Dear Moms of New College Students,
I sure wish we could sit down and talk about this over coffee. I really do. I’d bring tissues and we’d laugh and cry and share stories of when our kids were little. We would wonder together how they grew up so fast. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were taking first day of Kindergarten pictures and the bus seemed so big and scary?
You’ve bought every supply, snack and organizational gadget known to man. Your comforter matches your sheets that match the little curtain that goes across “the closet”. You’ve bought the new computer and enough paper to last their entire college career. Pens, pencils, loose paper, paperclips (because you just never know…), a lock for the computer, erasers, Raman noodles, peanut butter crackers…
Can I make your bed? Just this last time…because at least this way you will have peace of mind that they are getting in a bed that was made with love. Can I help you organize your things…so at least for the first couple of days you will know where everything is…sigh…
And now here we are…not believing we just left our baby (and part of our very being) to fend for himself. What if he forgets to eat breakfast? Or take his vitamins? Who will make sure she wears a coat or wakes to the alarm? What if they get lost? Did I remember to tell her to walk in groups? Did I leave them enough quarters for the laundromat? Will they even know how to use the dorms washer and dryer? Did I explain sorting the laundry well enough? What about supplies…what if they run out? Will they get enough sleep? Anybody else??
We’ve had the college drop off with three kids so far and survived all three of them. It was a different experience with all three. Our oldest, Nate, was so excited to go that he BARELY let me make his bed and help him put things away before he was swooshing us out the door. Macey found us things to do (including a last minute must have-these-things shopping trip to Target and one last walk around campus to help her find her classes) and even then had to practically peel her off us before we left. (That’s her in her apartment window the SECOND year we dropped her off!) Mackenzie was moving in with her sister so that one was the easiest yet.
You all! I get it! College drop off day is a beautiful blend of feeling sad and proud, emotional and excited with a hint of melancholy…all ground together for an aroma unfamiliar to you. Here are some things I learned along the way…
- Your Family Dynamics WILL Be Different (and it’s not all bad)
This was so weird for me the first time we moved a kid to college. We would have family dinners or go to someone’s sporting event and it was just so odd to not have everyone there. I found myself thinking we shouldn’t do this or that because we weren’t all together. Can I just say this gets easier as time goes on…it really does.
Then there are the times when your newly independent college kid comes home for the weekends and the summers. They need a gentle reminder from time to time that your home is not a frat house and they do have siblings to consider.
The flip side of that is you will be appreciated for every single nice thing you do for them when they come home. The cookies you bake or their favorite meal you cook suddenly becomes THE best thing they have ever tasted. The clothes and bedding you wash suddenly becomes THE best smelling laundry in the entire universe. And you love doing it!! They appreciate their siblings and like going to their extra-curricular activities. You begin to wonder who this person is but you like it!!
Having three now adult children has been an absolute blast and it is a joy to watch them become their own people. I promise you will get there!
- Give Them Space But Be There For Them
This one is hard. Especially if you’re a bit of a, shall we say, helicopter Mom. Who am I kidding…it’s hard even if you aren’t. You have to give them room to goof. They have to be responsible for their own time management and figuring things out. Will they make mistakes? Absolutely! But those are the lessons that stick.
There is this delicate dance between letting them go and stepping in. We assumed one particular young adult of ours knew to go to class and turn in his work. That is until we got the confession that he was on academic probation his very first quarter. BUT he had multiple national championships in NCAA football on his PlayStation. One come-to-Jesus meeting with Dad that Christmas break and a threat to move him home so he could go to UC found us looking at a 3.5 the very next quarter.
My girls learned to jump their own cars, not lock the keys in them and how to get their car out of the pound after it got towed…3 times. They figured out how to maneuver campus and talk to their professors and meet new people. They learned how to run the dorms washer and dryer (I think Nate bribed his now wife into doing his laundry) and where all the best food places were. Did they have to call for advice on things? They sure did. And we were there for them in those moments.
Sometimes we waltzed. And sometimes it was the hustle. We stepped on each other’s toes and fought to take the lead but in the end we learned a rhythm that worked for each of us…and so will you.
- Practice NOT Making a Shocked Face
They will come home with some interesting stories. Some they will share with you completing forgetting you once nursed them and spanked their behinds and bathed them with Baby Magic so you could sniff them while they fell asleep on your chest. That baby you rocked and walked until the wee hours due to teething or colic? They tell these tales forgetting that THAT is the sweet angel you left on campus.
So when you’re oldest comes home at Thanksgiving and tells you about an awesome Halloween party on his co-ed dorm floor where one girl was wearing a scarf…..and NOTHING else. To which I asked, “What was she supposed to be?” To which he replied, “Does it matter??” (Yep. I got to practice being shocked on the inside while remaining calm, cool and collected on the outside very early on.)
Your college student will take classes and learn things that are contrary to what they were taught or how they were raised. They will meet people of different backgrounds, faith, beliefs, and preference. They will be exposed to things that no matter how hard you think you prepare them, you will have missed something.
Your college student may even question if she believes the way you do about anything…politics, faith, you name it.
Be that place where they can come home and ask questions and talk through things out loud with you. Learn to listen. Learn to let them wrestle things out in a safe place. No shocked face allowed. (This one took me a bit to master so hang in there if you catch yourself saying, “You weren’t raised like that!” or “Because I said so that’s why!!”)
- Live Out YOUR Faith
On the heels of #3 is this one. My oldest daughter (see Dear College Students) came home saying she no longer believed in “our God” and was either atheist or agnostic, she was trying to decide. I was crushed. I called our pediatrician who is also a friend and Christian and asked his advice since he had grown up agnostic until his 40’s. He said one thing his Mom did and did well was live out her faith. If she was praying for him, she would tell him. If they prayed before meals, they continued, even when he was there. So I did just that. I LIVED OUT not PUSHED ONTO my faith.
One thing I learned during this time was I had to know WHY I believed what I believed. Macey would come home with some tough questions from what she had heard in some classes or from conversations with her new friends. I had to hone my apologetics skills and be able to explain from a more scholarly position. Rote Christian answers weren’t good enough. So Mommas practice up and be prepared to give an answer…I think that may even be Biblical!
She needed space to wrestle without getting into a tangle with her parents. There were times when I would let her talk through some things and there were times I explained why I thought a certain way about different subjects…again living out MY faith not telling her why she should believe.
(Ravi Zacharias is great resource on apologetics.)
- Pray Pray Pray
This one is a bit obvious, I suppose, but often a last resort. There is nothing more potent than the power of a praying parent!! Priscilla Shirer says this in her book Fervent (highly recommended), “In order to make sure you’re fully cooperating with Him and with the enormous opportunity embodied in your family structure and its people, they need you to not be on their backs, not be up in their faces, but be down on your knees. Assume a new fighting position.”
It makes a huge difference. Just ask my kids.
(Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter by Janet Thompson is a recent gem I found.)
- Trust God
This one is also hard to do. After all we carried this precious cargo for 9 months, labored intensely with blood, sweat and tears, and raised them right? Yep. I mean I have stretch marks and extra poundage to prove it. But He created them. Knit them together in your womb. He knew your child before your child was even a thought. As much as you love them? He loves them more. They are His and there is nowhere they can wander that He cannot find them.
Moses’ Mom held on to him until she could hold on no longer. Then she put him in a basket and sailed him up the Nile, trusting God with his safety and his future. (Exodus 2)
And God did not disappoint.
Don’t you feel a bit like that right now? You’ve put your kid in a basket (dorm) because it’s time to let him go and you’re sailing him right up the river (campus) to an unknown. You can trust Him Momma. He loves your child just as much as He loved Moses. He has a plan for her. A future and a hope!
Oh, how much I still have to tell you! The lessons I’ve learned and will continue to learn. We have two more to go and then we are done with this part of parenting. Just know this, I feel you! I get it. I really do! You will survive this and you will learn to enjoy watching your babies grow into beautiful, caring, giving adults!! Heck, they even cook dinners on vacation now!
Fiercely for you!