The New Normal

I’m not the only one. Certainly not the only one to ever go through it. Not even the only one I know. But I did it. No…wait. SHE did it. I just let her go.


Maggie & Lydia Bradley.

My daughter is a college student now. On August 21, we all drove her to Peoria, moved her into her dorm, and said goodbye. It’s been just over a week now and I’m starting to acclimatize.

It’s weird – it’s not like we spent a ton of time together. If she was home, she was probably shut in her room. Otherwise she was out somewhere. School, rehearsal, choir, with friends. But the house felt different when we got home. Emptier. Quieter. A little sadder. I’m not saying it made SENSE, but that’s what it was. The energy in the air was off.

I had two days of serious sobbing & depression. On Saturday when we left, I began soul-shaking sobs seven different times. Each time, I’d start shaking, let out some gutteral moans, let the tears run down my face like rain, and then gather myself together again. Seven different times. I cried myself to sleep.

The following day, I only did that once. I found myself unreasonably, ridiculously angry that she’d left. Like, “how DARE she leave me & go to college??? Just who does she think she is???” Ridiculous, I know.

By Monday, I was better. It helped that there were other kids to get to school, stuff to do at home, paperwork out the wazoo for the 3 boys’ schools. I found myself getting better every day.

Not that I don’t miss her. Terribly. But it’s like I’m opening a new chapter in our family. It’s just me & my boys now. There’s a little more time for me to think about me – not a ton, mind you, but a little. I feel like while this new normal is going to take some adjusting, there’s possibility there. I have more time & more of ME to give to Steven, Henry, and William. There’s still plenty of me if & when Maggie needs me, but instead of having 5 arms reaching out all the time, I only need 4. I might actually be able to discover more of me, delve into things that feed my soul – like my photography.

I’m so very proud of my daughter. I know this change is anxiety-producing for her – it’s terribly difficult to get out there, meet new people, make yourself accomplish what needs to be done, try new things, just BEING at college and being utterly responsible for yourself. It’s HARD and scary and exciting and anxious and uncomfortable and thrilling and so many things. But I believe, as she has done all her life, she will overcome that and she will rise up and not only MEET her challenges, she will TRIUMPH over them. She will break new ground for herself that will encourage her & remind her that she is capable of nearly anything. If she chooses, she will succeed again & again. She’s always been remarkable. I’m sure she’s tired of hearing me say it. Maybe she thinks, “Good GOD. Maybe I just need to do something terrible so she’ll shut up about how remarkable I am”

DSC_8004bBut if she’s reading this, let me say this. I call you remarkable, Maggie, because you are everything I am not. You have not let your anxieties, fears, or introvertedness get in your way. Instead of hiding or taking the easy way out, you do what must be done. Not with fanfare or sparkly bands marking the occasion, but just as if it’s normal. I don’t think you’re perfect. I don’t think you’re just a “good girl”. I don’t expect you’ll be without mistakes. But when I watch you, I’m amazed. What I struggle with, daily, at 46 years old, you just DO. You can acknowledge what you’re feeling, but not let it rule you. When I say you’re remarkable, it’s because I see strength, determination, practicality, logic, and faith in yourself that I admire. I wish I’d had it at your age and I wish I had it now.

You are remarkable. Just because you’re Maggie. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do. How you succeed or fail. And it certainly doesn’t mean there’s any pressure for you to meet requirements. It just means you’re neat. Sample life, take what works for you and throw the rest away. And know you have a mom & dad who are proud of WHO you are.

Anyway. She’s off. She just told me tonight that she got a bid to pledge a sorority, so she’s now going to have a houseful of sisters to bond with. I think that’s wonderful. There’s so much to look forward to for her. And I will be here, as I’ve always been, to support her, counsel her, uplift her, advise her, and, even still, tell her if she’s off base. I’m excited to watch this chapter unfold.

I love you Maggie.