Roots and Wings {sponsored}

When I was a junior in high school looking at colleges, I wrote away to about 10 schools in the state of Virginia requesting application information. I had never had one school that I was dying to attend all my life as some kids do, and I had no idea where I wanted to go. All I knew was I wanted to be a teacher.

At first I focused my college search in my home state of Virginia. Most of my friends were looking at Virginia schools because there are so many good colleges available, and in-state students get reduced tuition rates, so most kids don’t see the need to leave the state for college.

I was intimated at the idea of a big state college, so I started writing away to smaller schools. I thought a small private women’s college might be cool (Virginia has quite a few) so I requested admissions packets from several of those. I also requested packets from several small to mid-size co-ed state schools. I might have talked about one more than another for a time, but no one college truly beckoned me.

There was only one out-of-state school I considered: Gordon College, a smallish Christian liberal arts college just north of Boston, Massachusetts.

There was something enchanting about attending college in the Northeast . . . about going far away from everything that was familiar, somewhere none of my friends were going, and doing my own thing.

My aunt had gone to Gordon College, and my mom would talk wistfully of it. She had wanted to go away to school but her family couldn’t afford it at the time so she went to a nearby state school in Maine. By the time her sister came along many years later, the family’s finances were such that she was able to go away to a private college and she chose Gordon.

The summer before my senior year of high school, when I was knee-deep in college application packets from Virginia schools, my family took their annual vacation to Maine. We decided to stop and tour Gordon College on the way. We flew into Boston and met my aunt who still lived in the area, and she took me over to see the campus.

I remember getting off the plane that day, walking into that crisp, cool, New England summer air, and declaring passionately, “I have to live here!!!!!”

I think I knew then that’s where I’d end up.

My mom encouraged me without trying to influence my decision. It wasn’t like she was trying to live vicariously through me, but I sensed that she would be pleased to give me an opportunity that she couldn’t have — if that is what I wanted.

After touring the campus, I came home and sent out one single college application — to Gordon College.

I was accepted and we began to make our arrangements.

Gordon College Sweatshirt

Jo-Lynne circa 1990 {scary!}

I loved my college experience and living in the Boston area. I’ve never regretted going so far from home. A tiny piece of my heart still belongs to Massachusetts.

The summer before my senior year of college (I stayed in the area for the summer to work), I met a boy from Philly. He was attending a nearby seminary preparing to be a pastor, and our relationship took off rather quickly.

A few days after our first date, my parents drove up from Virginia to pick me up on their way to Maine for our annual family vacation.

I remember saying to my mom, the first second I saw her and had a chance to tell her about my new boyfriend, “I think I’m in very intense like!”

You have to understand, for me, that was pretty serious. I had never dated much, and I wasn’t one to fall in love at first sight. I’d always been very practical where boys are concerned. I’m sure I talked of little else on that trip. Paul and I chatted on the phone a few times during my vacation, and I looked forward to getting back to Massachusetts to see him.

My mom told me as we were sitting around the camp one of those lazy days in Maine, “He’s the one.”

And she was right, even though I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, it would be many months before I was sure he was “the one” — but she knew even before she met him.

When I questioned her as to why she would say that, she just shrugged and said, “The time is right. You’re at that age.”

And then: “I always knew when I sent you away to college that you’d never come home.”

Jo-Lynne and Paul

Paul and me, Gordon College graduation, 1994

It hit me then, the sacrifice of love she made when she encouraged me to attend college in Massachusetts rather than go somewhere close to home.

As a parent, she had the power to keep me close to home. She could have easily told me she couldn’t afford to send me out of state to school. It would have been perfectly reasonable for her to require me to choose a less expensive state school — there were plenty of good ones.

She also had the power as a parent to manipulate me into making a decision to stay in state, by subtly influencing my choices, had that been her parenting style.

She chose to do neither.

My mom knew what an amazing experience it would be for me to go away, how much it would do for my confidence and my personal growth. But she also knew that I’d probably never come back home to stay.

Our family in Maine, summer 1995

Our family in Maine, summer 1995

As a mom with three kids still under my own roof, I often think about the choice she made back then. I realize that there’s no guarantee that I’d have stayed in Virginia forever had I chosen a college in my home state, but it was pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn’t come back if I went away.

Nowadays we sometimes commiserate that I don’t live closer so that she can see my kids more, but we have no regrets. We both know I’m in the right place, and I am so very thankful for her sacrificial love — for putting my wants and needs above her desires.

I had someone tell me once that it was her job as a mother to give her kids roots and wings. I love that analogy, and now that I have kids of my own, I guess I’m in the roots stage of parenting. Giving kids roots is no easy task, for sure. But I also realize how hard it’s going to be when it comes time to give them their wings.

My mother wanted me to have the opportunity to spread my wings and fly. Whatever that might look like for me, she couldn’t have known, but she knew that she could give me the chance by letting me go.

My greatest wish for each of my kids is that they will have the opportunity to chart their own paths. As I look ahead in my parenting journey, I know that I will have similar forks in the road. There will come a time when I have the power to hold my kids back or let them go, and I can only hope that I have the wisdom and the confidence to let them fly when the time is right.

What is your greatest wish for your children? Do you have one defining moment in your life that you feel you changed your path forever? I’d love for you to tell me about it.

You can also share how your parents or kids make you feel loved on the website I Am Loved  to help a child like Joanna and her family get $1 closer to fulfilling her wish.

This is my second of three posts as an ambassador for Helzberg Diamonds and their support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s I Am Loved campaign. For every story shared on the I Am Loved page, $1 is donated to the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.


  1. Christina says

    Ahhhh……LOVE this JoLynne! Roots and wings makes perfect sense! I’m helping my oldest with her “wings” now. She is looking at schools and initially she was looking at the state school that is just 10 minutes from our home. She has grown up going to football, basketball and baseball games, track meets, gymnastic meets and other activities there. She is very familiar with the campus and the majority of her friends will go there. I knew she wanted to go there simply because her world was small and it was comfortable. I told her ( while it was ripping my heart out!) that she shouldn’t make a decision until she had visited AT LEAST one other campus.
    She has recently visited several more college campuses and has had coaches come visit her to share their campuses with her. It has been so fun to watch her horizons broaden! It’s like a whole new world has opened up! It’s such a bittersweet thing. Watching their wings begin to spread – but you also know what that means……they will eventually take flight.
    While she still has the local college in mind ( they DO have a great track program!) she is seriously considering a couple of out of state schools. As much as this mamma’s heart would love for her to stay close – she has an opportunity to really bloom and that’s what I want for her. Even though it. is. killing. me.
    Thanks for posting……LOVE your 90’s hair :)

    • says

      Those aren’t tears… I’m sure it’s just sweat left over from my morning run.

      Seriously, you’re making me so sad! LOL. But giving her encouragement to broaden her horizons is the BEST gift you could ever give her. Seriously. xoxoxo

  2. says

    I grew up in Virginia and really, really thought I would go to school out-of-state. I was a writer and dreamed of places like Emerson College. But it ended up God wanted me right in my hometown and I went to University of Richmond, but lived on campus. It was THE perfect place for me and I met my darling husband there. (My parents joked they sent me to UR to FIND a wealthy man from the north, and I managed to find Mr. Scholarship from South Carolina … hehe.)

    BUT when we graduated I was so ready to get out of Richmond and moved a 10-hour drive from my family. It was so hard as a new bride, but my mom told me it was the best thing for her marriage when she moved away from her home, and it was the best for mine, too. I am so glad they gave me roots and wings!! And now they’ve moved around and are moving 6 hours away, the closest we’ve been since I graduated college. It’s exciting!

    • says

      UR was one of the schools I considered! :-) Six hours is the distance I live from my parents. It is nice that it’s a doable drive for a weekend, but it’s still a haul. :-( I wish they lived within an hour or two so we could see them more.

  3. says

    Aww such a sweet and beautiful post Jo-Lynne! I dread the day my kids leave for college because I too know that they will probably not come home.

    I think there’s no doubt in my mind that I will let my kids explore all college options, despite geographical locations. Would I be thrilled if they stayed in PA? Absolutely. But like you, I was hours from my parents and I had the best 4 years of my life. I don’t want to limit my kids at all and want to give them wings as your Mom did 😉

  4. fitzwoman says

    this post is hitting close to home for me. I live in MA and my husband and I are encouraging our daughter to look at schools in VA, SC, and NC for the very same reasons your mom wanted you to come to MA!! I just told her today to get her final list ready so we could book our flights to go visit this summer. There are many great schools nearby, but I think it would be great for her to experience living in another part of the country.

  5. Audrey - Mom Generations says

    This post made me tear up! So beautiful. It’s something I know will happen fast, but trying not to think about yet!

  6. karen c says

    This post moved me to tears. My daughter is getting ready to start her Senior yr of HS. Some days she talks about attending college locally, but she is also considering enlisting in the military. If she does that, she won’t ever come back home. I pray for the strength not to hold her back. My mother gave me the courage to move to Germany when I was 19. I want to be able to do the same for my daughter, and I will. It will be the hardest thing I will ever do.

  7. Susan says

    As the mom of a 14 year old girl……this is a great post! I could totally manipulate my daughter into staying super close to home. But then who am I to interfere into God’s amazing plan?

  8. says

    Love the trip down memory lane Jo-Lynne! The ’90s were ghastly style-wise, weren’t they?

    I try not to think about my kids getting old enough to move away. With 2 boys, I have to accept that they’ll pretty much be doing that when they graduate high school. BUT, it IS my dream for them to travel and see the world and make the most of this life so while I know it will hurt, I also think it will be my greatest accomplishment to see them on their own, with all the tools I gave them.

  9. says

    Gah, this made me tear up! Beautiful post Jo-Lynn, I love the term “roots and wings” it is also what I want for my own children. They are still so small though, I don’t want to think about it quite yet..

  10. Mama Obito says

    What a beautiful post. My kids are also still very small, but as a parents my husband and I are keep talking about their education, best college and university to go for, scholarship program than may suit them. It is sound silly but, we are looking forward to see them growing….

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