It's August, let's talk about your child leaving for college. Yes, I know it brings up many feelings. One minute you're laughing with them at a Blue Light Special, the next minute you're dissolving into tears.
Leaving for college is a big transition for a family. For many parents it feels like a little death. In a way it is - death to the original family construct. Think about it, for years the focus has been researching prospective colleges, visiting them, talking about what subjects to study, filling out applications, writing essays, meeting deadlines. Then there was waiting for acceptances with hopes and dreams being realized or crashed simultaneously with every daily mail delivery.
Suddenly, the day arrives: the rental van is packed like a biblical camel trying to move through the eye of the needle. Some reports say the camel had to get down on its knees to squeeze through the historical gate. Parents may feel this moment brought them to their knees, too.
When you arrive on campus the excitement is astounding. Where did all these people come from? But inside, right below the exhilaration, we moms feel an aching sadness and an unexpressed fear, "Will she be all right"? If we dig a little deeper, we wonder "Will I be all right"? Here, let me help make up your bed.
These eleventh hour 'momness' acts are understandable – raising our children took 18 years to master! We fed, clothed, drove, enrolled, counseled and consoled this curious, intelligent, talented, creative, petulant genius that we have loved since the first words, "you're pregnant." And dad? He wants his kids to stay away from the beer keg, stay out of trouble and stay permanently on the dean's list. He also realizes his son's yelling over nothing last night was a face-saving technique that 'the dad' didn't take personally. He understands how acting mad keeps everyone from feeling painful separation anxiety.
Moms, millions of parents have made it through this transition and you will, too. Realize lots of parents look back wistfully on the days of Dr. Denton's and Santa Claus. Understand the new way your kids need you now. Assure them they will be fine, you have confidence in their intellectual capabilities, they will make lots of friends and you're only a cell phone call away. When you turn to get back into the van, pull out your calendar, put the first parent's weekend on it, smile as you do, then confidently hug them goodbye. As you drive away, pray they won't do what you did when you were their age, shout out the window to make Every Day Matter and promise them you'll do the same!
Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP
Author of When Every Day Matters
Simple Abundance Press, Oct. 1, 2008