Ready Or Not, Time To Let Go!

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Stacy Penkala, Associate Director of College Counseling

I remember it like it was yesterday: our oldest daughter, Lauren, left the Penkala Nest for college in the fall of 2009. Lauren was full of pride and anticipation. Underneath it all, I’m sure there was a little nervousness mixed in as well, but only a mother could read through the brave face she sported. In the weeks leading up to the three-hour trek to campus, we helped Lauren with the little things. I pushed the carts at Target and Bed Bath & Beyond while she filled them with towels, pillows, toiletries, and school supplies. I wanted Lauren to have her favorite essentials; she was moving to a new home away from home. And I was hoping the more comfortable the space, the easier the adjustment.

We let Lauren take the lead on unpacking and setting up her residence hall

Image with list of ways to help kids adjust to college

room on move-in day. My husband stood ready with the adhesive tape, screwdriver, and hammer. Lauren put me to work hanging up clothes on felt-covered hangers and making her bed with fresh linens and a cozy new comforter. We met Lauren’s suitemates and their parents that day as a flurry of new faces bounded in and out of the room. The moment in time was a rite of passage for Lauren – significant movement toward adulthood. For us as parents, it was the beginning of working through feelings of loss and physical separation. I knew Lauren would still need us on occasion, but she would need us in a different way moving forward.

Listening to tales of classes, studying, boys, roommates and sore throats brought mixed emotions. I missed the day-to-day relationship built with my precious daughter, yet I was elated that Lauren was living an inspiring and exciting life of her own. With every conversation, I witnessed increasing confidence and self-awareness coming through the phone. I had to quickly curb my enthusiasm the first time Lauren made a trip home over Thanksgiving. While Lauren was back at home, I quickly realized college students sleep a lot! When Lauren wasn’t sleeping, she was with Country Day friends whom she hadn’t seen in months. House rules and curfews that were set back in high school needed serious adjustment. I loved having Lauren and her DCDS friends around even though the visit was a short one!

list of transition tips for parents

Two years after Lauren started college, daughter #2, Lindsay, began her collegiate journey. I spent the first couple of months walking around in a haze, even though I knew what to anticipate. I had to nudge myself to regroup with important people in my life, dust the cobwebs off a stack of books waiting to be read and get back to hobbies that had long been disregarded. It was time to focus on me! I even enrolled in a Creative Writing course at a local college and I’m extremely proud of the A- I earned!

Our baby finished college several years ago. The house is still quiet … and clean! The laundry pile is small and I need next to nothing when I stop at the grocery store. I continue to miss my girls – physical distance is never easy. But I’ll always be their mom even if they are off on their own living far from Detroit. I can’t help but smile when I think of how much Lauren and Lindsay matured as a result of their own independence and engaging collegiate experiences, and I witnessed my own personal growth by letting them go!

Two women posing for picture at a college graduation

Detroit Country Day School is a private, independent, co-educational, non-denominational, preschool through grade 12 college preparatory school in Michigan focused on a well-rounded liberal arts education. Emphasis on academics, arts, athletics, and character development is prevalent across the curriculum. The school admits students of any race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students in the school. To learn more visit

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