My what a year does! Last year at this time I was sad and emotional about moving our oldest out of the house and into college. Yes, I was giddy with excitement at the thought of her getting to experience all that I did at my Alma Mater, so it was with mixed emotions that we packed up.
This year is a breeze compared to last. But I know there are moms going through the "first time sending one off to college" right now. It's with those in mind that this blog was written.
My daughter only moved 20 minutes away. Some ladies sniffed at my melancholy thoughts by minimizing the transition I was going through. Yes, she was only 20 minutes away, but I maintain that we still entered "adult phase" of life. Her closeness in proximity didn't mean my mental and emotional transition into her adulthood didn't exist, or felt any less. (Well, maybe it would have been worse if it was hours away. I dunno, but I'm testimony that even 20 minutes away can be a tough transition.) Because I knew that I was letting go and changing seasons, whether it was 20 minutes or 20 hours.
I knew that she wouldn't be rushing home often, which was fine. I actually didn't want her to. I would have loved the visit, but I also didn't want her to come by much at first...make sense? Sure our family would have loved to see her sweet face every day, but when she reluctantly picked a college in town, part of the "sell" was that we'd pretend we didn't live here, in a half joking way. She needed to get away. To be on her own. It's totally healthy to want and have that "going away" experience as kids transition into adulthood. I knew I wasn't going to be talking to her every day anymore or have knowledge of, let alone input into, her daily life. I was okay with that, mentally. Common sense told me that was the next normal season of life. I had to let it happen and not try to hang on to the past season of life. For both of our benefits.
There is still the emotional side to get through. When I was sad, I shed the occasional tears, and then found my own way through it, without involving her. I chose to focus on the excitement of her new experiences, which I knew would be incredible. And I chose to focus on giving her needed space, knowing that after awhile, things would even out. (Or so my friends told me who had already been through this). I chose this. Doesn't mean it was always easy, but it was a choice, to press through to that next season. And not get stuck. There was one time I called and asked if she could swing by because everyone really missed her. She tells me now part of what she learned too that first year was about seasons of life.
I do remember not really knowing what to do- if or how much to call, to text, to tweet. Knowing mine, I leaned to not doing much at all. I waited for her to call, or to text. There weren't a ton of calls at first, but quite a few texts with occasional news. That was a big transition because she was the TALKER at home, who talked and talked every day about everything. So really, I didn't know much about what was going on anymore on the day to day, comparatively speaking. But that's OKAY. (not really, if you want to hear whiney-mom's opinion. But I had to make the decision not to listen to my internal whiney-mom, for both our sakes). It was hard at times, and it was sad at times, but I prayed and asked God to help me switch seasons. And He did.
And yes, after time, it did all even out. She tells me now that I did the right thing by giving her space. Everyone said it would all be okay, just different. They're right. And communication normalized and eventually it all smoothed out. We even eventually, by the end of the year, turned into a hang out house for lots of fabulous young people. Woo hoo!
For the sake of all the moms out there not quite sure what to think or do after you drop your daughter off at college, I asked a few young ladies to share some of their experiences and advice to moms. These are girls who just completed their first year at school, away from home. Each have different situations and personalities, so maybe it will benefit to hear a few opinions, since we know there are no absolute "right answers" for every case. They shared their thoughts with me, which I formed into a story from their perspective. I hope to have captured each accurately.
1. My mom and I are close and have always texted and talked a lot. When I moved into my own apartment, there would be a couple days that I didn't hear from her at all. I wondered if I'd offended her. It was weird not to talk to her. Actually my mom missed me a lot but was trying to give me space. The misunderstanding got settled with one simple conversation. I wanted to be on my own and be an adult, but still wanted to hear from her. Advice? Moms can still feel the need to parent at this stage, but let them be an adult. You have parented, given tools and been an authority for 18 years...you've prepared them, so now let them be an adult. (But we still want to talk to you).
2. My mom was very strict in high school, so I was surprised by how she treated me like such an adult when I left for college. Mom brought up the conversation that things are different now...you're in college and I remember how busy it was. She left it up to me to call home. That was perfect. Don't call your daughter every day in college. We would go 4 days or so without talking in the beginning, with maybe short texts daily. Life was so busy, that sometimes I couldn't reply for awhile, but mom never freaked out. In contrast, I knew of other parents who called daily, and if they couldn't reach their daughter, they began calling me and other friends trying to make contact with their daughter. My mom was spontaneous and sometimes drove two hours to show up for an hour lunch then go home, which meant a lot to me. Sometimes my mom didn't have time to talk to me either the exact time I called, which was a little sad, but I realized she had a life that continued after I left, and that was good and okay. It was my mom that got me through many of the stresses of that first year. I could call her when there was a need or when I had leisure time. I didn't feel demands from her. We enjoy a good relationship still. I appreciated the space given.
A friend of mine had an entirely different experience. I watched a friend not only feel pressure from schoolwork and changes, but also pressure from home to emotionally "take care of" her family. This friend felt a lot of stress and obligation to go home and to respond to phonecalls quickly and frequently. Because she cared, obviously she responded to the need. But her friends could see that it stressed her out and limited her experience of her freshman year greatly, even in studies.
3. My mom gave me lots of space. She didn't call a lot at first. I didn't think about it much, so what she did must have been fine. I called home to tell things, texted random things. Advice? Let them have space and let your kid miss you. Yes call sometimes for sure, or if you have a bad feeling, but don't call everyday. I'm sure it's hard, but they'll eventually come back.
4. My guy friend at school had his mom call him twice a day, all the time. He planned his life around it. Everyone thought that was strange. As far as me, I was never really homesick, was very independent. My parents let me live my life and thought "she'll call us". I realized that after two weeks and never calling they were kind of wondering about me... it was totally unintentional! I was so busy and having so much fun, I just didn't think about it, even though I missed them! So I had to find a balance to make time to make those phonecalls. And to pay attention and actually say I miss you. Texting is awesome, because I could respond more easily and quickly. Phonecalls often can't be done quickly, so I would wait until I had more time, which sometimes never happened. I eventually tried to call home once a week. Advice? Let the kids be the ones chasing you. But we do want texts, packages, letters, etc. to know you are thinking of us! (All of these girls said letters are great because they can read them at leisure anytime). And picture text messaging is awesome.
5. My mom called and texted a lot at first and it was hard for her to understand why I couldn't respond right away. But life was SO busy I literally would not have time. First semester was kind of hard to work out an understanding. Later into year we would go for a day or so not talking, and then it was almost weird to not talk to my mom because I always did. I wanted space, but I missed my mom calling when she didn't. It was kind of a journey to figure it out. It was kinda weird and hard. I wanted to know she was thinking of me and didn't want her to completely leave me alone, because she's my best friend and the first one I want to tell everything. But I also knew life was so busy I couldn't be available any time to talk. She eventually understood just how busy I was. We worked it out.
After all that?
I take it that we need to understand that they are on an entirely different schedule (one that only college students can maintain it seems!) and that the hours that are free for them are usually hours that we are snoozing!
You know your daughter's tendencies and personality. Work around her needs, not yours. You're the adult and can work through the season. If you're struggling, find a friend to talk to. Pray. He helps us through things!
Your daughter is just now having a chance to get away, grow up and figure things out. A little space and natural. And needed. If she is the clingy or reluctant one, maybe helping her tough things out a bit will be needed. Each is different.
Are you worried she'll be lonely? Sometimes that's good for us. It'll help grow her up.
Worried she'll never call again? Odds are very low that that's true. It's a short season to get through, in light of the rest of your life.
Stay in contact, probably just not daily. Send those notes, letters, emails, texts, packages or tweets. Let her know you're thinking of her. Text her a funny picture.
Another brilliant thought from a friend of mine, don't stop the family traditions just because one person is missing. Keep life going on as normal as possible for everyone else still at home. Check on everybody else and see how they are doing with the transition too!
Perspective. One short season in a very long life, most likely full of great things to come.