They leave for school and leave behind a trail of their morning activities. Half-eaten breakfast on the table. Shoes by the door she decided at the last minute not to wear. Markers and art projects on the floor. A blanket spread out on the couch from a morning snuggle. Random toys trailing the stairs. Toothbrushes next to the sink. 

I spend my first 15 minutes after they leave tidying the house. Putting things back where they belong. Closing books and placing them on the bookshelves. Starting laundry after gathering all the clothes from their respective hampers. Spraying down countertops and floors. 

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I usually think about where they are. School obviously, but are they in their morning meetings, starting their specials, reading, talking to friends? Are they having good days so far? Is everyone being kind?

Do they feel armed with confidence to take on the day and all the challenges that will come their way?

But mostly I think about how they aren’t really mine. Yes, I’m the mom. I carried them inside of me for nine long months, and I’ve cared for their every need for years. But now that they’re a little older, they are very much themselves. They have their own thoughts.

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They have their own goals.

They have their own way of handling situations.

They have their own personalities.

They have their own moral compass.

I’ve tried to share some things with them. I try to steer them into decisions that are healthy. 

But they aren’t mine.

They ultimately get to decide every day how they want to be. If they want to make lemonade from lemons, or if they’re going to see the worst in everything. 

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I can put a healthy breakfast on the table, but it’s up to them to decide to eat it. 

I’m reminded of this as I feel their absence. That they’re off living their lives. And while I’m usually confident, I know they’ll make mistakes too. And that’s going to be OK. That’s how they learn.

They won’t learn from me telling them what to do. They need to live it.

And they are. I see it. They have their own lives. And sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s OK to let go.

Caroline Murray

Caroline is a freelance writer, mama to two young children and one sweet baby.  She loves everything country and tries not to take anything too seriously.  You can see more of her at