by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

My world was about to change. It was September 2001 and my only child was heading off to college. I had been anticipating this moment for the past year. Well, actually, I had been dreading it.

You have to understand. Jennifer is much more than my daughter. She is my shopping companion, my movie buddy, my confidant. She is my best friend.

I was teaching school before Jennifer was born. Then, I stopped teaching to be an at-home mom. When she started school, I went back to teaching at my daughter’s elementary school. In fact, I was her kindergarten teacher.

In Jennifer’s fifth-grade year we started home schooling and continued through high school. It was a good fit for our cattle-ranching lifestyle in Texas. And she and I loved learning together. Besides, it left us plenty of time to travel as a family, something I couldn’t even imagine doing without our daughter.

The time had finally arrived for me to let her go.

To be honest we had never been apart. Even when she went to summer camp, I went with her and volunteered.

But the day had come for her to begin her own life journey away at college. It was inevitable and I had to face it. The time had finally arrived for me to let her go—without going with her.

How can I describe those first days and weeks without her at home? Sleepless. Anxious. Worried. Fearful. Uneasy. Almost unbearable.

There wasn’t anything anyone said to me that helped, including my husband, who tried to comfort me but couldn’t. Yes, I knew what was right and normal for my child. I knew she couldn’t live at home forever. I didn’t want that for her. And yes, I knew it was normal to miss her. I admit I talked with her every day on the telephone. But nothing could stop how frantic I was. My imagination worked overtime, especially at night when trying to sleep. The anxieties I was feeling from being separated from her were creating a picture of a vulnerable young girl who was susceptible to chance, accident or even violence.

Jennifer was adjusting very well to college.

In the meantime, Jennifer was adjusting very well to college. She enjoyed her classes and made good grades. She was used to managing her time, studying on her own, had fast reading speed with good comprehension and she was a great writer. She had a nice boyfriend whom we liked. And she had become active in a student organization. In fact, it was her activity in this organization that brought my anxieties and fears to a head. She was soon to fly on a commercial airliner to Washington DC, and it was only 6 months after 9/11.

I had the habit of turning to spiritual ideas to help me solve problems. And honestly, I had begun praying and searching for peace of mind before her travel news. I had found my search for peace required moment-to-moment, thought-by-thought prayer in order to genuinely feel God’s presence.

For me, prayer begins with being still and listening. I like to continue by acknowledging the good about God and His children. In my study of Science and HealthI’ve discovered a God who is ever-present Love, constantly available and very comforting.

God is the perfect 24/7 Parent.

I began to see that God is the perfect 24/7 Parent, never off-duty—for me and for Jennifer. I also realized that everyone has a unique relationship with God, and their own purpose to fulfill.

And I wasn’t needed to provide this link for my daughter.

The idea that both Jennifer and I are on life journeys and that God has a purpose for us throughout our lives has been the ultimate freedom maker. When I finally accepted, believed and trusted this idea with all my heart, I became committed to not allowing any thought, fear or opinion interfere with God’s revelation for both of us.

The fruits of my prayer have been life changing.

Yes, Jennifer had a safe and fun trip to Washington DC. Her college years have been joyous and productive. She has completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in three years, and will graduate this summer, 2004. The nice boyfriend recently became our son-in-law, whom we love very much. She and I still talk every day and I look forward to hearing what’s new and wonderful on her life journey.

“I never felt guilty going away to college.”

And what about me? I can honestly say that fear and anxiety no longer rule my days and nights. My husband and I have been having great fun with evenings and weekends that are “just us.” We’ve enjoyed trips alone and have had wonderful excursions with friends. And there have been opportunities for travels that have included our daughter and son-in-law. I’m involved in community organizations and have also started a new career focus. My husband and I have started remodeling our house. And we’ve added a new member to our family—a miniature dachshund.

I recently had a conversation with Jennifer reflecting on her college years. In telling her about my experience in those first few months, I was delighted to learn she never suspected my struggle. She told me, “I never felt guilty going away to college. I never felt you were scared for me. I knew you were always going to support me. I never felt susceptible to risk or dangers. I never had any situations that made me afraid. I always felt safe.”

Yes, my world did change. But I’ve learned I don’t have to be afraid of change. Change is progress. Change means growth. Change provides expansive views. It’s kind of like the change from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Certainly, the life experience is different. But what a difference in the view!