A Letter to My College-Bound Daughter

While we are in the thick of raising our children, the days may seem long but the years often feel short. During their childhood, we see our children every day. We clothe them, feed them, support them, guide them, and shower them with love. Then, they leave our homes. For many of us, this stage of life seems to come too soon. We’ve done everything we can to prepare them for it, and yet, we aren’t ready to say goodbye. In her letter to her college-bound daughter, Momentum sister Mahra Pailet captures these feelings beautifully.

Today, I sent my first-born child off to college. My heart and head inhabit conflicting worlds. Time no longer makes sense. How is it that this infant whom only yesterday I held and nourished at my breast has walked into the future, hardly glancing back long enough to catch one last kiss blown from my shaking fingers to her steady ones?

In this moment, my hands are empty but for endless wringing. My heart is hollow but for every memory of you. My glass is half-full but it brims with the tears I have shed leading up to this both dreaded and pride-filled day.

The clash and crush of grief and joy run like watercolors under the outpouring of my cries, pushing familiar forms to blend together into something entirely foreign and unknown. And I think, “This is death.” Then, I think, “This is life.”

May the warmth and love you received in our home shelter you and provide you with comfort should aspects of your new life turn cold and forlorn. May the tenderness of your heart speak to the hearts of others that may already have begun to harden. May your innate goodness be treasured and not exploited. May your intrinsic value be recognized and respected. May you be admired for your choices rather than ridiculed (and please God, may you stand behind those choices.)  May you see God’s hand in the everyday and may you find delight in the mysteries of the world. May the values we hope we’ve modeled flourish in you. And may we have gotten it right more often than not so that we’ve built a foundation on which you can grow into the compassionate, purposeful, accomplished, thoughtful, and happy Jewish woman you’re meant to be.

My darling daughter, you have been my greatest blessing and my strongest challenge. My life is richer, fuller, stronger and so much more meaningful for having you in it these 18 short years.

I look into your eyes one last time and then look away, not because I’m ashamed for you to see me cry, but because you shine too brightly to look at directly. You are my sun, giving life to my world.

As I watch you board your bus to the airport, your back is to me. You’re in an animated conversation with new friends. I want to say something profound that we can both hold onto. Then the door closes with a loud crack and the finality of a gunshot.

Just like that, it is over. For me, there is no perfect last moment. There is only perfect you.


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