ssl certificate

The Difference of the Second Semester Goodbye

“Mom, SERIOUSLY? Why are you crying?”

My son was shocked to see my tears as I pulled into the airport departure lane, dropping him off for his flight back to college for second semester.

But instead of bolting for the curb to avoid the awkward moment, he set his duffle bag down and opened his arms wide. “Come here,” he chuckled softly.

THIS is why I’m crying,” I sobbed, as he smothered me in his giant man-embrace.

“You’ve grown up so much in the past few months, and I’m proud of the man you’re becoming and it makes me miss you in a whole new way,” I said.

“Mmmmm K,” he replied with a goofy face, reverting back to the boy I knew.

“Keep making good choices, please,” I reminded him anxiously as my mind swirled with some of the crazy stories he’d shared during Christmas break that painted a much-too-vivid picture of the actual reality of his life at college.

This goodbye was different from the one in August, when we dropped him off at college for a brand-new chapter of his life and ours. That was a monumental goodbye—a milestone moment signifying the end of an era—full of hopes, dreams, and the anticipation of the unknown.

The second semester departure contained the anticipation of the “known”—a recognition of his new reality and the good and bad that came with it.

With this goodbye I knew he was going back to a dorm room infested with bed bugs.  His color-coordinated, super-cozy down comforter and bedding that I'd tucked around his bunk in August as my last-ditch attempt to nest for my child had been quarantined since finals, leaving him with a flimsy vinyl mattress and “temporary bedding” which consisted only of ratty sheets. His rug and futon were also gone, all in the hopes he stay in his dorm room without waking up covered in the bed bug welts he’d been enduring since mid-October.

With this goodbye I knew he was going back to friends he’d made in his hall but that I’d seen way too many Snap Stories about on Snapchat. Friendly-but-wild kids who seemed more interested in partying, stairwell surfing, bonfire-jumping, and obnoxious-pranking antics than studying.

With this goodbye I knew he was going back to a grueling academic schedule for a brand-new major—a program he transferred into mid-semester after a 180-degree shift in his future career plans. He’d already been so overwhelmed with the stress of maintaining a 3.0 for his scholarship, and I knew this semester would present even more of a challenge.

With this goodbye I knew he was heading off with less than $25 in his bank account. He’d managed to blow through his graduation gift money in a few short months, and now he’d need to find a part-time job if he wanted any spending money. (His hopes for a spring break trip to look forward to were no longer a possibility.)

With this goodbye I knew that the glitter of the college newness had worn off. The days would be shorter, the Montana weather would be colder, and the glory of the holiday break consisting of four weeks at home surrounded by nothing but sleeping, eating, and hanging out with family and his childhood friends would make it even tougher for him to readjust.

With this goodbye I also knew he’d survive and grow, just like he did first semester.  I wasn’t by his side, and I didn’t need to be. I knew God still held him in the palm of his hand. And I knew the change in his maturity didn’t come from the passing of time—it came from facing the day-to-day reality and challenges of being independent at college.

It wasn’t always pretty—it wasn’t always stuff that warmed a mama’s heart to picture in her head—but whether it was exciting stuff or tough stuff, it was real life. His real life. And his “real life” stuff was turning my son into an even more wonderful version of himself.

With this goodbye I realized the gap between who he once was and who he was becoming was growing wider. Because I’ve felt how the distance between us is more than just miles, it’s also in the reality of me no longer being part of his daily existence to watch it all unfold.

The boy I dropped off in August had become a young man I was sending back in January.

And this time, when I said goodbye to my son for his second semester of college, my heart was missing them both.


Written by Kami Gilmour, author of a best-selling devotional book for parents of college students (Release My Grip), and mom of five teen and young adult kids (releasing her grip on her son at college drop-off day in the photo.)

 

 

Recommended Posts
Showing 38 comments
  • Avatar
    Kat
    Reply

    So so so so true…. all of it! You always hit the nail on this mama’s head. My son just went back to college for his 2nd semester as well. While he was super shy and introverted his 1st semester, he suddenly texts me that he’s going to a club with “friends from my dorm” or he’s going to rush week. Naturally, all my thoughts run straight towards the bad things that could happen. I don’t want to do that but it must be a mama thing. Thanks for writing this!

    • Avatar
      Kami Gilmour
      Reply

      Right? Sometimes I’m not sure what’s worse–fear of what I don’t know…or the fear of what I now know too much about! It sure reinvigorates my prayers! Hang in there, fellow mama! At least we’re not the only ones!

  • Avatar
    Angelina
    Reply

    You captured it perfectly for daughters as well as sons! She is a grown up now all ready to go do the next thing. Thanks for writing this down.

  • Avatar
    Joan
    Reply

    Bedbugs in the dorm…Hadn’t thought of that nightmare possibility. I have one kid that graduated college and is back home not finding a job in the degree field and my final one now a senior in high school getting ready to head to college. When does a mama ever quit worrying anyway?

    • Avatar
      Laura
      Reply

      Joan- what degree and has he found a job yet!? Curious cause my daughter has been interning abroad in china twice- might I suggest looking abroad- !? It’s a great experience-
      L

  • Avatar
    Kim
    Reply

    You hit the nail on the head! I can’t wait to read your book! I’m going to pre order now! Thank you for helping this mom through this life changing time! I love my son with all my heart and love your Faith based support!

  • Avatar
    Dee
    Reply

    Wow. Spot on and so affirming. Thank you for sharing. My son is doing the same 180 degree change after a very rough first semester. My prayer is that above all else, he seeks God’s purpose and grows through the struggle.

  • Avatar
    Kim
    Reply

    I just sent my daughter back for her second semester at Montana State, too, and it is such a different feeling! As she headed through airport security I realized that for the first time ever I don’t know when I will see her next. She already has Spring Break plans and is looking for an internship for summer, which I’m so proud of her for, but it means that there are no dates to start planning for her next trip home. It’s such a strange feeling. I’m so glad for texting and face-time to keep in touch easier than when I went away to college and for such a welcoming community in Bozeman that I know she’s comfortable in.

    • Avatar
      Jen
      Reply

      I just sent my son back to MSU. He also is making spring break plans and has no plans to come back home for his next stay. So proud, but so sad that I don’t know when he will be home again. It’s tough on his 3 younger brother’s (and me!). But so proud of him.

  • Avatar
    Pm
    Reply

    I truly enjoyed this article, however I wished she didn’t envoke god in her commentary. Good parenting trumps everything….

    • Avatar
      Cherie
      Reply

      It is Soul feed, a Christian based page. Of course God is mentioned.

      • Avatar
        Amy
        Reply

        Exactly. The whole point of Soul Feed and the commentary/devoting means that she is going to speak about God. That is the whole point.

  • Avatar
    Amy
    Reply

    Kami, thank you for putting to words so beautifully, exactly how I feel. I have two sons at MSU. I was already loving your article but then when I read your son is attending MSU, I loved it even more! Blessings to you ?

  • Avatar
    Shannon Urban
    Reply

    Thank you! This was so true – it definitely doesn’t get easier saying goodbye. It’s just hard in a different way. My son is also a freshman at Montana State! No bedbugs in his dorm, but he works in a dorm that does have them – perhaps your son’s dorm! Hopefully it is soon resolved.

    • Avatar
      Corie
      Reply

      Which dorm has bed bugs? 😝

      • Avatar
        Kami Gilmour
        Reply

        Roskie Hall. The response from the Dir of Residence Life basically said “yeah, we have bed bug issues in Roskie.” I couldn’t even get a “my kid was gnawed on by bedbugs all first semester” discount on housing! Another tip: If your student makes their own loft bed (out of wood) it attracts bed bugs. They recommend renting the steel loft kit. Would have been nice to know…

  • Avatar
    Terry
    Reply

    Sent my youngest of three off this year and I really wasn’t prepared for this second semester goodbye. This is one quiet house and it seems even quieter now. Always surprises me, this is my third go around and yet this one has definitely, understandably been the hardest. Hugs to all us moms!

    • Avatar
      Dawn
      Reply

      I love this and it is so accurate..beautifully written♡♡♡

  • Avatar
    Suezi
    Reply

    Summed up perfectly!!

  • Avatar
    Pamela Anderson
    Reply

    I have a Montana State freshie too! Utterly horrified by the bed bugs detail. I hope that clears up soon. Thank u for the wonderful article. 2nd semester feels different and you nailed it. As to friends, I’m really thrilled with the genuine girls my daughter has befriended. Chicago to MT was an adjustment but all in a good way! I pray the same for your son.

    • Avatar
      Betty Lou McDaniel
      Reply

      From a retired teacher of 37 years in public schools:. Buy a spray bottle and a bottle of high test rubbing alcohol. One spray INSTANTLY kills a bedbug. Every Monday morning we would spray down backpacks and anything else the kids would ask me to spray. I carried the spray bottle around with me and taught the students to say, “Bug alert,” when they saw ANYTHING crawling. They would move back quietly and I would spray. It even killed the bugs that crawled off the edge of a desk onto the nasty indoor-outdoor carpeting. I would just spray the general area. This was much more effective than the grounds and buildings lady who came around after school when we actually saw a live bug. To get her to come, I would stick a piece of clear tape over a bug, place it in a zipper bag, and send it to the office. Then she would only spray the edges of the room, not all over the room. The bugs were where the kids were!
      At home, completely vacuum a mattress, soak the frame in the strongest rubbing alcohol, put bedbug covers on mattress and foundation. Wash all sheets, pillowcases, comforters in hottest possible water and dry on high for at least twenty minutes. I dried everything longer. If you have below freezing temperatures, hang all bedding outside and freeze the nasty little suckers. In warmer weather, place bedding loosely folded in a chest freezer and leave for at least 24 hours. You can also buy bedbug proof pillowcases. One of my teaching assistants who has four children told me she only let one child at a time in her kitchen to stand on a white plastic bag and leave shoes, socks, all outer clothes, and backpack on the bag. Child went to the shower and she sprayed down everything with the alcohol, which dries really fast.She said they had NO bedbugs in their home.

  • Avatar
    A. H. Butler
    Reply

    Wow! That was our family a couple of weeks ago. You are telling our story. This is our youngest and he is clear across the country (27 hours driving). We are truly trusting God, knowing that our young man is His young man. Blessings to you and your family.

  • Avatar
    Jen
    Reply

    Thank you for putting my feelings into words. My son is also at MSU in his second semester of his freshman year. I am so proud. His confidence amazes me. This goodbye was different. A bit more sad as we don’t know when we will see him again. But easier as we knew he was where he was supposed to be. Thanks for your words.

  • Avatar
    Steph
    Reply

    This was so true for me. Unfortunately including the part about the bed bugs! But I really do miss my goofy little boy AND the wonderful, bearded, young man we sent back.

  • Avatar
    Kelly Mims
    Reply

    My son will soon begin his third year of college. I very vividly remember those tears as he prepared to leave after that first semester. I remember realizing that our home, the home he grew up in, would no longer be his fulltime home. I realized that our house would just basically be a place that he visits. True enough, summers home are awesome and those built in school breaks are awesome. It’s difficult. It’s so daunting. I now have a daughter beginning her Senior year in high SCHOOL. ((Sigh)) Thank God we have raised to amazing young people.

  • Avatar
    Sandy G
    Reply

    On the spot!!! I feel the same way!!! My son worked over break because he also blew threw his graduation money during the first semester. He also scheduled to do observation hours related to his chosen career, made his own dentist and eye doctor’s appointments while he was home, and thanked and appreciated me for the everyday things I’ve always done for him (laundry , cooking, etc.). He has always been a good kid but he’s grown up so much in 3 months. Feeling happy and blessed but still have the momma bear fears of the unknown.

  • Avatar
    Kathleen
    Reply

    I felt as if he didn’t want me around much. As we were headed to the mall he was texting friends to meet him there already planning something for the evening. He is constantly absent from home. He gets in 2-3 am I’m guessing and with my work schedule getting Home at 6:30pm i see him maybe 1-2 nights for a few hours before he leaves to be with friends.

  • Avatar
    Katherine
    Reply

    I feel the same way, only it was dropping my son off at the airport to go back to his military base. He was home on leave after graduating bootcamp in the fall and then was able to come home again for Christmas. I thought it might be easier to say goodbye the second time, but it wasn’t. Even for his younger brothers, they still shed some tears. But this is the path he has chosen and we’re so proud of him. I just keep praying for peace and that Gods protection is always with him.

  • Avatar
    Leisa B
    Reply

    Perfect timing for me to see this and oh so true! I just sent both my boys back to college today (2nd and 4th year). I’m anxiously waiting by my phone to hear that they’ve made it safely with their 8 hour drive.

  • Avatar
    Alison
    Reply

    This was beautiful. And so true. Thanks for writing it.

  • Avatar
    Lynette
    Reply

    i just experienced this with my daughter on Monday. Could not figure out why this time it was so hard to let her go. You put into words exactly what I was feeling. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Theresa
    Reply

    I guess I’m the only mom who found this sappy. I have 3 kids in college and I was thrilled to see all of them for the Christmas holidays and also happy for them to leave – for them to be moving on with their lives and me to be moving on with mine. I’ll never understand this idea of moms wanting to keep their children small and dependent….like any point in life is better than some other point in life. It’s all what you make of it.

  • Avatar
    Amy
    Reply

    My youngest just left for her 2nd semester. At least she is close. The oldest left last week. She graduates in June. Don’t know when or if she will be back. It would be so easier if she was following God instead of the complete opposite. If Hollywood says it’s good, she has immersed herself in it. I won’t bore you with everything she is into but let’s just say she is the epitome of a ❄️

  • Avatar
    Mae
    Reply

    I’m not a Mom sending kids back to school, but a grandma and I feel sad to see them go. It also ripples down to their younger siblings. All 4 of them are very close, and the younger ones look to the oldest for help and advice often. My granddaughter had a rough first semester and wasn’t used to being away from home for those long stretches of time. She is looking forward to bigger and better things this second semester; says she had learned a lot from the first and plans to change her attitude about some thing that were problems in the first. Maybe there is a silver lining there after all for her. We can only hope and pray and continue to support her.

pingbacks / trackbacks

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lifetree Kids

0

Start typing and press Enter to search