Thursday, August 18, 2016

The post where I give all manner of wisdom on sending your kid to college. Or how to buy a puppy.

Dear Mom who just moved her child to college,

We are on the verge of getting our triplets re-settled for the school year. Mason has been moved into his dorm for a week as he trains for his new job as Resident Assistant (Go Mason! I am super proud you are following in our footsteps!!); Claire will move in Sunday after she travels to Texas to speak at a conference for families with children with Cerebral Palsy (Go Claire! My heart is literally bursting that you are also following in our footsteps!); and Benjamin will again live at home while attending Belhaven which starts Monday (Go Benjamin! Your willingness to stay home is literally saving my heart right now!)!

So you know, this is the second time I have done all this and therefore I should be an expert and have expertish things to say to you. The truth is I searched for wisdom last year. I read volumes about how I had to move on. I read cliches about how I had done my job. I read coping articles. But I will tell you that everything seemed cliche, mundane, and frankly a little too pollyanna.

I didn't feel cliche, mundane, or pollyanna. Maybe you don't either. So today, while admitting I am not an expert, I am going to dig deep and bare my desire is you will find a morsel that gives you hope.

Beginning of Freshman year.

1. It is hard. It is stinking hard and yes, when you see your children thrive and succeed and enjoy themselves you will know you launched them well and that will give you comfort. But hear me loudly, it is still HARD! Let yourself cry. Then find a friend who loves you, who will listen to you whine (cause goodness sometimes we need to whine), who will hear you when you want to brag (cause you will definitely want to talk about your child a lot!),  and then will make you laugh. Eventually, you will laugh more than you whine. You are going to have to trust me here.

2. Believe it or not, it is also hard for your college student. Last year, my Claire was loving college but when she learned her little sister and I had a date at Starbucks, her feelings were hurt because she wasn't with us. Just like you are going to have hard days, your child is too. I talked with young freshmen last year all over the country and they ALL said the same thing, "First semester was so hard." Remember Mamas, as hard as it is for you to see that empty bedroom, it is equally hard on your child to not be in that safe, familiar bedroom -- or having Starbucks with you! You are not the only one dealing with change -- and yes, college is fun and there is so much to love about it, but every single young person I spoke with expressed feeling like a tug-of-war inside themselves. They wanted to be at college, they were loving meeting new people -- but they missed their family, their home, their high school friends. Keep conversations open with your child. Make sure they have a safe place to whine and then don't be surprised if after you take the hour-long phone call that rips your heart out, you see a picture on social media of them smiling like they are having the time of their lives. They are. But that doesn't mean it isn't hard.

3. Lose any expectations of what time together will look like. We just had this conversation last week -- both Mason and Claire expressed that they wanted/needed/desired things to be "just like it used to be" when they would come home from college on breaks. But it wasn't. This could make them grumpy. This did make me grumpy. And then we would spend so much time trying to grin and bear it that the time together would be over before we found enjoyment. Sigh. It occurred to me recently (sadly after freshman year was over...) that this launching young people thing is not that much different than the birthing process was for me. Oh y'all, I would sit beside these teeny tiny babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Center and wish I could put them back safely in my womb so that they could grow in that nurturing, protective place. I couldn't. It wouldn't have been the same. What had once been a place that provided every single thing they needed, would have suffocated them if re-entry was even a possibility. Baby Benjamin, Mason, and Claire needed very different things from me outside the womb. I was still Mommy. But my role was different now.

The same is true today. Starting college signified their birth, if you will, from my home -- from the protective, nurturing nest their Daddy and I worked to maintain for 18 years. Today, College students, Benjamin, Mason, and Claire need something different from me. I am still Mom. But my role is different now.

Accept that your relationship is evolving and trust that the foundation you have built as a family means it will evolve into something wonderful -- just different.

4. If all else fails buy a puppy.

I am not even kidding.

Carol - The Blessings Counter


Stacie said...

YES! I absolutely loved this! As also the mother of a now college sophomore and a high school senior, I am in empty nest limboland. And I'm not happy to be here! I have loved each phase of my children's development, and I love this one too, but I'm not ready for them to only be in touch when they need me. And having just dropped my sophomore off on his mountain, it was so much more emotional for me because the angst of freshman year was removed and it was just pure heartbreak for me. He came home from freshman year a wonderful young man. I love him in new ways - ways that make it hard to say good-bye yet again. Thank you for sharing!!