For the first time in her life, she will wake up on her birthday outside of my home. And no one prepared me for that fact.
It’s 2:30 A.M. and I’m up. Again. I know what you’re thinking, I must have a crying newborn or a teething infant. You’re wrong. I do have an almost three-year-old — but he’s sound asleep. He thankfully was sleep-trained at four months. I’m up because I’m fretting about something no one warned me about. There was no book to read nor trendy course to take. No hip podcast on the subject. I’m up crying about my daughter, who is still only 17, still a child, my baby… and her too-soon departure to college.
Yes, I have a two-year-old who’s barely started preschool and a 17-year-old who’s a senior in high school. I had Kennedy young. The ink wasn’t even dry on my college diploma when I found out I was pregnant. Her biological father broke up with me when I was five months pregnant. I had no money. I was a wannabe actress and a real-life waitress who bussed tables until my belly was too big to keep my balance. My very kind manager allowed me to stay on as a hostess until I had my girl… She realized I needed the hours to keep my health insurance. Bless her.
After Kennedy was born, I set out to be the mother I never had. Prior to becoming pregnant I had grand plans to become an actress, move to Hollywood, fall in love with a movie star and live happily ever after. I let those dreams fade as I stepped into the greatest role of my life.
Throughout Kennedy’s young life, things were not easy, as one would imagine, for a single mother. But I loved Kennedy with a fierce love, and put her before myself. And Kennedy loved me. She taught me what unconditional love was; what and forgiveness was; what joy was. She taught me how to apologize and admit mistakes. She was my beacon, my North Star, everything good and pure in my life.
I was a stern mother. I didn’t allow talking back; if I saw a frown, I would promptly ask for it to be turned upside down. I wasn’t a “cool” mom, either. I knew Kennedy needed a mother, not a friend. I packed a school lunch for her every day. I drove her to school and picked her up. I never missed an open house or a school performance. I told her I loved her and that she was perfect multiple times a day, hoping that if she ever forgot, she would hear my voice in the corners of her mind, reminding her.
Through the years, as our lives have changed, so has our bond. I did end up becoming a full-time working actress and found my prince charming, who adopted Kennedy the moment we wed. And we welcomed our son, Levi, to the world in 2019. I can say I am living my dream. And Kennedy has become my friend. My very best friend, in fact. The person that knows me the best. The person that can read my mind. She knows what I like and dislikes by the way my eyes squint. With her I share not only my DNA but the longest, strongest bond I’ve ever shared with anyone. And now she’s leaving.
Kennedy is headed off to Northwestern University. All the way in Chicago. Did I mention we live in Los Angeles? I am so unbearably proud of her. But a part of me is also unbearably sad. I have raised an unbelievable child. I have watched her mature and grow and change in ways that blow my mind. In a few months, she will be 18. A legal adult. An age when I can finally be “cool” mom. But she won’t be here. She will be in college. For the first time in her life, she will wake up on her birthday outside of my home. And no one prepared me for that fact. That one day, in what feels like a flash, they will pack their bags and start their own lives. And you will be left at home, staring at the ceiling at 230 A.M.
So, this is my warning to you, dear readers. The day will come when you will have to send your children off into the world. It will be hard. You will shed tears. You will look at them and see a glimpse of the baby you once held in your arms and it will feel like it’s too soon to send them on their way. In that moment I want you to remember that you raised them. You filled them up with love and kindness. You did a great job and you should be proud of yourself. Proud of your sacrifices and sleepless nights. You did good.
Now, all I can do is hope that Kennedy calls me while she’s off on her great college adventure. And until she does, I will be in the kitchen, making school lunches for my two-year-old. Mentally preparing myself when he too flies the coop.
Jazmyn Simon is an author, actor, activist, and mother. Jazmyn rose to fame on HBO’s hit dramedy “Ballers,” starring Dwayne Johnson and is also known for her roles in Netflix’s “Raising Dion”, HBOMax’s LOCKED DOWN, Tyler Perry’s ACRIMONY, and the PSYCH films among many others. Jazmyn lives in L.A. with her husband, actor Dulé Hill, and their two children. Her children’s book “Most Perfect You” is available now.