I know a lot of moms with kids who have graduated and moved away.  My mom, Dave’s mom, a bunch of friends, sisters-in-laws, random strangers on the street. 

So this is my question:

Why in Heaven’s name did they not warn me how awful it is?!

Now, I’m well aware that this is all part of the plan.  I already know that it’s awesome that he’s going to college and that he’s made some pretty good decisions in his life and that I should be relishing in the fact that he sure seems to be ready.

And believe me, I am so grateful for all of the above.  This is what we’ve been working all these years to help him get ready for.

But all those rational reasons for a child to leave his mother seem a little bit like gibberish when you’re in the middle of sending that child off.

One of my favorite motherhood quotes is this:

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

–Elizabeth Stone

It has spoken so true to me with each of my five babies.  From the moment I caught the first glimpse of their tiny purple bodies and heard their first melodic cries (newborn baby cries are one of the most melodic thing in the world in my opinion), it was as if a piece of my heart was ripped out for them…that mother’s love is so deep and indescribable.

But never has that quote had quite so much meaning as it has the last few weeks as I got my only boy ready to move away from me and take such a huge chunk of my heart right along with him.

Now, this may sound dramatic, (and I’ve realized over the last few weeks and months that I’m much more dramatic than I took myself to be), but I’m here to tell you that it IS dramatic to let your child leave your nest.

There is part of me that thinks it is a very cruel thing to let a mother raise a child for eighteen years, reveling in his successes, mourning at his mistakes, praying her guts out that he’ll make the right choices, cutting toenails, kissing away scrapes and bruises, teaching him how to spell, how to problem-solve, how to obey and to love…and then uproot that child she has poured her soul into and ship him off to college. 

It is awful I tell you.

But I know, deep down, there is another part of me that will {eventually} make my heart soar as I revel in the wonder of sending him off, his eyes wide open into the big wide world, and feeling confident that he is ready.

For the last few weeks it has been kind of a battle in my soul…the happy part, sharing in his sheer excitement one minute, and the sad part, wallowing in the depths of despair the next.  My poor husband and family have put up with me quite nicely I must say.  (Thanks guys!)  I found myself blubbering about the dumbest things.  Doing the dishes, getting a text asking about when Max was leaving from a friend, eating a hamburger…you name it, everything had some kind of relation to Max.

And that kid of mine was leaving.

One day when his disastrous bedroom caught my eye for the um-teenth time I got stomping mad at that kid.  2015-08-21 iPhone 115833
(This is actually very mild compared to all the times I forgot to snap a picture…)

Sure he had to go to work at 5:30 in the morning and yes, that’s early.  But can he not hang up a towel after eighteen years for Pete’s sake?  Can he not put his discarded contact cases in the trash can approximately 18-inches away?  Must he leave laundry all over the floor when he has a perfectly good laundry basket sitting there in the corner?  I swear I have taught him better than that.  Haven’t all those weeks of Saturday jobs done anything to help? 

I started daydreaming about the day when I would get that bedroom back.  Oh how it would sparkle!  Oh how fresh it would smell! 

Yes, I was ready.

…until I caught a quick glimpse of some of the pots he made in his clay class at school…2015-08-24 iPhone 115937 …and noted the volleyball awards gathering dust on his desk and that did it:

I was bawling once again.  (Have I mentioned that I have been a little crazy this last little while?  Oh boy.)

How could I ever let him leave?  If given the choice I’d take his stinky towels strewn in bunches across the floor and a million empty contact cases lying around just to have him just stay little. 

Just a little longer!

He’s all grown up, this boy of ours.  He graduated from high school (loved this card he got from one of my friends):2015-08-19 iPhone 115808

And he has become a man who has worked so hard all summer long and came home like this:2015-08-19 iPhone 115798
…and this:2015-08-20 iPhone 115818
(Dave and I could hardly help ourselves from taking pictures of him when he got home from work…the pictures don’t even do justice to how dirty he got.)

He has been a good leader at church and became an Elder last Sunday.2015-08-23 iPhone 115905
He has worked on grades, on friendships, on how he wants to live his life, on being a leader, and yes, even on cleaning his darn room for so many years and at some point you just have to let them go, gosh dang it!

So we ate up those last few days together.  We snuggled him up his last Sunday at home.2015-08-23 iPhone 115907
(with completely fake smiles up there)

He took his sister out to lunch on a special date (she thought it was the best thing in the world).2015-08-25 iPhone 115956
He got his wisdom teeth out in preparation for his upcoming mission…

…and then proceeded to go to the first season high school football game that very night.2015-08-21 iPhone 115878
(In case you were wondering…like I was…you cannot miss the only football game of the season you are going to be home for, despite your wisdom teeth being ripped out of your mouth that morning.  Everyone knows that I guess.  Duh.)

Along with wisdom teeth, we had doctor and dentist appointments to get his mission papers ready.

And then we turned those suckers in…

…with a mission reporting date availability of December 18th. 

Yes, you heard that right…he let them know he’ll be ready to leave BEFORE Christmas.

I tried to talk him into waiting until after Christmas on the 26th, but he’s wanting to be sure he gets back to start the January semester after his two years away so he wants them to know he’s ready.

We’ll see how that pans out probably this Friday or next when we get that mission call in the mail calling him to somewhere in the world to serve for two years.


We cleaned out that room of his.2015-08-24 iPhone 115931
…and went through the 47 volleyball jerseys he had stuffed into drawers.2015-08-24 iPhone 115933
Went through old school things and filled up his hanging file folder with school stuff for the last time along with a few other keepsakes.

Eighteen years of that boy’s life wrapped up in a few boxes filled with memories.2015-08-30 iPhone 116143
Gradually that room and closet of his got emptier…2015-08-24 iPhone 115939
and emptier…2015-08-26 iPhone 115967
…as I tried to hold back torrents of tears.

Our neighbors had us over for a swimming FHE and we all went around and shared our favorite things about Max (SO sweet of them).2015-08-24 iPhone 116146
We had his favorite dinner his last night home (Chicken Tikka Masala) and snuggled in to watch a slideshow I made for him.2015-08-25 iPhone 116066
I’m including the slideshow here even though it has all kinds of music problems and some important pictures that were left out…slide shows are not my forte 🙂

The girls wrote all kinds of notes for him.2015-08-26 iPhone 115970
He had scriptures with us that last morning he was home and Claire requested some pictures with him that she could put in her bedroom:2015-08-26 untitled 115760
…and in her folder for school.2015-08-26 untitled 115759
So then of course we had to do it with all the girls even though we were all a little teary-eyed.2015-08-26 untitled 1157522015-08-26 untitled 1157552015-08-26 untitled 1157572015-08-26 untitled 1157652015-08-26 untitled 115766
Then those sisters of his were all off.

And after a few last-minute pack-ups, Dave and Max and I were off to take him to start the first chapter of the rest of his life.


So here I am to give advice to the mothers out there who will have to do this some day (since no one told me). 

It is awful to send a child off into the big world after holding him so tight for so long. 

It hurts in all kinds of ways.

BUT at the same time it is somehow grand and exhilarating (not yet, but I have total confidence that it will be in the future!). 

And it’s going to be ok.

…at least that’s what I keep telling myself!

More on the grand part tomorrow. 

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  1. argh you made me tear up! 🙁 I can only imagine all those emotions but you must be all excited for the next great adventure he just embarked on. I've seen him grow on your blog for the past few years and I really wish him the best!

  2. And to think, my mum did this with me, from 10! I went to boarding school at that age when they went to Vanuatu and I stayed at school in Brisbane, Australia. I luckily returned to her every vacation!

  3. Even though my son has been in college for the past 2 years, it doesn't get any easier and this year it was especially hard. We moved back to our home town in Indiana and had to say good bye last Monday as he took off to head back to Texas. I feel and know your heart ache on this one.

  4. We are two short years away from the end of the "family years" and I can't even imagine how hard it will be. Thanks for sharing the reality of such a conflicted time- sorrow they are leaving the family nest, yet joy as they embark on great adventures!

  5. I'm sending my oldest into grade 6 today and feel like I could bawl so I can only imagine!!!
    max is a great kid ☺
    ps.. my friends daughter put her mission papers in and said Dec 15th…she's going to Italy in summer 2016…that seems so fa away!!…you might get him for Christmas 😉

  6. I agree – no one told me how awful it would be! I'm warning my friends too lol. We sent out oldest son/child away this past summer only 20 days after he graduated from HS. It was hard. It is getting better but I still tear up at the smallest and silliest things that remind me of him. Made me tear up just reading this – beautifully done!

  7. Shawni, thank you so much for sharing so much about your family and letting us follow along on your journey of motherhood. You may feel like you're being dramatic but I feel like you're just being real. I've only been a mother for almost 3 years (closer to 4 years if you include pregnancy time) and I've been dreading the day I send my babies off into the world since the day they were born. I already find myself saying, "How is she almost 3?! Only 15 ish years left at home!" And 18 years sounds like a long time but considering how fast the last few years have flown by, I'm going to blink and it'll be gone and we'll be sending her off.

    I appreciate you warning me how awful it is, I've pretty much predicted that from the beginning. Please be sure to share the grand part of it all, I'll need something to look forward too! (I realize I'm sounding dramatic too but being a mother takes up so much of your heart, it's hard to stop the ache, the good and bad).

    On another note, we're buying a house and I've been working on paint colors… I LOVE the grey in Max's room. Do you know the paint color you used? I'd appreciate the help!

  8. Shawni, What a BEAUTIFUL tribute to Max and such a SPECIAL keepsake. I was in tears watching it. I am a ways from experiencing this but am SO grateful for Mothers like you who share these life lessons. Wishing Max all the best on this new chapter in life and wishing you and your family peace in your hearts and a smooth transition. 🙂

  9. Just sent a son off to college (who barely returned from a mission) and a son on his mission within 4 days of each other. Lots of tears around my house. So, I'll be the one to break the news to you. Sending a son off on a mission is even worse than college. I've texted or talked to my son in college every day and I know I'll get to see him Labor Day weekend. But when you send a child on a mission, you know it'll be months before that phone/Skype call and years before you get a hug. You know it's what you've raised them to do/become, but when it comes down to it, it rips your heart out every time.

    As parents, we are there for everything as they grow up (sporting events, spelling bee, class party, etc. etc.) and then you have to miss their whole mission. I felt like when my oldest was at his best–the first and only missionary in a third world African country keeping a fledgling branch alive (think a cross between the movies, "The Other Side of Heaven" and "Freetown" for 2 years–that I missed it all. I know that is how it has to be. But, I guess, get ready to feel those sort of feelings when Max is on his mission–of missing out when he is at his best. How I wish I could have been a mouse (or a rat, as the case may be–so many rats in Africa!) in the corner watching my boy teach the gospel, bear testimony and lead out time and time again. I am excited for my second son's mission adventures and will be sad to miss him at his best, as well. Get ready for lots more roller coaster emotions. They are a comin'!

    1. I agree, the mission is harder! You have to wait for each P day email and you cherish those two phone calls per year! College is still hard, but at least you can call and text anytime you want. It doesn't get any easier with other children either! It's heart-wrenching no matter which child it is. But you just pray for them as always and know you did your best to teach and prepare them for life. Good Luck!

  10. my cousin just sent her son off to Tulane in New Orleans and felt the same way! I'm DREADING it, and my son (my only boy and my oldest) is only 5 and just started kindergarten! I just hope I can prepare him as well as it seems you have prepared Max. and I'm discovering that each new phase in life is hard but has its good points too…that's what keeps me going, as long as I know I've put my heart into each phase, when its over, it'll be on to bigger and better things!

  11. 😢I too only have one boy, then three girls. I love reading your blog because I relate to so much! I have 4 more years but can hardly stand the thought! Hang in there!
    On a side note, will he let you cut up those jerseys?? You could make him a fabulous quilt!

  12. I don't even know you guys and I'm teary! The pics with the girls did me in…they reminded me of when I left for college and my little sisters (then 6 and 4) stood in their bedroom window and waved and waved as we drove out of the driveway early in the morning. There. I'm crying more now…you are not crying alone, Shawni! 🙂 I'm glad he gets a semester at school before his mission – it will be so good for him to have the living on his own experience now instead of in the field when he's got so much more to worry about. Thanks so much for your wonderful blog! Hang in there!

  13. I teared up at the photos he took with the girls. As the youngest of four children, I will say that I remember ALL my siblings being home as one of the happiest times – and my oldest brother left for school when I was in third grade, so that was a LOOOOONG time ago!

  14. I have sent two off to college and it's hard hard hard.

    And no, it doesn't get any easier. Especially the one who is out of state. SO HARD.

    And mine weren't heading off on missions. EVEN HARDER.

    The comfort is seeing them grow and mature and make new friends and learn new things – all the things you raised them to do.

    The new challenge is to figure out how to mother and support someone who lives far away and doesn't need you for the day to day stuff. I'll be working on that for a long time. Good luck.

  15. Ok, Mom. Enough. I can relate. My son is in his 3rd year of college. It was hard. It's still hard. We got it.

    Now. Since it's NOT all about YOU – think how your comments about being so devastated, blubbering sad, ad nauseum – are making Max feel. He needs to feel good and positive about leaving – not having to have a nagging worry about POOR Mom and POOR sisters – who are SOOO miserable all because of me…..

    You are doing him a disservice by being so vocal about your feelings. Normal feelings. Just mourn quietly for Max's sake, ok?

    1. That's a bit unkind.

      As we can tell, Shawni is very upset about Max leaving for BYU & is just expressing her feelings. There's nothing wrong with that.

    2. Not trying to be unkind, really. Sometimes we need to just "suck it up, buttercup" – so that we make it easier vs. hard for our children. I think it's just been said, said again – now how about "Hurray for Max!" instead of "poor Mom and girls!

    3. I am sure that she is happy for her son. Sometimes even though you are happy, you can have heartbreak at the same time. Writing in your journal (or blog) is an outlet for your feelings. Judging her and telling her how she should be doesn't help anyone. Take it for what it is, a Mother who loves her son and is going to miss him something terrible. That doesn't mean she is unhappy for him, or that it's "all about her". Gracious, express compassion, love and understanding.

    4. I just have to jump in and say that I'm so thankful for Shawni's transparency. My mom was one of those mom's who "just sucked it up." I know she did it to be strong for me, but on some level it was a disservice in preparing for me for my own motherhood journey. I'm grateful that there are mom's like Shawni that tell it like it is to help prepare the rest of us for what's to come as our children grow. It is such a delicate balance and I think she is doing it beautifully!

  16. Thank you Karen Hunt for saying perfectly what I was going to. I've never commented before but thought,"Someone needs to warn her!" and I'm glad you did it so eloquently. And just so I can do you a solid, I thought once my son got home from his mission, the band aid would have been all ripped off and things would continue on. Nope. Then you have to help them through college woes, dating and marriage (he's getting married in four weeks! Where does the time go!) Motherhood…the gift that keeps on giving. As embarrassed as I am to admit this, I got just what I needed to hear from an episode of The Wonder Years, "My mother and I learned that in order for both of us to keep growing, we had to grow apart." You have to keep growing just as much as your kids do. It's all part of the process. It brings it home how important your husband is. That's the relationship that's not going anywhere.

  17. That video and entire post had tears streaming down my face and confirmed all of my worst fears- I'll never be ready to have my babies leave the nest. Despite what people say I know you are right Shawni…. It's going to be gut-wrenching!! My oldest boy is only 12, so I have some time, but thank you for the heads up. And I loved your beautiful tribute to Max!!❤️

  18. I have to do this next week with my daughter!
    I am waiting to watch the video until I get home, I am already teary eyed sitting here at the hair salon waiting for my daughter.
    Love the quote about motherhood. SO TRUE!!!!!
    LA in WA

  19. I can sure identify, this happened to me 4 years ago went I took my only daughter to BYU-I, I did great, not one tear until I got home. The first morning she didn't coming bounding down the stairs like she had for 18 years, I lost it. I still miss that sound, feet coming down the stairs. I have gotten used to our new reality, she married a medical student in the Temple, all is good, but I still tear up just thinking about it, good luck Shawni, you can do this, but your life will never be the same, just sayin!!

  20. All of those pictures with his sisters are so precious (especially him and Lucy!!!) My daughter is only 15 months, and I can't imagine this day! I totally believe you, it will be pure awful. I hope he calls you every day to tell you how he's doing!

  21. Is that a rock climbing wall in someones house? Cute video, good luck Max, I understand how you feel, my son is 17 and right now I never want him to leave…haha

  22. Yes–We did this very thing yesterday. Drove our son 6 hours away to college (University of Alaska Fairbanks) & dropped him off (after shopping for last-minute items). It was a first for us too. So bittersweet. We miss him today…

  23. My younger sister has her mission call to leave at the beginning of November (to Mesa Arizona actually, so not too far from you!) and now every time we have a mission farewell in our ward or I read about a farewell somewhere, I just get all emotional and start crying. She's the first child in our family to serve a mission, so it's filled with all sorts of emotions. I'm not a mom or anything, but I think that I understand a small fraction of what you are feeling, and she hasn't even left yet! So even though it is great–I just finished school at BYU after 6 years there, and they were the most amazing years of my life–it's incredibly hard. You deserve to cry, be sad, and let your emotions be felt, regardless of the goodness of the situation. Anyway, I hope it's all good, and congratulations to Max on going to school at BYU. It is seriously the greatest school on earth and he is going to LOVE it.

  24. I remember all of those feelings when we took my son to college for the first time. It was one of the hardest things I ever did but a very necessary thing. Stay busy and pray for him!

  25. Your post caught this old veteran mom off guard and dissolved me into blubbering tears! My oldest of our eight kids is 31 years old for goodness sake! I sent him off to BYU and then he served two years in Brazil and got married and has his fourth on the way. Since then, six of the remaining eight have taken their turn heading off to BYU and some on missions–number seven is serving in Los Angeles right now. But let me tell you, it doesn't get any easier and I have one more to let go next year! Weren't they just in Joy School yesterday?! Thank you for the good cathartic cry–I tell myself I would be crying more if they didn't find their way out of the nest and spread their wings and fly. You touched that little soft spot in every mother's heart–we love them so much we have to let them go!

  26. I especially love that last picture in the slideshow! Watching your child succeed is the greatest joy! I'm so glad you captured that in a photo. I'm excited for Max to experience BYU and also for the upcoming mission. You will watch him soar, no doubt.

  27. Shawni, I don't know you or your family, but I've been following your blog for a while when I came across it on Pinterest. The parenting advice you offer inspires me with my two young boys (4 and 2 and one on the way). I bawled reading this post, and it gave me new perspective on all the art projects my little ones bring home from pre-school when I have no idea what to do with all their "stuff." One day, I will miss it, and one day we will go through their stuff like you did with Max, and I will cry just reflecting on their "little" things that are such a big part of their lives at this young age. I love the way you ended your post – with a "warning" to all of us moms out here. I have so many years left before I send my boys off – but I know it will be here before I know it. Good luck to Max! Thank you for sharing this heart-felt post!! You are amazing.

  28. Shawni, I just love and adore you and your blog. I have been a loyal reader after I stumbled across your blog 7 1/2 years (and backread everything before that). It has been so much fun watching Max grow into the amazing young man that he is. I had to contain myself after I almost started up with the ugly cry when watching the photomontage you did of him. I have 4 kids (ranging from 8 to 2) and I can't help but get emotional thinking about how fast they are growing up, and how I hope so bad I am raising them right. I come to your blog for inspiration. I have quoted many great things from here in sacrament talks, gospel doctrine lessons, and just day to day talk with friends and family. I just adore you! I'm not going to lie, I almost went to sheer panic when last year you mentioned you might not be able to blog from China. Thanks for being such a great example and sharing your life with us all. I could only imagine how challenging that might be at times. Good luck with the adjusting, he's going to do amazing things I tell ya!

  29. love you shawn and love you max!!!
    i find this pretty funny actually, because when i left for college mom and dad were like "SEE YA!" and hopped on a plane for an around the world tour. they were the opposite of what you are feeling. so there's hope that it wears off…at least by the ninth kid! 🙂

  30. oh man, now i watched the video and am crying. i really love that boy and all of you!!! life goes by so quick – i remember perfectly when max was born! love you!

  31. Oh my gosh! Is he crying while giving Lucy a hug? That might be the sweetest thing I've ever seen…I really REALLY feel for you. My kids are young but as a mother, I can imagine how heartbreaking (and also wonderful) it must be! And good on him for choosing the right school 😉 love BYU!

  32. Shawni–I truly appreciate your feelings. It's hard. But on bad days you really need to put your feelings in perspective. The only thing that really made me pause was your comment "wallowing in the depths of despair the next"… please. I just think of all the parents who have lost a child and would give anything to be in your shoes. You did everything right, you have a great kid, you have 4 other children at home! Feel what you feel, your entitled, but it's very self serving. He didn't die.

    1. Thank you. Exactly. I think about how Max must feel – it's hard for him too – missing his family, so you don't want to lay the guilt on him about how miserable everyone is because he is not there. Doesn't he have enough to worry about right now? Sit with your feelings, acknowledge them, but don't share the gory details with Max. It's bordering on the weird now.

  33. Ugh…getting me all teary-eyed! I'm like you- oldest is a boy, the rest are all girls. My oldest is more like me than any of the girls, so he and I have a special bond. Fortunately, I have another 7 years to go before I send him off- this year it's hard enough sending him to middle school. I took him there last night for orientation, and he was so excited and confident and capable and smart…well, it made it so I'm not so worried about him. 🙂 Thanks for the warning. I'll try to spend the next 7 years preparing myself…*sigh*

  34. Oh man, I appreciate you sharing this and I loved hearing your feelings! Gall, my kids are still "little" 7, 4, and 3, but it goes by way too fast already and I feel like I am basically sending them out the door tomorrow :(. Man this mothering thing is the best adventure we are fortunate enough to experience, but sending these little ones out into the world is for sure the hardest thing about it!

  35. I'm not finished reading yet but after seeing the picture of the last Sunday together, I am convinced that your husband has successfully cloned himself and you have named that clone Max. lol. He looks so much like him it's crazy!

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