Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Bella starts college in a couple weeks. Thankfully, she is attending college locally for her first year. I may not have to leave her on campus right now but I know it’s coming. And who are we kidding? Everything changes the moment they graduate. As a mom, you can feel it in your bones. The letting go happens at lightening speed. I barely recognize her from who she was in May. It is the beginning of the end of their time as “your little one” and the beginning of them becoming their own. All of my friends are sending their kids away to college over the next few weeks. Last night, I dreamt of going away to college. It’s been many years since I first went away to college. I’d forgotten how hard it was. There are some things we need to keep in mind when sending our kids off to college.
These days, I mostly remember how amazing it was, much like how these days the pain of labor feels like a very distant memory. The only thing remaining is the insanely immense love for my daughters. But last nights dream was a refresher in going away to college 101 and I wanted to remind some of you, especially those of you whose children will be going away to college later this summer.
Things to Keep in Mind When Sending your Kid Away to College
Lonelier than I ever thought it could be. Those first few weeks, I wanted to come home 1000 times. I felt so isolated and out of my element. At home, I lived in a small house with a big family and suddenly I was alone in a 12×12 room in a city where I knew no one and had no car (freshman usually aren’t allowed). Cell phones were in existence but what college kid could afford one or the astronomical fees to use one? I’d left behind my life, my family, my friends, my boyfriend and everything I’d ever known. I went from a situation where everyone knew and loved me to no one knowing me and know one caring what I’d done up to that point.
It’s a new beginning
That sounds great, especially if you didn’t necessarily love the reputation you had up until that point. You are free and you can be whomever you want to be. In fact, this is what college is all about…growing up and becoming who you are meant to or want to be. You could start all over from scratch. One little problem, I loved who I was or at least who I appeared to be from the outside. I had worked really hard building my reputation, my circle of friends and how people saw me. At university, I was back to square one and I was all alone. I was finally the boss of me and I wasn’t sure it was all that it was cracked up to be.
It’s time to start adulting
For the first time in my life, I had to make my own decisions and I wasn’t equipped for the choices. Up until then, my parents had kept a very tight leash on my life. They made it very clear that they were the adults and I was the child and they made the rules. How the hell was I supposed to know how to make my own rules? How was I supposed to know what or where my boundaries were? Suddenly, I was faced with questions and situations I’d never been asked before and I had no idea what to do so I floundered ( a lot), made mistakes and got into some sticky situations. I’d like to say luckily I came out unscathed but that would be a lie. I learned the hard way. Adulting for me was like being thrown into the ocean without ever being taught to swim.
It’s wonderful and scary
A lot of the time, I felt like a kid pretending to be an adult and hoping not to get caught. On somedays, I still do. It was empowering to find out who I was apart from my parents. I discovered things I didn’t know about myself before and realized my parents truths were not necessarily mine because we came from different upbringings. But I also realized how scary it is to be the one in charge and making all the decisions for myself. It was terrifying realizing that there was no one to come running to pick up all the pieces when I blew up my life, just me.
As scary as it was being left in a new place all alone, it was exhilarating. I really thought I might puke and cry when my mom drove away on drop off day. My roommate had made other housing plans and for the first time in my entire life, I was alone in the silence with my thoughts. I remember my first grocery run, walking around the tiny campus grocery choosing late night snacks and drinks that I wanted. It felt empowering because it was the first time I’d ever been able to make the decision solely based on myself. Making new friends, joining clubs, going to classes, learning my way around and just existing was exciting and new. I realize now that’s what college is all about, not just learning but growing into an adult.
It’s super hard and super scary until it’s not. That’s just how life works. There are definitely ways not to make the process so isolating and lonely but at the end of the day, your child has to go through this alone, without you. More if that freaking letting go that I hate so much. All of this to say, your child has no idea what’s in store or the myriad of emotions that they’ll feel once you pull away so try to keep that in mind when they’re trying to push you away.
The truth that no one realizes and you may have forgotten is that they’re even more afraid of being let get of than you are of letting go. Hug them a little tighter over the next few weeks, be a little more compassionate and make sure they know that you will always be their soft place to land. They don’t know, what they don’t know. What they do know, what they feel in their bones, is that life is about to change in huge ways for them and beneath the excitement and bravado, they are, as we’ve always known, still just our little kids underneath, on the brink of becoming who they are meant to be. Be there to help them up and dust them off when they fall but, you have to also let them stumble so they learn the right path for themselves.