on saying goodbye and all the things you wish you could have done.

I woke up with tears in my eyes today.

By the time I got to writing these words the tears were no longer in my eyes but were a big stream of memories falling down my face.

It hit me in my gut, that deep feeling, that saying goodbye moment.


My daughter, the little girl that I labored through a hot June evening for and yelling I quit this and being told well, honey, you can’t quit now, is leaving my nest. Permanently.

You see, she’s getting on a plane a week from today and is moving to Seattle. Over a thousand miles from me, her mom. I was the one that took pictures of her outside when she was a baby with silly hats outside. I remember walking her into preschool with her black Powerpuff shoes and hanging her backpack up on the hook. I remember kisses behind the ears before kindergarten. Sitting in an auditorium as she sang for the first time in front of hundreds. Wiping tears from her face. Doctors visits and dentist appointments and ankle surgery. Watching her ride a bike. Get on a plane. Shoot her first wedding. Dance.

And now, now it’s good bye.

(man, I cannot write this post without crying.)

It feels like it was just this.


You know sometimes I wish things about our 18 years together.

I wish I had spent more time reading with her but then I forget to see the stacks of books and late fees and trips to Half Price Books and hours spent scouring garage sales for books.

I wish I had spent more time listening but then forget out morning Starbucks runs, trips to the store, Facebook chats, and times just sitting in the room together. Or our kayak rides at the lake.

I wish I had played more but forget about the days where we just decided to play cards and let the agenda go or the times building legos or the times working on websites together.

I wish I had been able to decorate her room exactly the way she wanted but I forget about how I splurged and bought a comforter for her at Target or how we’d move things around just so or how she’d put quotes all over her wall or how I would sit in that not perfect room and just talk with her.

I wish I had done more for her, you know all the dream things, but forget all that I did. You know, the best I could do things. How I volunteered for ballet so she could dance or how I was on the board at the homeschool co-op or how I drove and drove and drove. How I just gave because, well, I’m a mom to a girl I simply love.


I didn’t see that even with the mistakes, the times of loss, the many times of messing up, the times of not knowing what to do, the times where I couldn’t afford to give her everything I wanted,  and all of that that I still mothered the best I could.

It’s easy to look back at life and our days and to see the wishes.

It’s easy to wish that we had done more, been more, and been perfect.

But that? That’s a lie.

It just is.

Sometimes we need to just call out that pressure for what it is. Pressure to be and not to live.

I don’t care what society tells us moms what makes a good mom. I don’t care about all the Pinterest projects we could have done or Family Fun inspired birthday parties. I don’t care that there were times where you just chose Netflix and took a nap. I don’t care that you can tell me about all the times where you messed up.  I don’t care about any of that stuff.

I care about the trying.


I care that you get up each day, you do your best, and you love your kids.

You see, I loved my Hannah every single day that she lived in my home. Every single day.

There wasn’t a day where I woke up and thought nope. Not today. I’m out of love. I loved her when I messed up. I loved her when she really didn’t like me. I loved her on the good days and the bad days and the ordinary days. I loved her when she yelled I hate you and we would have battles that were like World War 3. I just loved her every day, wherever she was, and in my often imperfect ways.

Do you see the power in that?

Our kids need love. Your kids need love. They don’t need a perfect mom, a perfect life, a perfect house, a perfect room, a perfect wardrobe, a perfect vacation schedule.

They need love.

And a mom who is willing to say I will love you no matter what.

Love your kids. Don’t wish away today by wishing you could have done more.


So the tears will fall next Friday night as I get on a plane and fly away. They’ll fall. In fact, I cannot type this sentence without having tears well up in my eyes. But, friends, we made it.

We. Made. It.

I suppose I could tell you it goes fast and to suck the life out of every moment. Don’t do that. Just do your best. Love your kids. Hug your kids. Listen to your kids. Believe in them. Fight for them. Give them grace. And just at some level, try to enjoy the craziness.

From me, the mom entering a new phase in life, to all of you. And you know what? Even with the falling tears I’m proud and excited and thankful for this next step. It’s what life is about. A journey. Not a destination.

Onward. That’s what we do.


Walking The Visual Journey

If you’re following the Brave Art of Motherhood Visual Journey . . . the “Hey ugly” section of the book is something I’ve spoken about in keynote speeches in the past. . .

30 Responses to “on saying goodbye and all the things you wish you could have done.”

  1. September 17, 2014

    Nichole Reply

    I am right there with you. My oldest is 18 – On one hand, I am trying to find ways to boot him out the door but on the other hand, I’m finding reasons that I need him to be here with me a little longer. <3

  2. September 17, 2014

    Rachel Reply

    My son is only 3 so I am not even close to going through this part of motherhood (although when it’s here I imagine this comment will feel 5 minutes before it happens). But I empathize for you! I feel that momma letting go and watching our heart fly sort of feeling that makes you so proud, scared, sad, hopeful, relieved. I don’t know you off my computer screen but from what I do know, a daughter of yours is strong and is going to kick ass while reaching her goals. And now she’s in the Starbucks capital so you totally have to go to the original store like, every chance you get 🙂

    Lots of love and safe travels sent to y’all!<3

  3. September 17, 2014

    M Payne Reply

    This brought tears to my eyes too! My son is off to kindergarten and after being home with him these past 5 years, I’ve been feeling the regrets and wishes too. How I wish I’d done so many things differently or not worried so much, but your words have helped me to see it a different way and I can try not to be so hard on myself. Thank you as always for being so real and cutting through all the shoulds to get right to the heart of just being a mom and loving ourselves as much as we love our kids!

  4. September 17, 2014

    Jennifer Reply

    I don’t often comment, despite having read nearly every one of your posts, but this one….this one has me holding back tears. I’m so very close to where you are now in your parenting journey, and although I’m proud to see my children growing up, I’m terrified of the day that the first one leaves home.


  5. September 17, 2014

    Jane H Reply

    What a beautiful daughter you have….indeed what a beautiful family you have. I’m a grandma now….and even now, I need to listen to these words. I have had some health issues and so I can’t do as much physically as some of my friends can do with their grandbabies. But I have never not loved them….NEVER. Our 4 year old grandson who lives with us….EVERY single morning, he greets me with open arms….”Grandma!” We are so excited to see each other every day….it’s like we have been separated for weeks, not just our night of sleep. They know they are loved and I know they love me….what a gift. Comparison, regrets, wishes of different can be poison. Is your daughter going to school?

  6. September 17, 2014

    Penny Reply

    Oh , this will be me in a few years. I already feel the guilt and frustration building. Thank you for reminding me what’s important.

  7. September 17, 2014

    Cori Sessions Reply

    You inspire so many, everyday. This had me in tears.
    I am already stressing over my 13 year old son leaving for college in 5 years.
    We love them, raise them to be strong, loyal, dependable, smart people and when they spread their wings and fly it is so hard to let them soar.
    Hugs from a fellow mom!

  8. September 17, 2014

    Christina Gomez Reply

    Reading this post, with tears in my eyes. I could BARELY send my firstborn off to Kindergarten a few years ago, and pretty much have just stopped crying after sending my middle child to pre-K (TWO WEEKS AGO! 😉 so I truly can’t imagine when they leave the nest for good. It literally hurts my heart to think about! You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers as next Friday approaches…you can do it! 🙂

  9. September 17, 2014

    Ashley Reply

    I am a mom of a 2-year-old little girl and I know this will be me someday. Thank you for sharing. I try so hard to do “what’s right” and do what all the parenting books say (that I agree with!) And I already have days where I wonder, am I failing her? But at the end of the day, you’re absolutely right, our kids just need our love. Not the latest Pinterest project or the latest “stuff.” Just our love and our promise to try our best. You oldest is beautiful, I am sure inside and out! Thanks for sharing this story. I needed a peek into the future.

  10. September 17, 2014

    Amy Reply

    Thank-you for these beautiful words. On a slightly different level, I felt this guilt last month when my son returned to 1st grade… all of the “should-haves” and “could-haves” of everything I didn’t do with him over Summer vacation. Thank-you for reminding me of all the things we DID do, which created a wonderful, beautiful pack of summer vacation memories.

  11. September 17, 2014

    Lea Reply

    Oh, Rachel, I cannot believe that Hannah is all grown up. I’ll have to go back and read some previous posts to see if you say what she is going to do in Seattle. I wish her God’s very best on this next step in her life. So good to touch base with you!

  12. September 17, 2014

    Stacy Reply

    I’m a mother of 3 babies. I have a daughter who is in the 6th grade and I have two sons, one in 4th and the YOUNGEST in 1st. My last grandparent passed away last week and over the weekend I started getting down about how it’s all going by too fast and of course crying because of the things I haven’t done and don’t do. It’s really hard not to get down when life keeps passing by. I don’t know how moms get through this. Babies growing up like this. Seems like yesterday I was crying with my daughter, she was a week old and I was completely alone for the first time with her. I had no clue why she was crying and tried everything. So I just held her and stared at her beautiful face while she cried. And I cried.

  13. September 17, 2014

    Adelina Priddis Reply

    It’s words like this I need to hear (and we probably all do) on days like today. I look back and think – what in the world did we do today?! But it’s in the small things like taking an extra 5-10 minutes on the walk home from school to run through the grass, and up and down some hills in the sunshine. Thank you for the reminder not to stress over the undone, but focus on the doing.

  14. September 17, 2014

    Nancy Reply

    My oldest joined the Marine Corps at 17 1/2 years old. He wanted it more than anything. I had to sign my parental rights away. I had so many doubts and wishes. My son has become an amazing young adult that I’m so very proud of. I had so many wishes and doubts when I dropped him off at the recruiter’s office. Looking at how he lives his life now, I know I did my job well! But the tears sure flowed. They still flow now, but more from pride and awe. Motherhood is one hell of a ride….

  15. September 18, 2014

    Mel Reply

    Thank you for putting into words all my emotions of the last couple of weeks. My oldest son just turned 21 this month. Last week, I helped move him to his first apartment, 8 hours away. We raise them up for this moment, but somehow forget to prepare ourselves. I appreciate the reminder to forgot about the, “if only I had been able to do this” and to focus on all the great memories.

  16. […] On saying goodbye and all the things you wish you could have done | Finding Joy […]

  17. September 24, 2014

    Laura G. Reply

    I can so relate – even though my 19 y/o son still lives with us while he attends community college.

    “I suppose I could tell you it goes fast and to suck the life out of every moment. Don’t do that. Just do your best. Love your kids. Hug your kids. Listen to your kids. Believe in them. Fight for them. Give them grace. And just at some level, try to enjoy the craziness.”

    Thank you for your words that allow us mom’s the freedom to be whatever kind of mom we are and to not be perfect.

  18. September 25, 2014

    Jordan Horst Reply

    Wow! I’m crying! This made me think about all that my mom has done for me over the years and how hard saying goodbye really is. I left home at seventeen years old to serve in Mexico for seven months and came home for only two weeks before heading to college over twelve hours away form home. Hearing from a mother’s perspective reminds me how hard it was for my own mom and all that she put up with over the years. As great as it is to be independent, it’s hard for us daughters too. And we will always appreciate going back home.

    Please click my name to check out my own blog of christian inspiration if you get a chance and please feel free to pass it along to others. I’m just starting out but can’t wait to see how God works in and through me in the world of blogging!

  19. August 10, 2015

    Lynn Reply

    You made me cry!!! My kids are 30 and 28 and I have 6 grandchildren. Love them no matter what!💗💗💗💗

  20. August 10, 2015

    Christina Berray Reply

    Rachel, I’ve thought about asking you to write something like this so many times in the past couple weeks, as it’s hitting me so hard how fast the years went right now. I too have a 6 year old, also a 13 year old, and a 17 year old (who will also be boarding a plane and is filling me with the dread of the good bye in two weeks from tomorrow) as she leaves for Spain on foreign exchange for an entire year. I’ve been torturing myself over and over again about the years that have gone and the could haves and should have scenarios. Did I do enough, did I waste too much time, and should I have done more of this and that. And it’s been killing me. So thank you for this post tonight. You read my mind once again. God bless you!

  21. August 12, 2015

    Marlene Reply

    I read this through a haze of tears. My oldest is 26 and soon to make me a grandma and he is the one I feel the regret with. I think because he was where I truly was learning to be a mom and I made so many mistakes. But I did and do love them all. Now that he is married he does end our phone calls with “I love you” and that is nice!
    I do appreciate your shared experiences, thank you!

  22. August 19, 2015

    Laura Reply

    “There wasn’t a day where I woke up and thought nope. Not today. I’m out of love.” This is perfect. In all its imperfect perfection. Thank you.

  23. July 5, 2016

    Louisa Simmonds Reply

    About to go through the very same thing with my girl and each minute has suddenly become very precious. Hell, I’ve made mistakes, too. Ignored her for days out of anger, was disappointed when she showed up hungover to her 17th…didn’t tell her often enough how proud I was of her. But I think, I hope, she knows I tried, had the best intentions and love her to death.

  24. July 5, 2016

    Pauline Reply

    Beautifully said for all of us whose kids are on the verge of taking this huge step. I cried just reading it.

  25. July 5, 2016

    Diana Reply

    As I read your post I breathe heavy because I don’t want my tears to flow! In the background I can hear my four kids (fifth and oldest is playing his DS quietly) being loud, laughing, running around and I smile. I am no where at the point where you find yourself with your daughter but your post speaks truth. I know one day that day will hit me like a ton of bricks. As moms we try to love our kids unconditionally. And they need to always know and feel it. Our lives are not perfect. Some days I just “can’t” but somehow I do it because I know that they know I am their biggest cheerleader and advocate. And that’s the biggest reward I can get from them. They know that their mama will always be there for them. Thank you for the beautiful post. Good luck to your daughter in her new journey. Big hug to you!

  26. July 7, 2016

    Lynda Johnson Reply

    You cried writing this and I sobbed reading it. Loving your kids, despite our failures and flaws, if the truest and most powerful emotion any woman will ever feel. Good luck to you and your precious daughter. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing. God bless.

  27. July 7, 2016

    Harmony Reply

    And…the tears are falling. I’m six years away from this day but just the thought sends me to a very sappy place. This was a beautiful post. Yes, love is the main thing. I pray my kids know that they are loved no matter what.

  28. August 19, 2016

    Ann Reply

    My boy is 15. I dread this day coming soon when I have to let him go. Over the years, he has been the center of my world. My tennis partner, hiking and fishing buddy, etc. I sit here and hope I’ve done enough for him to be strong and independent. But what on Earth will I do when he spreads his wings and leaves? I find myself beginning to separate myself so it will be easier later but I still want to tuck him in and kiss his head goodnight….

  29. July 28, 2019

    Rebecca Reply

    At 56 I’ve now launched 4 adults into the world. My sons all needed various levers to be PRIED from the nest, but my beautiful friend, my daughter ‘flew’.

    She and I had the knock-down-drag-out fights…ones she left bc of, with doors slammed and Dad terrified. But, we are eternally tangled together and adore each other.

    As a young mom, I wanted the perfection of which you speak… beLIEVED in it, buy raised my daughter to know it’s crap.

    American women hv SO much pressure to BE perfect at it ALL…marriage, job, motherhood, friendship, homemaking! It’s a crock!

    As you hv said here, just love…not coddle, not perfection, not regret…just love. Little kids KNOW when they are truly important to you, not bc you give them things, but bc you look in their eyes when they speak, bc you put down what you are doing for that 66 second tale of the dream they had. They need your face, your arms, your ears, your eyes.

    I agree. Slow down, let go of perfection and love your kids.

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