Parents, I Stand With You.

Friends, many of us have recently taken our kids to college and LEFT THEM THERE! I've read lots of blogs and taken the advice of some very wise women who've charted this path before my time, but I still wasn't fully prepared for what it would feel like.

For those of you still reeling a bit, I'm with you. For those of you yet to experience this normal, healthy progression in life, here are some things you should know:

  1. When you pack up your child's room, you will discover that there is way too much crap. This is not the best time to go through every cubby and drawer and keepsake box. You do not have the emotional stamina to endure a walk down memory lane as you are sending a piece of your heart away. Resist the urge. You'll be wrecked soon enough.
  2. When you unpack them in their dorm or apartment on campus, there are two main objectives. First, you want them to feel as comfortable as possible, so you wash everything in your family detergent, you fill their mini-fridge with favorites from home, you help them set up their room for function and familiarity, because that will all help with the transition. Second, you want to make sure they survive the night so you take the campus map and highlight the health center and emergency numbers and all the various places where they can find food and water. And maybe you have a little refresher course on the buddy-system and stranger-danger.
  3. When you tour the campus, every corner, every hedge, every narrow passageway feels like it could be a potential crime scene where your child is the victim. Then you're really glad you got the two-pack of pepper spray, and you might suggest she looks for a self-defense class, just in case. (Maybe this is just with girls??)
  4. When you see your college student interact with her RA, his roommates, her fellow students, the dining-hall-check-in-lady, you are impressed and proud and a little baffled that you had something to do with that. The confidence, the friendliness, the spirit they possess...WOW! Then you feel a tad bit better about them managing things on their own.
  5. When you say good-bye and hug her for the last time, it's gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, heart-breakingly sad.
  6. When you walk through the airport with big fat tears running down your face, most people will avoid eye contact. But some will inquire kindly and listen to your story and say they understand because they've been there. Maybe you'll feel momentarily better - part of a tribe of parents who have survived this unnatural, awful parting. But when you leave the nice, strong, reassuring strangers to board your plane, you'll find that the tears were not done with you.
  7. When you get home, even though their room is still cluttered and messy and you can sense their presence and know they'll be back soon, the house feels weird. Off. Empty. Lonely. And oh-so-wrong.
  8. When you settle into bed that first night, you may request a proof-of-life photo. At first she won't know what that is. But then she'll think you're funny. You weren't being funny.
  9. When you see your other kids miss their sibling, your heart breaks a little more.
  10. When you see your spouse pause at the door to her empty room, that just about takes you down.
  11. When you talk to other moms, you realize that everyone's experience is a little different. None is more right or wrong, weak or strong. Just different. And there's comfort in those conversations with your sisters-in-life.
  12. When you talk to other dads, you realize that men are really good at compartmentalizing. And maybe, for like a second, you wish you were a man. 
  13. When you get that first text, you are totally cool and love how fun texting your grown-up-child-friend is. And then you transfer some money just because you're so happy.
  14. When you get that first call, you take it more seriously. It feels like every word has to be perfect because for the first time in their life, they can control the frequency of contact and the conversation. And more than anything, you really want them to WANT to call home.
  15. When you get the first FaceTime call, you notice your adult-child looks different. Like they grew a little overnight. And you realize how much you missed seeing them and how much their expressions reveal about their time away. The way her eyes light up when she's excited. The way his smile stretches all the way to his eyes. The way her laugh crosses miles to warm your soul. The way his voice tells you exactly how he's feeling. You also realize that they really are fine, even if they're not quite sure yet.
  16. When you hang up, you wonder if she knows how much you miss her. Did you tell her? Then you wonder if you'll make her sad if you say it too much, either because she feels the exact same way. Or worse (better maybe?), she doesn't. 
  17. When you talk the next time, you'll listen more, you'll take her lead, you'll let him share. It's the job now: ADAPTING. And you'll re-engineer your role as parent, until like Goldilocks, her favorite bedtime story when she was five, you get it just right.  
  18. When you adjust to the new rhythm in the house, in your day, in your week; when you sleep through the night without waking up in a panic at 3 a.m.; when you can finally do the laundry she left behind, you feel a little bit like a superhero who truly can endure anything. Because you just did probably one of the hardest things that parents are tasked to do in life: love them good and let them fly. 
Stay strong parents-of-college-kids. We're all going to be fine.


Photo cred: Tim Gouw, Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

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