To The Parents Dropping Off Kids At College—They Come Back

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“To the parents saying goodbye and bravely dropping off kids to school, back in the routine with family or empty nested, I wanted to let you know… they come back.

And they don’t come back, both.

They come back on weekends or breaks.
Or call to say they miss home and you’ll make sure they get a box from home via FedEx, 24 hours later.

Mom takes a photo with her youngest child before sending him off to college
Courtesy of Vikki Spencer

They come back when they need help or money or a hug.

All I’ve learned after 5 years of an empty nest is this: let them.

Don’t chase. Don’t call every day or even every week.

Let them call you.

Because the thing no one says but I know for sure is: they don’t come back— not as you knew them.

Not as you remembered the 5-year-old smiling at you or the 10-year-old on a skateboard or roller skates trying to learn to balance, or the 16-year-old ignoring you.

Not them.

They exist, but only in your heart, and that counts. It’s your world and it counts. Nobody can outgrow or take away that love. It’s all still there.

But they come back having suffered, learned the hard way, failed at things we tried to buffer. They come back with days they’ve lived on their own.

They’ve forgotten to pay a bill or do their homework and no one was there to fix it for them – so they’ve grown.

We wanted them to, remember? And they are.

Mom with crazy curly hair takes a selfie with her son while visiting him at college
Courtesy of Vikki Spencer

If we keep looking for them to return, we’re going to miss the miracle of parenting: that we loved them so much for so long that they are becoming themselves.

We did it. They are doing it.

So go ahead and feel the inertia of an empty bedroom and chair at meals.

Cry as if every tear was a day well lived: imperfect and beautiful. It’s a huge loss. It’s okay to not even know how to cry… or to not stop for a while.

You’ve earned this moment. And let them go.

So you can watch them return.
They will.

I’m SO PROUD of you. With much love.”

Mom takes a selfie with her youngest son in college in front of a red barn
Courtesy of Vikki Spencer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Vikki Spencer. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more stories like this here:

‘Hours after we unloaded her into her new, tiny dorm, I grabbed my keys. ‘I’m coming back to get you,’ I announced, tears flowing on both ends.’: Mom urges parents dropping off kids at college to ‘watch them fly’

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