a poem to my son as he leaves for university

To My Amazing Son As He Leaves for University

If only I’d known when you were a toddler and you let all of the other kids snatch whatever you were playing with right out of your hands, that you wouldn’t grow up to be a pushover. 

What I know now is that you’re a giver. It makes you happy to share whatever you have with others. And you’re smart enough to know when someone’s taking advantage of you. 


If only I’d known when you were in nursery school and you were the last to learn your phonic alphabet and the teacher refused to give you a reading book because ‘giving a child a book to read before they’re ready will put them off reading for life”, that you would go on to devour books and be so incredibly clever. 


If only I’d known when you went through your “I can’t do it” stage (learning to zip your coat, tie your laces, ride a bike, flush the toilet in an airplane…), that you’d become someone who knows he can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to. 


If only I’d known, in your first years of school when you wouldn’t leave my side at birthday parties because you were too shy and scared and the music was too loud, that you would go on to be the life of the party and a DJ! 


If only I’d known, back when you were so uncertain of yourself and always asking others what they thought you should do, that you’d become a true leader – an elected member of Youth Parliament and a person who trusts his own judgements and a trusted advisor to others. 


If only I’d known when we moved country two years ago and you came home sad every day missing your old friends and convinced you’d not make new ones, that you’d make the closest group of friends you’ve ever made in your life – and have a brilliant final two years of school.

If only I’d known when you came into my life nearly 19 years ago at a hospital in West London that I would be sitting on a park bench, less than a mile from where you were born, typing this message to you into an app on my ‘smart phone’.  (I’d have not known what that even meant!)  And that you’d be at home with your girlfriend, helping you pack to move to university tomorrow to study International Relations – on your way to making the world a better place. I guess it’s time I accepted that no matter what, you’re always going to be okay. You’ll have your struggles and challenges, and you’ll overcome them, like you always have.

I couldn’t be more proud to be your mother. 


Through my tears I somehow managed to type this and post on social media. It’s received a big reaction, especially from mothers with young children who appreciate the hope and perspective that hindsight provides. It’s now being shared across the internet, so I’ve quickly turned it into a blog post to make it easier to read and share.  

As mothers we simply cannot help but feel worried / concerned about our kids at every stage. When these emotions are honoured in a healthy way, they prompt us to take action where action is needed – or to simply be there to love and support them through the inevitable challenges of growing up. Oh my god – it’s not easy!!! But when the day comes that they fly the nest and you can hand-on-your-heart-believe that you’ve done the best you could – there is no other feeling in the world like it.  Get that vision clear in your mind now and know it to be true. 🙌🏼

I dedicate this to all mamas who are laying a firm foundations for their kids to go off into the world and make it a better place. You’re raising the future which is the hardest, most important and fulfilling job you’ll ever have.   

Positively yours,

In the comments below, share which stage of parenting you’re at and how good you are at keeping a balanced perspective when your child is having a challenging time.

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  1. Sharon on September 24, 2018 at 10:44 AM

    Oh Kelly. This is beautiful and now I’m crying! I worry so much about my 3 and 6 year old for many of the same reasons you used to worry about your son. It’s so reassuring to know that they grow out of these things and turn out okay. Thank you for all you do to help us navigate motherhood. We are following in your wake! Good luck to your son and to you. xx

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:34 PM

      Sorry Sharon, I didn’t mean to set you off! Things will absolutely be more than okay with your kids. Trust that to be true! xx

  2. Sue on September 24, 2018 at 10:50 AM

    My daughter is 8 and I know I worry far too much about her. You are making me reflect back on the things I worried about when she was younger which have all turned out to be fine. I needed to read this today.

    Your son is very lucky to have you as his mother. Well done you!!!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:36 PM

      It’s so good to reflect back on the things we worried about before that turned out absolutely fine. And to then remember that one day you’ll think the same thing about whatever you’re worried about today. Thanks for your lovely message Sue. xx

  3. Angele on September 24, 2018 at 11:11 AM

    A beautiful poem that brought tears to my eyes as well. They grow so quickly, don’t we know. Thanks for the reminder to not worry so much and to continue to be present and trusting of the road ahead. Enjoying each moment.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:36 PM

      Let go and trust. It’s not easy, but it’s what we need to do more of. Keep enjoying each moment Angele. xx

  4. BELEN VILANA on September 24, 2018 at 11:20 AM

    Buenísimo Kelly!! Congrats to both of you! se me sale la lagrimilla….

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I can see myself already in the future in a similar situation. At the beginning of the motherhood journey we are always complaining about not having times for ourselves and hoping they will grow up fast. And then, I know that day it will arrive and I will be lost. You are a great example to all of us. Big kisses!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:39 PM

      No llores Belen!

      Thanks for your lovely message. All so true!!! xx

  5. Fiona Wiseman on September 24, 2018 at 12:11 PM

    Beautiful words Kelly! My baby just turned 12 last week and next year he will be off to high school – not quite the same as university but still a milestone & I know that in just over 11 weeks time when he leaves primary school I will find myself with a tear in my eye. I’m sending you a great big Aussie cyber hug. Love Fiona xx

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:40 PM

      Thanks for the cyber hug from Oz Fiona – I’m feeling it!! These milestones, huh? Embrace it and allow those emotions to flow however they come. Hugs back!! xx

  6. Ana Karina Albarran on September 24, 2018 at 12:21 PM

    Loved it Kelly! I know Max will do very well everywhere he goes, he’s just such a cool, smart, caring and great kid and I really think you did a great job as a mom.!
    Ana Sofia is going off next year and she will be the last of my Mohicans to leave the nest.. 🙂 I’m already emotional about it, trying to spend as much time with her as possible but at the same time like you, I’m excited for her and look forward to a new life next year. Did I tell you we are moving to Ibiza next September for a couple of months to see how it works out ..? Would love to talk soon. Besos chica, te quiero

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:42 PM

      Keep Ibiza warm for us Ana Karina – we’re coming!! How exciting!
      And thanks for your wonderful words. You’re a great mama too. xx

  7. Isabella S on September 24, 2018 at 1:45 PM

    This is so beautiful and moving, Kelly. My eldest son is 17 and I can see it coming, that feeling of emotional overwhelm as he will soon spread his wings too. Yet, the “hand-on-my-heart-belief” that I’ve done the best I could is quite something indeed. Thank you for sharing this and all the rest! Good luck for the coming weeks, I’m sure you’ll find plenty to work on to keep your mind off the sadness. God bless your son.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:46 PM

      Thanks so much Isabella. Yes, creating my Project Me years ago has helped me enormously to have a life of my own outside of motherhood – and it’s one of my goals to make sure other mothers don’t suffer too badly from Empty Nest Syndrome. Sure, we are allowed to feel super emotional (like I am!), but at we mustn’t feel like we no longer have a purpose or don’t know who we are anymore. All the best with your upcoming transitions too! xx

  8. Sandra Buonfrate on September 24, 2018 at 3:12 PM

    Beautiful post Kelly and thank you so much for sharing your emotional state and vulnerability. Important and timely blog for me to read as my 10y old son is going through some sort of emotional transformation as well as deciding on secondary schools for next year. So I have a speed train of thoughts going through my head, as I observe him changing, questioning the choices we are considering and praying that I can help him in this journey without imposing what I think is right and respect what feels right for him. As I was reading some of the stages of your son’s growing and your dilemmas, I could relate and it gave me a great comfort to accept my gut feeling that my sensible son will soon be an independent young man and that he will be fine. Sending you my best hug to comfort you. xxx

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:50 PM

      I’m so happy this post has given you comfort Sandra. Trust your gut! All will be absolutely fine. Hugs back! xx

  9. Honest Mum on September 24, 2018 at 5:37 PM

    So moving Kelly, thank you for sharing, you must be SO proud xx

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 6:57 PM

      I am, thank you Vicki. Proud of him and ME!!! OMG all I ever wanted to do was help him go off into the world independently and not *need* me. And I believe I’ve succeeded. (I even offered to mail order him a fitted sheet when we found that his bed was not a single as we’d thought. He messaged me to say there’s a shop on campus and he’ll sort it out.) This makes me proud and happy, not displaced or redundant. I’m sure he’ll need me for SOMETHING at some point, but I’m strong enough in myself to not rely on him needing me. Roots & Wings!!! xxx

  10. Renee D on September 25, 2018 at 6:18 AM

    As I come off of a challenging night with homework, I read your sweet post and take a big breath. It is all going to be just fine. Many thanks for sharing our hopes, fears and joys. Wishing your son all the best as he starts his next adventure!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 25, 2018 at 7:00 PM

      Oh the HOMEWORK battles!! OMG!! I catastrophised that he’d NEVER be able to do homework independently, without tears – and then one year, it just sorted itself out overnight. Yes, it’s all going to be fine. Deep breaths Renee! xx

  11. Leanne on September 25, 2018 at 8:48 PM

    These sentiments are so beautiful, Kelly! How true that our early worries disappear as our children learn to blossom and grow. Max was able to become his full, wonderful self because of the safe, loving environment you provided for him. Congrats to both of you on such a major milestone!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on September 26, 2018 at 10:42 AM

      Thank you for such beautiful words Leanne. I’m really touched. xx

  12. Louisa on September 17, 2020 at 11:21 AM

    Tearing up here too. So beautiful and wise. My takeaway quote is this:

    ” I guess it’s time I accepted that no matter what, you’re always going to be okay. You’ll have your struggles and challenges, and you’ll overcome them, like you always have.”

    Boom!! Sending so much love to you and your amazing son, Kelly, as you both take the next steps on this incredible journey. xxxx

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