When I moved 1,000 miles away from home to go to college, there was nothing I was more excited about than getting to be away from my mom (sorry if you’re reading this, Mom–just stick with me for a second). Don’t get me wrong, we had a great mother-daughter relationship. But, my intense teenage angst and an undying desire to live like an “adult” at 18 did in fact have me barging down the door to my dorm room on freshmen move-in day.
Like most kids going away to college, I mostly cared about the fact that I was about to be free of someone nagging me to do the dishes, enforcing my curfew, or telling me what I could and couldn’t do. I never thought about how our relationship would be affected by this new distance between us. However, I started to notice that our mother-daughter relationship was actually getting much stronger as the four years went on. Now as I’m a month away from graduating, it’s genuinely the best it’s ever been. Weird how that works, right?
If you have a kid heading off to college soon or really anytime down the line, let me be the first to tell you that it might actually be the best thing that could happen for you two. It’s definitely scary as a parent to let them go off on their own into the world. But the distance could be exactly what you need to feel closer to them than ever. Every relationship is obviously different, but I know it made my mom and me so much more understanding and appreciative of one another (see, Mom? I told you to stick with me.). And I think that can hold true for many mother-daughter relationships as well.
I didn’t realize how much I took her for granted
Growing up, I tried my hardest to appreciate everything my mom did for me—big or small. However, I realized I took much more for granted than I thought I did once I didn’t have her there with me every day. During my freshman year, it was mostly the mundane tasks of adult life like grocery shopping, laundry, scheduling doctors appointments, and actually acknowledging when the check engine light in my car turned on that made me think, “Woah, my mom really did everything for me, huh?” But as time went on, it started to really sink in that it wasn’t just her doing the boring errands that I was thankful for. All of that stuff was just the tip of the iceberg.
When you’re a teenager, parents are nosy, and overbearing—they just “don’t get it”. But when I didn’t have her living down the hall anymore, I felt the absence of someone who was always there for me, anytime, anywhere. To listen or give advice or just talk about anything. 18 year-old-me never thought about how fortunate I was to have someone who loves me so unconditionally there at all times.
When I didn’t have her living down the hall anymore, I felt the absence of someone who was always there for me, anytime, anywhere, to listen or give advice, or just talk about anything.
I went to a college where I knew absolutely nobody. So it seriously took me being completely alone to realize just how much my mom did for me emotionally. And just how much her presence kept me sane. The number of times she gave me helpful reminders and advice, talked to me about random stuff on my mind, or just didn’t judge me on my bad days went over my head my whole life—and that made me appreciate our relationship so much more. All in all, there’s a good chance your kid will have a little “aha” moment when their dirty laundry is piled to the ceiling and it hits them that you’re not there to lovingly listen to them vent about BS no one else wants to hear.
She allowed me to be my own person but was still my rock in the process
I stand by the fact that moving away from home to an entirely new place was the best thing I’ve ever done. While it was absolutely terrifying and really difficult at times, I had so much room to learn and grow and navigate the world on my own. I needed that space and time away to try new things and figure out who I am as a person. And my mom in particular was always incredibly understanding of that. She replied with heart-eye emojis when I would send photos of a new outfit that was out of my comfort zone. Or would listen on the phone to me cry about a failed new relationship. She was my biggest supporter and my rock. But let me be my own person in the process. In her doing that, I think that a newfound level of respect was built between us.
There is something really special about realizing that a person wants the best for you, even if that means they’re not physically by your side the entire time. I am so appreciative that my mom was that person for me. It made our mother-daughter relationship that much stronger: we’re both now navigating the world in a new way, but know that we always have each other’s support, advice, and love to fall back on.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder
Yes, this may be the most mushy rom-com trope ever, but it holds true with any relationship—and I think especially with a parent. One time during my junior year, I was having a really hard day, saw a little girl holding hands with her mom while walking back to my apartment, and I immediately started cathartically sobbing. Not being able to have her around sucked in a lot of ways. But it’s yet another thing that made me cherish our relationship. You don’t notice what you have until it’s gone, you know? So, every visit home, FaceTime, and phone call became much more important and special to me.
At the end of the day, letting your kid go is so scary, and leaving your mom is, too. But, try looking at it as the best thing in the long run. Now I’m 22, have experienced so much on my own. And my mom has slowly but surely become my long-distance best friend.