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They're Off...Almost...Now What, Mom?

Such a bittersweet moment! Their bags are packed, the car is gassed, the dorm room awaits, and they're eager to begin (or return to) their college experience after a long summer of waiting. Their enthusiasm would be contagious but for the fact that our mothers' hearts are breaking.

With the departure of each child for college near the end of August, I always kept a stiff upper lip, smiling as I kissed them goodbye... and then sobbed as they drove out of sight. Next, with a flurry of hyperactivity, I straightened their room, changed the sheets, and shut their bedroom door--happy for the return to cleanliness and order but sad counting down the days until they returned.

When a child leaves for college, the dynamics of the house can change dramatically. There's a new "oldest" among the siblings who is perhaps relishing the change in pecking order. You may have lost your regular driver for last minute errands or carpools. Or your child's departure may have left your home empty for the first time. What an adjustment that can be.

Prayerfully reflecting on our emotional tumult at times like these can be an important step toward our heart's healing process. So, what exactly are you feeling? A praying college mom may feel afraid (for her child's safety at college), relief (that the child, who has always been, well...difficult...has left), a kind of philosophical sadness (at the inevitable passage of time), anticipation (for the positive changes ahead), or grief (terribly missing the funniest, handsomest, smartest, kindest, most wonderful child there ever was). Some of us wind up feeling pretty overwhelmed by emotion. Having identified the feelings, what's the cure?

I like to prescribe a three-pronged "Mother's Time Out" for moments like these. The mini-program can be planned for during the weeks leading up to D-day (departure day). First, put aside some time for rest after your child leaves--take a morning or afternoon (or two) to do whatever most refreshes you. Second, prepare a nice meal to celebrate the new family reality. Third, come away with Jesus (Mark 6:31)--an extra daily Mass...a visit to the Adoration chapel...a rosary walk...or an extended morning prayer time. In the end, only Jesus can calm our emotional storms, heal our aching heart, and keep our children safe when they're beyond arm's length. He invites us in thousands of ways every day to "Come away with Me" so let's take Him up on it!

May I recommend one more thing? Keep your eyes peeled for the unveiling of our new ...And So We Pray book. This final edition incorporates the best of our first two books, as well as 11 new chapters, for a grand total of 33 chapters-- one to reflect upon and pray with for every week your child is away during his academic year. Just three or four more weeks until the book is released! Thank you in advance for your prayers and for passing the word to praying college moms you know!

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