I could write a book about this one. Not necessarily the advice I have but rather the complete shock I’m in to be so sad the second semester of my oldest’s senior year.

Here’s the deal: I have vowed for 17 years to not be a clingy, needy mom when we got to this season. I am not burdening my children with my identity and being the one who doesn’t let them go and fly. As recently as last semester, I told Catie that I wouldn’t be the one clinging and bemoaning, “how fast it’s all gone.”

Then, why, can I not stop crying this week?

What happened? I was on track to have the healthy, practical, down-to-earth mom during these final six months of Catie living at home. After all, we’ve done it all to prepare for this: taken the epic family trips, shown up to ALL THE ACTIVITIES, taught her about Jesus and integrity and how to do her laundry, visited a million colleges on the search for her perfect one, eaten the nightly family dinners, and taught her how to laugh at herself.

And yet. Here we are.  I’m feeling pretty lost. As it turns out, there are some lessons I didn’t know until I got here.

Take it or leave it, here are the top five things I wish I would have known, now that I’m almost to the finish line.

  1. Show Up! In our family, we have a motto, “Hergenraders Show Up.” Because life is 90% showing up and, even if we’re not perfect, at least we’re there.

No guilt trips here, parents. But now that I’m at the end, I don’t regret a single freezing game or competition I sat through. But I am beating myself up for missing her track meet last night.

2. Failure is Where It’s At! COVID, break-ups, a big move—all of these feel so hard at the time but now that we’re nearing the end, these are what I remember from her high school years. I hated seeing my girl hurt and all the tears and confusion, but it’s the struggles where we figure out what we’ve got.

3. Have More Kids! I know. Terrible advice in so many ways because how many kids you have is up to circumstances way outside your control. But I’m not just talking about biological kids. It’s so true. Make your house the place where the kids hang out so when they leave, you have lots of stories to follow. I’m hurting to see Catie go but I’m invested in the stories of her friends, of our family friends, and my high school students. Knowing their struggles and victories helps fill the hole of this one graduating.

4. Faith. This is just going to be one of those processes that only works with faith. What is the alternative except for the truth in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.”

I could fill a hundred journals with all the prayer requests I have for my daughter. And yet, none of it is really guaranteed. Instead, I’ve only got this grubby, well-worn faith to hold on to. But, it’ll be enough. It’s always enough.

  • Keep Getting Advice.

This process of letting go is real. Mamas ponder these last months in their hearts. Because of that, the advice about kids leaving the nest is rich. When I have asked other moms about how to ease some of the pain of letting go, the feedback has been golden. It has that fresh feel, like when you hear advice from someone who has truly been there. 

What about you, friends? What do you have for me? What’s your best advice to survive the next 70 days?

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5 Responses
  1. Marcilee Hergenrader

    Keep repeating–LOVE HER ENOUGH TO LET HER GO. I repeated that a hundred million times as our boys left for college. And always remember God loves her even more than you do. .He has a plan for her. And look at what an amazing young woman she has become.

  2. Nancy Bolks

    Be the biggest fan of her future dreams. Pray, listen & support, then be there for needed advice or comfort through the hard times. Just like you already do. It’s enough & will keep you close.

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