No one told me, but I’m telling you!

This post is for parents to help them process the back-to-school phase. No one told me these things and I wished I knew these before.

I see my friends with young kids celebrating that it’s back-to-school. There is breathing room in their schedules once again.

At the same time, they are marveling at how their children are growing. No matter the kids start going to preschool, kindergarten or all the following grades.

A parent holding a kids hand and walking through the parking towards the school entrance.

It’s a bittersweet experience

We celebrate their growth at the same time that we ache about the loss of their littleness. We are happy and sad at the same time. I wish I knew this before.

My friends who are dropping off their kids at college are crying. They’re not crying just because they are sad. They are crying those tears that are pervasive in motherhood. Where all at once, we are happy, grateful, and sad.

No one is unhappy about their kids having graduated from high school. Or their kids heading off to the next chapter. Some are happy to get their teens out of the house.

3 things I wish I knew earlier

No one told me about these three things. Yet I would like to pass them on to you.

First, how many times I would cry as a mom…

Second, I could be crazy happy and surprisingly sad at the exact moment.

And the last thing that all this is real, pure, genuine grief.

No one told me Sending them off ain’t easy

Sending them off to live, sleep, and eat somewhere else. This is counter to our task of the first 18 years. Where we are busy creating a home, nurturing them, and being there for them.

They leave the nest just when they’ve grown up into cool young people who are fun to have around. Our kids become a piece of our hearts. A part of who we are. 

It’s annoying and shocking

No one told me how annoying it is when someone says, “But think about how much fun he’s going to have!” Or “But aren’t you happy he’s doing so well?”

On the outside, I try to muster in the most polite tone, “Yes, for sure.” But on the inside, I want to holler:

“Of course I am! I’m thrilled! AND… it’s still gut-wrenching to send my beloved child off to live somewhere else, knucklehead!!

Do you not understand how deeply painful and shocking it is to have this season of life with my child be OVER??? This is a one-way street. If we’re lucky, they continue to mature and move on into the future, into their adulthood. And it’s still SAD to see them go!!”

Suggestions for Survival

During these endless transitions, I have some suggestions for you that no one told me. They will help you navigate from the first steps to full-fledged launching:

1. The sudden realization that your child is quickly growing up hits you hard! You will find yourself celebrating, laughing and then simultaneously starting to cry.  If you live in that crazy-making state, know that you are in good company.

2. Preparing to launch them does not mean you don’t ache.

3. Sobbing about them leaving doesn’t mean you’re not happy they are going.

4. It is actual, legitimate grief to let them go.

5. It is hard to navigate. Holding them close while letting them go is a naturally conflicted, complicated process.

6. You might cry every time they leave.

Whatever stage of your child’s development you are in, I send you love.

I hope you are gentle with yourself as you navigate the transitions reflected in every back-to-school season.

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Kerry Stutzman LMFT/MSW

My passion is helping my clients develop close, connected families and healthy relationships. For the past 20 years I have been helping people discover the best version of themselves.

Athena McCullough MA, LPCC, MFTC

I specialize in couples therapy, parenting challenges with young children, co-parenting issues, and women in relationships.

Brett King LPCC NCC MFT

Most of my work centers on couples therapy, betrayal recovery, and addiction. I also specialize in working with men.

Debbie Bassett MA, LPCC, MFTC

My focus includes trauma, attachment, anxiety, depression, and relational work; including a focus on children and teens, parents, and couples.