Flying the Coop.
My daughter and I were driving past Bed, Bath and Beyond a few weeks ago. In my town, they always have a display of items for sale on the sidewalk outside the store. Mostly seasonal, it’s fun to peek at the cornucopia of merchandise as I head towards my destination. On this particular Saturday, I saw dorm room rugs, dorm decor and all things college related. My heart sank just a little bit as a year ago this summer, my son was preparing to head off to college.
I remember trying to cram as many activities and time together as I could last summer thinking (in my warped way) that once he leaves for college, It was never going to be the same again.
In truth, it hasn’t been.
Since leaving last August, he’s only been home a handful of times. He’s 14 hours away by car, so he can’t just drive home to do his laundry or get away from friends and decompress from college life for the night or the weekend. I know that being that far from home can’t be easy for him either. I’m sure there are times that he misses us more than he’d like to admit. I know that I miss him more than he will ever know.
For those of you with children heading off to college this summer, here are some tips to help you get through it:
Prepare for ugly tears. Even if you’re not a cryer, saying good-bye and walking away is a moment like no other in your life. This was the part I dreaded the most. Bring tissues and cry a much as you need to. As I left him in his dorm, 18 years of memories came flooding into my mind and I could not believe that he was an adult and ready to be on his own. I wasn't ready - but that was was my issue, not his.
Don’t linger. It's going to be tempting to stick around and unpack all of their belongings but don't. Make their bed, unpack a few essentials, but let them handle the brunt of it. Of course, you’d like to linger - but your child will be chomping at the bit for you to go. Don’t use it as an excuse to stick around, no matter how much you want to. Remember, this is about them, not about you. Ultimately, they're ready to taste their new freedom. Let them.
Say it in writing. I knew I’d be a basket case and wouldn’t be able to tell my son everything I wanted to, so Ieft a card for him under his pillow - figuring that he’d find it easily and read about how much I loved him, how proud I am of him, etc. I thought it was a brilliant plan but the funny thing is, he didn’t read it until about 3 weeks after drop off! Regardless, it made me feel better and he still has it and he's told me that he still reads it from time to time. That makes me smile.
Prepare for some separation. Know that you won’t hear from them much the first few weeks of school. Don’t take it personally. They are getting acclimated to their new world, making new friends and establishing themselves as being independent. Check in, but give them space. Eventually, you will hear back from them and you’ll establish an ongoing pattern of communication.
Be proud of your success. The first few weeks are the hardest, I think. I was so worried about how he was adjusting; whether he was partying and/or making good choices; if he was going to class and doing well in his academics. In the end, I realized, that he was doing all the right things. I raised a good kid, I had nothing to worry about.
I remember a friend telling me years ago ‘we raise our children to grow up and be independent’ and she was right. It’s hard to let go, but it’s amazing to see your child grow into the person they were meant to be.
My son is an incredibly bright, ambitious and independent young man and he’s on a path to HIS future, not mine. He makes decisions that impact his life and his career. While we talk about them and I help him process his choices - ultimately, it’s up to him to decide how he wants to live his life and I’m VERY proud of him for making the choices that he has.
For those of you with children flying the coop within the next few weeks, hang in there. I know how you feel. Keep you emotions in check and don’t let yourself turn to food in order to cope with the sadness or the anxiety. You’ll get through this…
Bee healthy. Bee happy.