Recently I posted on my social media that I’m trying to plan what to do once my daughter moves away to college. I was even asking for advice on what to do the day after the party! Now that was mostly said in jest (I love to joke around on social) but there was also some truth behind the laughter and teasing.
My daughter and I have been a dynamic duo since she was born. As a single mom, I’ve been responsible for all of her education needs and was advocating for her when she had mental and physical delays because she was born 3 months early. Essentially, I was navigating systems for her – que therapist here, physical therapist there, speech therapist here, occupational therapist there, mental health therapist here, doctor there. So my dream has finally arrived; she is a well-adjusted young woman about to leave the nest. Meanwhile, I’ve been working at calming myself down.
I’m not going to lie, I already miss her. She has been my little “ride or die.” Sometimes I think about it, and I have to catch my breath. I’ve cried a few times. And truthfully, I dread what it’s going to feel like to be an adult without my baby at home. I keep thinking about my mom Ernestine and how she must have felt when I transferred from East LA College to Occidental College. Even though I moved about 30 minutes away, it felt like 300 miles! These are the things that I’m doing to get myself ready. Some of them may be obvious. But maybe it can help you:
1. I’m trying to stay positive.
I am grateful for it all. I am grateful for the journey that got us here and also grateful that she is in a position to live her dreams. It is a daily practice. But I am staying in the moment every day. This is a wonderful thing.
2. I remind myself that she is making her dreams come true.
Her dreams are mine. I want whatever will make her happy. She deserves it all. This experience will help her find her joy. And she deserves all the joy in the world. By going to college, she is also making my dream for her come true. This is what I always wanted. So I need to shut up, feel my feelings, and support her “al cien.”
3. I am seeing this as supporting her independence.
Obvious, right? But I have to be intentional about it. Her whole life, I have been committed to helping her become independent. Some of my family members criticized me because I would encourage her to reach for her own food as an infant. I had learned that developmentally she was delayed and reaching out was a good thing for her. So, I tried in little and big ways to help her be independent. This is the next step in her journey. I’m trying to remember that.
4. I remind myself that this is a rite of passage for her
I was the first in my family to go to college in the United States. Moving out was a big deal for me and going to college really changed my life. It helped me escape poverty. So, as we transition to a family with intergenerational college experiences, I am creating this as a ritual and rite of passage for her to become an independent, chingona, college educated, compassionate adult.
5. I am celebrating this as a rite of passage for me. I’m having a Freedom Party.
One of my friends who I have always admired because she was a teen mom who sent her son to college, reached out to me and gave me the Freedom Party idea. I was so grateful for the wisdom. She encouraged me to have a Freedom Party where I could celebrate the closing of this chapter in my life. I can pivot from being a single parent totally focused on my daughter’s well being, to a Mom with a child in college who can focus on my own well being. So, we’ll have to cue up the music and let the celebration begin.
6. I am making an “Alma is getting her independence back” list.
We’ve all heard about Stella getting her groove back. It’s kinda like that, but more. I am dreaming big for myself. I am going to plan things that I couldn’t really do as a single mom. Simple and big dreams are on this bucket list that includes learning how to golf, how to cook paella, planning beach trips by myself, and finding places where I can go dancing ASAP.
7. I am planning to do things I have always wanted to accomplish and haven’t been able to do.
I have one major dream that I have wanted to accomplish for the last 25 years. But, being a great Mom was my priority and so my dream has been deferred. I am hoping to make that dream real. I’m working on that. More details soon.
8. I’m leaning on my Comadre and Compadre community.
I’ve been blessed with amazing friends and family. My sister experienced this before I did, so she’ll be hearing more from me than she’d like. I plan to lean on my best friend-brother since I was 2 years old, whose son moved away to college last year. My sister-friend who I’ve known since I was 18 has already been giving me advice. I’ve joked with my circle that I plan to borrow their kids and baby-sit them and/or sleep on their couch. I am so grateful that my people love me and are already checking in on me as I transition into this next phase of my life.
I keep telling my daughter that she will always have her home here. I secretly want her to be a boomerang kid…you know, the kind that goes, and comes back. After all, there is no shame in that game. But I’m also preparing myself for the inevitable; she’s going to fulfill my dream for her. She is finding her joy, her passion, and living her best life. It’s also my turn to live the next phase of my best life too. I’m both excited and scared. Here we go!!
Alma V. Marquez
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