I have come to realize that dropping your child off for their first year of college is not a natural or easy process for a mother. While my daughter is a strong, independent young woman who often ventures out on her own, and even spends summers away working on Cape Cod, the act of sending your son or daughter into the first chapter of adulthood has a biological effect that I didn't expect.
Leading up to our drive from Boston to the University of Virginia, and now a week past the great departure, my biological rhythms are off-kilter, and my world has shifted, forcing me to adjust. Nighttime dreams revolve around Anna's life at school, and one night I woke up in a sweat after the all-too-common test-taking dream —you know the one where you didn't attend one class or read the book and then had to sit down to take the test? My daily activities at home or at work are frequently interrupted with pangs of missing her and a deep yearning to know what she's up to, how she's feeling, and who she is meeting. At the same time, I know this process is about her growth and developing her "figure it out" skills so she can be a successful and resilient adult. My practical side keeps me from reaching out with random questions or advice.
The support from friends who have already gone through this process helped me during the actual goodbye. Their texts and calls made the drop off easier. I am a firm believer that it "takes a village," and knowing you aren't alone through a situation is always comforting to me during times when life takes a difficult or emotional turn. I will do the same for other friends moving forward now that I know the emotions paired with your child leaving the nest.
Practically, with one less person at home, daily routines are naturally redefined. I now have to remember what it's like to plan meals for four people instead of five. There is less laundry, one extra room in the house, and a lonely car with no driver that will sit in our driveway. Our family chat has a subgroup without Anna, who I know doesn't want to be bothered with details about carpools and logistics for her sisters and their activities.
At UVA, they tell us to "hold on loosely" once the kids are there. They urged us to let our kids work through their stress and navigate complex situations on their own which is necessary to excel in an unpredictable world. My generation's parenting style is criticized for holding on too tightly to our kids, to the detriment of their mental wellness. For me, a mandate to let go was actually liberating. I saw it as a pass to stop being her problem solver. However, as someone who loves to give advice, it was important to me to send her off with my thoughts one last time. With so much to say I narrowed down my suggestions with the help of articles I found on the Internet and through social media. I hope this helps if you are looking for a way to map out all the advice swirling in your head. And yes, I did get on Snapchat!
So much to say before you leave for college!
- Most importantly we are so proud of you!!
- Go with your instincts- if it feels wrong, don’t do it. Take calculated risks!
- Go to your professors for office hours. You love relationships with teachers and college is no different. They are there to help you. Go introduce yourself at the beginning and keep in touch. This makes school more enjoyable for you
- Sleep well and eat well!! Exercise!!! It will make a huge difference for you.
- Nothing good ever happens after 1am!!
- We aren’t there to track you, so respond to our texts and calls. We won’t bother you often. Let us know if there is a better way to communicate. Is snapchat easier? Also return calls-texts from your high school friends, your sisters and grandparents. These are important people in your life who love you and will ALWAYS be there for you. And of course respond to your professor's emails!
- Join Clubs!! Play intramurals. Go to lectures, movies, sports events and performances. At these things you will find your people and college offers so many different interesting experiences that are readily available!
- Your people will change. You are going to meet people and then move on to others. Let it happen..That’s ok.
- There will be amazing days and days when you feel lonely and overwhelmed along with many of the other students feeling the same way. Bad days don’t make for a bad life.
- When something happens that feels complicated try to figure it out on your own and work through it before you call us. Let us know about the good times too!
- If you are doing something new for the first time, don’t measure success on the outcome. It could be a train wreck, but that’s ok. Focus on the learning during the experience and take away a nugget you learned from that process and use it to help achieve your goals the next time. Nobody ever has perfection. Give everything 110% and whatever happens, you put your head down at night knowing you did your best.
- Don’t be quick to make judgements- give people a chance. If they disappoint you it's not personal, they are just trying to figure out who they are. Yes, still! I know I told you this in middle school too.
- Focus on the “glimmers” not the “triggers”. Focus on the glimmer of light that enters your day- there will be so many! If that's your main focus the triggers won’t seem so drastic.
- You are a strong, intelligent and independent woman! Go get 'em. We will always be there for you when you need us.
- Thank you for being such an amazing person and daughter. ( A good reminder from UVA's President)