To My Daughter As I Leave Her at College

Dear Peanut,

To say that I am proud of you is an epic understatement. Pride is a word I used for a great dance performance on the Community Center stage when you were six, or for passing Algebra II after watching you work your butt off all semester. I was proud of the way you handled your job at the restaurant with grace, even when it was the last place you wanted to be. Pride doesn’t begin to describe what I am experiencing right now as I leave you at college.

As I observe you creating yourself and your life, here in Alaska—nearly 3,000 miles from the only home you’ve ever known—I am struck by how self-aware, self-expressed, self-possessed you are. Pride is a self–referential feeling, and this moment in your life has nothing to do with me. This is your time. This is your life. This is your vision. Rather, I am impressed, humbled, and honored.

I am impressed that at the young age of eight, you heard the calling of your life’s purpose and have used it as a beacon ever since. In the process of growing up and individuating, you have never let your struggles define you. You’ve remained clear in your commitment to your purpose, letting that ground you and remind you of who you are, beyond whatever story was playing out at any given time. I am impressed that you found your home—the place that was calling you—a small mountain town near the ocean. And I am impressed with the courage you displayed in moving towards this new life, one giant step at a time.

I am humbled by your commitment to your health and wellbeing. The fierceness with which you have made veganism a priority, for the health of the planet as well as your own, makes me see clearly where I am out of integrity with my own habits. By observing your transformation this last year, I am able to see a living example of conviction-in-action. You bring new meaning to the terms self-care and service. In this way, you are truly my teacher.

I am honored to be your mother. We refer to children as “ours” as if they are our possessions, as if we own them and have a right to mold them to our liking, and demand that they behave as we wish. I’ve never been comfortable with this perspective. I would prefer to call you “the girl I birthed” or “the being who I am parenting”. From the moment you were born, it was clear to me that you are your own person. You move through the world differently that I do. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about you. I have learned so much in holding space for your own process and supporting you in finding your own way. Thank you for letting me in, for sharing with me the deepest, most tender parts of yourself. It’s been a privilege to be your spiritual and emotional Sherpa, and I hope that role continues.

The milestone we face together right now, the transition of our relationship, is no small thing. And while it will take care of itself, and we will find our new rhythm, I feel to articulate this:

There is nothing you can bring me that won’t elicit my unconditional love and support. Judgment and shame have no place between us. As long as I live, I will meet you with compassion and collaboration. I honor who you are and I am committed to supporting the unfolding of your fullest self-expression. No matter what the physical distance between us, I remain here, connected to you by the energetic thread that connects a mother and daughter. You may affectionately laugh at my stretching umbilicus humor but there is truth in the metaphor. The thread that connects us will live forever. Use your awareness of it as needed to calm your worrisome mind, and comfort your aching heart. Use it to exchange your fear for love. Through this connection, I am always present to you.

You are the next in our maternal lineage to take your place in the world. Let you not carry with you the struggles and limitations that we who have come before you have endured, and may you be lifted by the ancestral river of love and wisdom that flows whence you came.

My love for you is boundless and eternal. You know where to find me.

Your ever-loving mother,


6 thoughts on “To My Daughter As I Leave Her at College”

  1. Wow! How utterly amazing to receive this much unconditional love and profound acceptance for who she is and will become. If giving your children wings, as I was always told was one of a parents most important jobs, then you have equipped yours with those of the space shuttle. Onward Peanut. Onward Zoe. Thank you for sharing.

  2. How beautiful! In these words there is so much love that it resonates with me! My daughter is only six but I and my husband are committed to getting her be a strong and confident young woman with a clear purpose in life! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Such a beautiful love letter Zoë. I love what you said about our children not being ours, not there to become what we want of them. It echoes the wise words of Kahlil Gibran.
    “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

    How precious a gift you’ve given your daughter to know she can be her authentic self and receive your unconditional support.


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