Annie has been writing up a storm for Nest & Launch, which makes me extremely happy and increasingly anxious to dive in myself. It's the best kind of motivation. I've been a bit out of pocket over the last few weeks as I've readied Madison (daughter #2) to leave on her mission to Frankfurt, Germany.
Here's the thing: We started this blog because we wanted to address the lives of families with older kids - what it's like to parent teenagers, what it's like to care for ourselves in these years and circumstances, what it's like to send your tiny, baby children off into the great, wide world. We've written about high school graduations, and leaving for college, and missions, and even engagements. What I didn't anticipate was the sheer numbers of launches and the resulting readjustments for them (and ME!). It's part exciting and part downright disconcerting.
After sending Madison off to college and then helping her move to New York for the summer (TWICE), I've just finished sending her off on an eighteen month mission to Germany. She ventures out, comes home for quick respites and tune ups, and then she's off again. And, in many ways, I'm left here to wonder and worry and pray for the safe-keeping of my sweet girl.
I think Annie summed up my feelings best in a comment on an Instagram photo of Madison and I at the Missionary Training Center. She wrote, "The bittersweetest." And it is. There was so much joy and pride and heartache all rolled together in the sending off. I already miss her like crazy.
I know this mission-thing is sort of Mormon-specific, but sending our big kids off into the world is actually rather universal. And now that I'm feeling like an old hand at the launching, here are a few tips from the trenches:
When sending off a sister missionary:
- Shop online and shop early. Sister missionaries have super strict dress guidelines, so hitting the mall is rarely helpful. We bought most of Madison's clothing at Modcloth, Piper & Scoot, and a few things at J. Crew. The Loft and H&M were also helpful for tops, sweaters, and blazers.
- Buy these shoes. I bought them for a trip to England, and my feet thanked me many, many times -- they are seriously awesome walking shoes. Both of my girls fought me tooth and nail when I insisted they buy two pairs for their missions. Jordan came home from France singing their praises. I suspect Madison will be on board as soon as her delicate feet hit the cobblestones of Frankfurt.
- We bought this bag for Madison's scriptures and books. Jordan had a similar bag from Fossil and loved it. (Did you know they aren't even allowed to carry backpacks? What up?) Also, we waited to purchase until we received a coupon via email -- so sign up with Fossil.)
- Check with family and friends for a camera. There is little use for a point and shoot camera anymore, so there is likely a used camera available at little to no cost.
- Get a list of usernames and passwords for essential accounts. We ran into trouble when Jordan was on her mission and we needed the tax form to deduct her tuition (hello? we got audited on that!). Also, they might not remember their usernames and passwords when they return . . . so the list is doubly helpful at that point.
- Do what you can to lessen the "build up" of leaving. Avoid lamenting that this is the LAST Chipotle burrito or the LAST bowl of queso or the LAST movie for 18 months. Just avoid the emotional and mental torture when you can.
- Once they actually depart . . . do something for yourself. After dropping Madison off at the MTC, I skied for the next three days straight. It was exhilarating and distracted me from the sad parts of the leaving. I'm pretty sure a couple of movies and a dinner out would have worked well also, but I was in Utah . . . and there was snow . . .
If anyone wants to follow Madison's missionary adventures, I'm posting her weekly emails at maddiesmish.wordpress.com.