Back to School: A Mom’s Journey

Back to school. What does that look like for you? For me, that means a time to pause and reflect. After the lazy, unstructured days of summer, it means getting back to a routine, taking time out for myself and my girlfriends. It means transitioning to a new season–pulling on my favorite boots and a cozy sweater, reaching for a scarf more often.

I’ve always felt a little nostalgia that summer’s almost over. But this year’s especially bittersweet. My youngest graduated high school and is heading off on a gap year, just like his brother did two years ago. After 20 years of raising two boys, they’re both spreading their wings and moving on to the next phase in their lives, leaving me feeling unsettled.

One of the little things I’m going to miss is the annual ritual of back-to-school shopping. They each got to pick out a few pair of pants, a couple of long-sleeve shirts, et cetera, so they had to be thoughtful about their choices. It brings a smile to my face to think about sitting on the dressing room floor, waiting for them to come out to show me what they’d chosen.

It feels good to chat with you guys. Some of you are ahead of me in this mothering adventure, some of you are behind me. What’s it going to look like now? I’m happy-sad. I’m excited for them but at the same time very aware that life is about to change dramatically. No one really tells you that after 18 years of raising your babies, one day they’re going to leave, leaving you with a deep maternal sense of loss. When Scout left, it brought me to my knees. I felt like a mama wolf when it was time to kick her pups out of the den. (Aaliyah, one of our employees in the Boulder store, overheard me talking about this. She told me her mom said it was like her heart grew arms and legs and wandered off.)

Now Bubb, my youngest, is leaving in a few weeks and I’m not sure how I’ll feel. (Stay tuned–I’ll let you know.) What I do know is that I have to acknowledge the unsettled feelings–to really let myself feel the sadness–before I can let those feelings go. And at the same time I’m very excited for this next chapter, both in their lives and in mine.

I’d love to hear from you about what motherhood or sending your kids off feels like for you. I want this blog to be a chat between girlfriends, where we can share those nuggets of wisdom we’ve learned along life’s path. So join the conversation, share your story!

Until next time…. Shine bright.

Mary Ellen Vernon


  • September 2, 2014

    elizabeth smith

    Hi Mary Ellen, This is Momma Lizzie from the La Jolla Store. I raised three wonderful children and they went off to college and each one was different. I found that it never gets any easier. Even when my youngest, who is 27 now, came home and lived with me for a year and then went off to graduate school I had a set back. The empty whole in the house is just temporary. It is bittersweet to see your children grow up but I was blessed this year with an amazing grandchild and life changes in a great way. Enjoy!! (Come back and see us now that you have time…haha)

  • September 2, 2014

    Chrissy Burke

    We’ve been through it twice before, we have boys that are 26 and 30. My oldest son’s birthday is today. Then there is my 10 year old that just started school today. Kinda sad, I miss him already. It would probably help if I had a job to go to and keep me busy, but I quit my job to take the summer off and spend time with my youngest. I’ve been so busy teaching for the past two years I felt like I never saw him. I thought I’d have a job by now, at least I’m taking a class.
    I’m also excited and so proud of him, he is an honor student and plays football, baseball and basketball. He walked to school with his friend alone for the first time today, we live very close to his school.

  • September 6, 2014

    Eve Beringer-Klein

    Hi Mary Ellen,
    Thanks for your great post. I have three children, who are 241/2, 23, and 17. It was sad each time my older children graduated high school and went to college but a comfort to know what wonderful people they are and still becoming. I tell myself that I know better now with my youngest, but also know that I will be equally as wistful when he goes to college as well. Happy to be a parent and have gone on this parenting adventure with my husband and children.