Saying goodbye to your college-bound baby

Main Image

“No more words. We know them all, all the words that should not be said. But you have made my world more perfect.”

― Terry Pratchett, Nation

Real goodbyes are silent. They are made over time and then, all at once. Real goodbyes are never what they seem on the surface. They are long journeys; they are hope.

The day you bring your baby to college is a real goodbye. It is the end of one path and the beginning of another. It is a step up for your child, and a stepping down for you.

Late Spring graduation parties on the patio are the big celebrations: Dishes catered or shared, are all laid out for a feast; Neighbors, bosses, teammates, friends and relatives your child didn’t know she had, come to mark the occasion. High school, a quick and changing tornado of torment and triumph, finishes fittingly with a whirlwind of a day.

But the pre-Fall send-off is for close friends and family only. Invited are the folks who come to truly bless your baby with hugs and kisses and wishes of good luck. They share your joy and pride. They note the anticipation. They perhaps catch a glimpse of your worries hovering in a soon-to-be empty bedroom. They bring their love and support, and tell you it’ll be ok.

Move-in day will come. Say only a few good words: “You are brave. You are kind. We are proud of you.” Tuck your note with the rest of them under her dorm room pillow. On the way home, be brave. When you cry, be kind. 

And be proud! That baby you once rocked to sleep is now walking steadily out into the world on her own two feet. There are no words to describe the perfection in that.

Later, when the stars shine down and the close kin leave, you feel the farewell begin. The quiet goodbye flickers in the fire pit; it sings cricket song between s’mores; it lives in the favorite family stories retold late into the night. That magical moment is where you have made the world, if only for an hour, perfect.