My firstborn son received his college acceptance letter yesterday. In a matter of a few seconds, I felt all the feels: joy, excitement, worry, anticipation, relief, gratefulness and exuberance just to name a few.
But I also felt something I didn’t expect: I felt a huge release. I felt his release.
As my husband, myself, and my son all stood around staring at the computer screen reading “Congratulations!” I felt a metaphorical rush of air hit my face, and I imagined it was from him spreading his wings and finally flying out of our nest.
And for the first time, I wasn’t sad about it. I want him to go. All I could think about was this: It was all worth it. That moment when a childhood becomes adulthood, when your baby’s life dreams are just beginning, and their childhood dreams are ending, and as a mom you get to see it—it becomes all worth it.
To the moms out there with kids not yet of college-age, it’s gonna be worth it.
It was worth the months of puking, the stretch marks, the labor pains, your new post-baby body.
It was worth the years of sleepless nights, the red-faced cries, the endless rocking, the poop explosions.
It was worth the terrible twos, the snarky threes, the daily tantrums, the household disasters, the reading of Goodnight Moon 4,876 times, and hearing the word “No!” yelled at you for years.
It was worth the skinned knees, the vaccines, the runny noses, the earaches, the head bumps, the cavities, the braces, and the scary loud coughs waking you at night.
It was worth the thousands of lunches packed, the countless meatloaves made, and the never-ending trips to the grocery store to feed a boy who is forever hungry.
It was worth the late nights of spelling words practice, math facts practice, diorama making, science project fiascos, geography bees, and book report writing.
It was worth being the mom taxi, the 5,000 hours spent in cars going to school, to sports, to the doctor, to anywhere and everywhere they needed to be—even when I was so tired I could barely see the road.
It was worth the teen years, when hugs were few and far between, when their days were 15-hours long, and my grudges were even longer, when cars were dented, dinner’s went uneaten, attitudes exploded, eyes rolled, and tears fell. It was worth the stress that comes when a boy is expected to be a mature young man, yet still has the heart and playfulness of a young child.
And last night, as all of those milestones flashed before me, I know the only thing that flashed before my son was the future, not the past. And I’m OK with that.
In a sense, sure, a lot of my “work” is done, and I do feel like I deserve a moment of “I did it! He’s gong to college! Can I have a nap now?” But I know that is not the case. I know my childrearing doesn’t end at the age of 18, and I know he still needs his mom. But I am over-the-moon excited that slowly but surely, he will be making his own decisions more and more, and needing me less and less. And that’s a very good thing.
I’m going to go up to his room later today and will probably stare at an empty bed, and it will hit me that next year I will be staring at an empty bed all the time. But I will not be sad about, because the happiness on his face last night told me everything I need to know.
He’s gonna be ready.
And it truly was all worth it.