My oldest son Bridger is starting college today, my husband and I drove him down to Laramie to help him get settled in his dorm last Friday. We had fun, went to the Craig Morgan Concert & Pep Rally and the UW game on Saturday.  Bridger came home with us though, because as many of you know, bow season opened up on Monday the 1st, and we can’t miss that!  So, I really didn’t have to say goodbye until yesterday.  Saying goodbye was be one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I tried to be strong, and not let the tears roll down my face, but I just couldn’t help it.  Especially since my boy, who isn’t a hugger, gave me the biggest hug he had in years! 

A mother's life is full of teaching and guiding, and it's full of letting go, too. It's full of late nights spent rocking babies, and late nights staying up making sure they arrive home safely after going out with friends.

Before you know it, teenagers are born who pull and strain against the walls of a cocoon that has held them in its sacred embrace since they were just a snuggle in their mother's heart. And as they pull away, we must watch helplessly as they endure the consequences of bad judgment.

I'm not very good at letting go. During my son's first weeks of kindergarten, I walked him to class every day. He finally had to tell me that he was ok and he could go on his own.  It didn’t stop there either.  He has always been pretty independent and when he turned 16, I thought I might be doing something wrong. He hardly talked to me or looked up from his computer when I said good night. I often walked away and wistfully reminisced about how my little boy used to fly at me, smothering me with hugs and kisses.

Yes, I know all kids turn quiet during the teenage years. But he'll never know how the younger and prettier and more energetic me poured myself into him until there was hardly any of me left to go around. But all teenagers forget, and mothers are just annoying. Please go away.

Through the years, he grew stronger and more independent.  Sometimes I released his hand and watched as he experimented with unsteady steps of his own.

Mom, I want to ride my bike without training wheels.

Will you just drop me off at the movie this time?

Can I get my driver's license on my birthday?

I'd like to go to Mexico with my friends.

I want to tell him how very much I love him and why this parting is so difficult for me. I want to explain to him that he, my first born, holds a cherished place in my world because it was his kicks that made me tremble with awe when I felt the very first flutter of life inside me.

He's the one who carved the mommy into my body and soul and planted in me the purest, fiercest love in the world — a consuming love that ignited my heart, eventually singeing the corners, causing his needy mother to pull back from the pain of it and to stop being so clingy and involved.

Our goodbye hug was so hard because in an instant, he was 5 again, a little boy who loved anything sports, and to this day, you will find watching something sports on TV, his phone and the computer all at once.  I hugged him and breathed in memories of new crayons and lunch milk and jitters on his first day of kindergarten — the initial step of a journey that would lead him to this point.

I managed a proud smile, thankful for our amazing journey together. Holding back the tears, I asked him to make sure he calls me once and awhile, I told him to make good choices, to be safe and how I’ll miss him and how much I love him, then I sent him on his way.

I know this goodbye is not forever, after all, he’s just going to college a few hours away, but that does not make it any less difficult.

Although my husband and I do expect our children to study hard, make good grades, give it their best and live with high morals and integrity, we can’t expect them to not never have fun, never stay out too late, or always make the best decisions. Kids can easily get pulled into the party scene or lose their way.  So it’s important to keep in touch with your child as much as is reasonable, and try to continually let them know your expectations, without sounding like a tyrant or expecting perfection.  The best thing we can do as parents is to make sure our kids know that they can call on us – for anything and everything, anytime night or day –  and that no matter what, we will love them and support them unconditionally.