A few of my “forever friends” and I have a group text where we talk about pretty much everything life has to offer. Funny Memes? Yep – mostly me, and mostly somewhat inappropriate, go figure. Things we’re proud of, things we’re nervous about, things we accomplished? All of that. Hard days, scary situations, what the hell do I do’s? You know it. Sometimes it’s active, and we pick up our phones to 73 text notifications. Sometimes it’s quiet for days and days. Somehow, though, it’s become part of my daily thoughts; a reminder of my people and the things I hold close and carry with them. A gift of solidarity.

As you’d imagine, this time of year it’s full of all the back to school milestones. We’re a pretty diverse group as far as life events are concerned. We have an empty-nester, a mom of a first time preschooler and everything in between. We have moms of neuro-diverse kids who will in some capacity be in our care for longer than we originally envisioned. This year, in our circle, there’s a few of our tiny babies off to their first year of college being actual full grown adults. There’s no explaining this or preparing for it until you’re in it. I don’t care what anyone says. You can’t know the sheer terror and pride and heartbreak all rolled into one until you drive away from that dorm and leave your baby, or until they walk out the same front door but head to a college campus instead of freaking kindergarten. IT’S NOT THE SAME!

This has me feeling a little (okay, obviously a lot) wistful today. There were days/years we weren’t sure how we were going to get our oldest from adolescence to adulthood, or what shape any of us would be in once we got there. Life handed that girl a tough road and it took its toll early. Each of those mamas in that group chat have been there for us at some pivotal time to offer support, hope, love…whatever we needed. They all know the pain and anxiety and sometimes hopelessness I carried in my heart at times.

So today, as we were sharing memories and photos and disbelief that these babies of ours are growing up in the most amazing and baffling ways (even that tiny preschooler!) I went into my baby’s room (the one who has already moved out and then found her way back) and snapped a photo of her still squishy sleeping face and sent it to the mamas.

“A reminder: no matter how far they go, what they face, how hopeless it might feel in certain seasons, we are always their mamas and they always come back home.”

We are home. Our soft, squishy bodies a safe place to land. Our strong hands and backs, the strength they need. Our tired eyes, always willing to wake up and see them exactly as they need to be seen. No matter where we come from, we can be that for them. We’ve gotten them through so much. Even when they stretch their wings and push us away, they do so because they know it’s safe to, that we will always be there for them when they need home. No matter how old they are, where their lives have taken them, and even if they are creating home for their babies. We are their home. This is the hope and the peace of letting them go.

They always come home.