You can’t raise a newborn baby into a 6-foot-tall strapping young man and not miss him when he goes away. I will miss him despite all the texting and phone calls that I expect will happen, despite how ready he is to go, despite how much I tell myself this is all okay and part of the process. You can’t release a huge part of your daily life for 18 years without leaving a yawning, gaping hole that will whistle with emptiness.

But my tall young man is ready to go. I have prepared him well — this I know. He is primed for the challenges at Vassar.

Raising a child is an art, and letting that child go is one of the most difficult parts of that endeavor. But you pick up the brush and you make the stroke.

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“What is asked of us is that we love what is difficult and learn to handle what is difficult and heavy. In difficulty there are benign forces, the hands that work on us. In the midst of difficulty we are meant to experience our joy, our happiness, our dreams: there, against the depth of this background, they become visible and only there we may recognize their beauty.” — Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters on Life”

He included this photo in his Vassar application. His body has changed but his wonderfully goofy spirit remains the same.

He included this photo in his Vassar application. His body has changed but his wonderfully goofy spirit remains the same.