My daughter attended an independent school in Charlotte from Transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade, and the former head of the school often had wise words to share. One of his favorite phrases? “Finish well.” As the end of each school year approached, I would remind our daughter, “Finish well!” Did she always hear me? She always finished pretty well, so maybe.
Now, the end of her freshman year of college is rapidly approaching. Like a train out of control, freshman year is moving forward at lightning speed. She will be home in less than a week. Less than a week! I find myself saying, “Finish well!”
We moved her into her dorm at the beginning of August. It was an exciting time. It was a scary time. Like lots of moms out there, I was excited for her to experience college, but I was nervous about leaving her 450 miles away. However, I remembered something I had read before:
Put the basket in the water.
I got that sentence from a piece written by Ashlei Woods. You can read it here. “Put the basket in the water” is a reference to the time of Moses, when midwives were ordered by Pharaoh to kill baby boys born to Israelites by drowning them in the Nile. Moses’s mother, in an effort to save her baby, placed him in a basket and placed the basket in the river, in hopes that he would live. I’m no Biblical scholar, but even I remember the story from Sunday School lessons. Moses did live, obviously, and went on to become a great prophet. I certainly don’t expect my daughter to become a great prophet, but I want her to live and become the best person she can be. I want her to live life. And by placing her proverbial basket in that proverbial river (college), I sent her on her way.
Has she learned things in college that will help her in her future endeavors? In short, yes. She has learned something in each class she has taken. She has learned about music, public relations, writing…so much. More importantly, she has learned more about who she is. She has learned how to make friends from lots of different places. She has learned how to handle medical emergencies and automobile situations. She has learned how to make doctor appointments and pick up her own prescriptions. And even though I always tried to expose her to as many new experiences as possible, she has been exposed to even more new experiences. She has learned to manage on her own. Sure, she still gets advice (sometimes wanted, sometimes not) from me, but she is doing it! We still support her financially, but she is doing it! We put the basket in the water, and we trusted God and trusted her.
Have there been hiccups along the way? Yes, but she has learned from each one. Last week, SpaceX launched a test rocket…the most powerful one ever launched. There was excitement surrounding it, but it failed. And afterward, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, seemed happy in spite of the failure, saying they (the engineers, the company) would learn a lot from the failure. He was excited about what they would learn! Those words stuck with me, because this very successful man was reminding the world that we learn from failure. Don’t get me wrong. Our daughter’s hiccups, so far, haven’t been in the classroom. But any hiccups she has experienced along the way have been opportunities for learning. Learning what doesn’t work is how she will learn what does work.
In a few days, we will move our daughter out of her freshman dorm. As she finishes her freshman year, I will remind her several times, “Finish well.” I am already reminding her to start packing things up and cleaning out her room. And after we get her home for the summer, I feel sure we will notice she is a different girl than the one we sent to college in August. She is older. She is more confident. She is more independent. She is more knowledgable. As my own parents said when I came home after my freshman year, “We sent our daughter off to college and got a different person back.” They often joked that I was “switched at college.”
The college parent Facebook pages revisited: advice for freshman moms.
Oh yes, the college parent pages….sometimes it’s the best entertainment of the day. Sometimes, I simply cannot believe what I read from other parents. And yet, rarely, I do get some valuable insight and/or information. Today, a mother of an incoming freshman had a good question:
If you could give any advice/suggestion to a parent of an incoming freshman, what would it be?
Oh, I could think of several things, but I haven’t typed a response to her on the page yet, because I really don’t want to offend anyone on there. I will tell you the things that came to my mind, and then I will tell you the answers from other parents. Personally, I think it’s a good time for this advice, as the parents and students are just starting the high school to college transition process.
My advice/suggestion to the parent of an incoming freshman:
Don’t put anything on the Facebook parent page that could, in any way, embarrass your child. Stop and think before you post. You don’t need to help Little Johnny find a girlfriend. In fact, Little Johnny likely doesn’t want the whole world to know that you still call him Little Johnny.
Let your child figure it out! This one is important! College is a great transitional time in life. If the parents are supportive, it can be a smooth transition from childhood to young adulthood. However, if you always help Little Mary make her schedule or find a roommate, she will never learn these skills for herself. Do you want Little Mary to be dependent on you her whole life? I started college in 1985, but I remember it very well. I also remember that, other than writing the checks, my parents didn’t help me with it. They didn’t help me make my schedule. They didn’t help me find friends or roommates. In fact, I’ve said before that I’m not even sure they knew what I was majoring in at the time. And that was OK, because 1980s parents were way cooler and more laid back than 2020s parents. Be like 1980s parents…let the students figure it out!
Be happy if, when you visit for a football weekend or other busy time, your child doesn’t have tons of time to spend with you. Be happy he/she has friends and activities that are important to her. Don’t get offended and do the “we traveled all this way” speech.
Sometimes, when our students think they won’t have any fun at an activity or on a weekend, they have the best time ever. My daughter once called me and said everyone was leaving the university for the weekend, so she might like to come home. I said, “That’s fine, but it’s not that long before your planned trip home. Try to find something to do, and call me back.” She thought it would be the most bring weekend ever. However, a friend from another school called and wanted to visit her, so she stayed for the weekend, and it was later declared “one of the best weekends ever.”
If your rising freshman student will be attending a university with big football, I, personally, would advise against taking the hardest classes they can take the fall semester (football season). I told my daughter, who attends an SEC big football school, “Take the easiest classes you can take that first semester. You will be adjusting to college life. You will be pledging a sorority. You will be going to football games and everything that goes with that. You want to adjust and enjoy it too, so take a light load.” Fortunately, she listened. And I know some parents might disagree with me on this, but I’m not giving their advice/suggestions. I’m giving mine.
And for the parents: if you’re going to be an empty nester when this child leaves, enjoy your time! Wow! People have asked me if I was sad when our daughter (an only child) went off to college. The answer is a resounding NO. I was (and still am) absolutely thrilled that she gets to experience life at a big university, complete with all the fun and distractions. I’m also glad I’m able to get out and enjoy the things I like to do without having to chaperone anymore. If you need more information about how to enjoy being an empty nester, there are lots of great books on Amazon. Click here.
I’m sure you’re wondering what other parents’ advice/suggestions were, so I’m going to share a few of those too (I did not write these myself):
Don’t worry when they cry and say they have no friends, or a friend hurts their feelings. Second semester everything changes and suddenly everything is in bloom!
Stagger visits. My husband and I plus other family and friends visited separately so our DD had lots to look forward to throughout her time there.
Get a tutor scheduled for any ‘hard’ classes BEFORE classes begin. Once you realize you need a tutor, it is too late!
The first year away from home will be the most difficult. Be mentally prepared for the inevitable feelings of homesickness. This bit of advice helped my DD more than I can tell you.
Prepare for them to be sick first semester. It’s just going to happen when you bring kids together from all over the country, living in close quarters and not eating or sleeping their best. Have a first aid box with over the counter remedies and have a list of phone numbers and addresses for local urgent cares in area with a plan on how to get there if needed. The student health center is great, but not always open for hours needed or can get backed up with appointments.
Know they are smarter, more resilient, and able to think for themselves more than we ever realized. I know all kids are different, but let them make a few “mistakes” along the way…such as over sleeping and figuring out how what dining halls serve what! If they get sick, let them know you are there for them, but they need to find a way to get to the health clinic! We have spent the last 18 or so years thinking and doing so many things for them. I know it’s hard to let go. But, they have to learn to adult and sometimes that includes choosing to do things in ways we wouldn’t. You will be pleasantly surprised at how awesome your kids are at Adulting if given the full chance! And trust me…having 2 daughters (1 has graduated and 1 is in her 2nd year) I have never not helped when they called asking, but I always encouraged them to first talk about ways to fix their issues before just swooping in to do it for them. They usually have the solution and didn’t even know it! Enjoy these last few months with your senior.
Send a meds box: Advil, flu meds, allergy stuff, thermometer, tummy meds . bandages etc.
There were more, but alas, there’s only so much room in this post. If you’re concerned that your rising freshman doesn’t have “adulting” knowledge, maybe help him/her with some books that contain useful information. Here are a few (and these could make great graduation gifts too):
Adulting Made Easy: Things Someone Should Have Told You About Getting Your Grown-up Act Togetherby Amanda Morin. Purchase here.
Adulting for Beginners – Life Skills for Adult Children, Teens, High School and College Students / The Grown-Up’s Survival Gift by Matilda Walsh. Purchase here.
The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive by Jonathan Catherman. Purchase here.
Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition: Manners for Today. by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. This is a hardcover book that I think every young lady should have. Having it in hardcover form allows them to keep it forever and reference it often. My mother gave me one when I went to college, and I still use it for reference. Also makes a great graduation gift. Purchase here.
High school graduations will start happening next month. If you know anyone who is graduating this year, now is the time to start thinking about gifts. My daughter graduated from high school last year, so I saw lots of gift ideas. I’m going to share a few of my favorites so you don’t have to search for ideas. SHOP EARLY TO MAXIMIZE YOUR CHOICES! Here we go:
Personalized Necklace. Personalized gifts say “I really put some thought into this gift for you.” For a fun, in expensive gift, you can purchase a personalized necklace for under $20. The high school graduate will love it and wear it every day! No, it’s no real gold, but it’s 18k gold-plated, so it looks like real gold. To purchase, click here.
She’s Birdie Personal Alarm. Last year, when our daughter was getting ready to go off to college, I saw these alarms on a TV show. They’re compact. They hang on a keychain. Most of all, they’re pretty darn loud and “alarming.” They also have a small strobe that will illuminate a darker area. If you’re worried about a high school grad parking in a parking deck or walking alone, this is a great gift. This gift says “I care about you and your well-being.” Offered in lots of colors, the She’s Birdie Personal Alarm is inexpensive. To purchase, click here.
Tile Mate Bluetooth Tracker. If the graduate on your list is absent-minded or has ADHD, this is a great gift to help him/her locate a misplaced item. He/she can hang it from a keychain to locate lost keys. I wish I’d had one of these when I was in college instead of having to panic every time I lost my keys. To purchase, click here.
Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker. A quality speaker is a must for almost any young adult. When I was young, my friends and I had our own “get ready” music, just like athletes have their walkout music. Some things never change. I still have a playlist for getting dressed, and my college-age daughter and her friends do too. A waterproof bluetooth speaker is essential. They can take it to the pool. They can take it to the lake. They can even take it in the shower! My daughter’s preferred speaker is a JBL FLIP 5, priced at about $90, but there are lots of options and price points out there. To purchase JBL, click here. To see others, click here.
4-in-1 Wireless Charger. Young adults have all the devices, and they need a place to charge them without having to use multiple electrical outlets. That’s where a 4-in-1 wireless charger comes in. They can charge two phones phone, an Apple watch, and airpods…all at once. I know you’re thinking, “Why two phones?” When a friend visits and needs to charge a phone at the same time, it comes in handy. Priced at under $30, this gift is a steal…and guaranteed to be a hit. To purchase, click here.
Spikeball set. College students need a distraction from the stress of classes and exams. When I was in college, we played a lot of games, but we didn’t have Spikeball then. Apparently, it’s a lot of fun and can be played indoors or outdoors. If you have a graduate on your list who needs to take study breaks, this could be a big hit! To purchase, click spikeball set.
Comfy Wearable Blanket. Everyone my daughter knows has a Comfy, and everyone loves their Comfy. These make great gifts. Priced at under $40, they are sold at a great price point, and they are worth every penny and more. With a fleecy inside, these oversized wearable blankets will make anyone feel better. To purchase, click Comfy.
Sunset Projector. I don’t know why college girls love these light projectors in their rooms, but they do. It creates a glow that somehow mimics a sunset…or some semblance thereof. I think they just like the colors. What I do know is that they are very popular in freshman girl dorms. To purchase, click sunset projector.
Verilux Happy Light. Just after the holidays, my daughter called me from college and said she was sad. She wasn’t clinically depressed; she was simply feeling the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Shorter days in winter can seriously affect our moods, but I knew the Verilux Happy Light was a possible solution. It mimics sunlight during those cold winter months. She got it. She set it up, and she used it for about 30 minutes a day while she was putting on makeup or just hanging out. And you know what? She felt better! To see the various models and purchase, click here.
Levoit Air Purifier. Lots of dorms and apartments have dust and mold. That’s where an air purifier comes in. This small Levoit Air Purifier will effectively help clean the air of a room by removing dust and mold particles. Cleaner air can help people avoid illness, and this small purifier from Levoit doesn’t take up a lot of room. If the grad in your life is planning to live in a dorm or apartment, this could be a welcome gift. To purchase, click here.
Closet Organizers and Storage. Everyone in a small apartment or dorm room needs ways to maximize organization and storage. Shoes, sweaters, tshirts, school supplies, and even medical supplies…they all need a place to be stored. My newest organization tool? Some storage bins from Haixin. Load at the top, then stack. Open from the front thereafter. See them here. But you might rather give the graduate something like shoe bins or over-the-door storage. If so, there are lots of possibilities. To see options and purchase, click here.
Jonathan Adler Lollipop Holder. Y’all might think I’m crazy on this one, but stick with me. I got our daughter a Jonathan Adler Lollipop Holder for Christmas this past year, and at first, she thought I was crazy. Once I showed it to her and explained it could be a bonding tool with her neighbors and friends in the dorm, she understood! It’s quite the conversation piece. The picture below shows the desktop-sized sculpture with unwrapped lollipops, but I gave her wrapped Tootsie Pops to put in it…much more sanitary, and it still looks good. Priced at under $100, it’s a fun, memorable gift. In fact, every graduate I know might get them from now on! To purchase, click here.
Trinket Trays. Don’t all women need a place to put little things on their nightstands and desks? Every night, when I’m getting ready for bed, I put my earrings in a trinket tray on my nightstand. The next morning, I put them in the jewelry box, but it’s nice to have a little place to store them overnight. I love Jonathan Adler colorful trinket trays, but there are lots of options out there. If you have a Clemson fan on your list, she’s likely to love the small tiger trinket tray by Jonathan Adler pictured below. To see lots of options (including the Adler tiger tray), click here.
Acrylic Makeup Organizers. One of the very best gifts I received as a high school graduate in 1985 was an acrylic makeup organizer. My mother’s friend, Polly, gave it to me, and I treasured it all the way through college and beyond. It’s a great gift for any young lady, and they’re pretty darn inexpensive.To see options, click here.
Back Rest Pillow. Reading or studying at a desk is not always optimal in a dorm room, and that’s where a back rest pillow comes in. Great for boys or girls, back rest pillows offer great support for sitting up in bed. I had one back in the old days, and this is one great idea lots of people still use! The grad in your life will be grateful, and your wallet will too, since it’s priced at under $50. To purchase, click here.
Laundry Backpack. Laundry bags are crucial for anyone living in a dorm, but laundry backpacks are easy to carry and good looking too! My daughter has one and loves it, because it keeps her hands free while she walks to the laundry room or to drop off her laundry.To see options and purchase, click here.
Foldable Drying Rack. Not every clothing item can go in the dryer, and that’s where the Amazon Foldable Drying Rack comes in. The graduate might not understand at first, but as soon as they shrink something in the dryer, they’ll get it. This foldable rack takes up minimal room in a dorm and is easy to stand up and take down. Highly recommend. To purchase, click here.
Tool Set. A family friend gave our daughter a tool set for graduation last year, and it was one of the best, most useful gifts she received! We used it at move-in, and she has used it many times since! Amazon offers lots of tool sets at reasonable prices. The one pictured below is marketed toward women (pink), but there are lots to choose from. To see what Amazon offers, click here.
Baboon to the Moon Bag. This is one of my favorite brands of anything. I have several Baboon to the Moon bags for travel, and my daughter loves hers too. We especially love the “Go Bags” in various sizes for air travel. They’re waterproof, colorful, roomy, and guaranteed for life! Our favorite is the Go Bag-Small, which is priced at just under $200, but they have a couple of colors on sale for under $100 at time of writing. See the Go Bags here.
Mattress Topper. I simply cannot express strongly enough how necessary a mattress topper is for anyone living in a dorm and having to sleep on a dorm mattress. We purchased our daughter a Sleepyhead 3-inch mattress topper, and while it was expensive at over $300, we feel like it was worth every penny. However, if you want to give someone a mattress topper without breaking the bank, there are lots of options. To see Sleepyhead toppers, click here. To see other brands, click here.
Amazon Gift Card. All graduates love gift cards, and with the Amazon gift card, they can get just about everything they need for a dorm room or apartment. For grads, I prefer to send the gift card in a box shaped like a graduation cap, adding a cute touch. Any amount would be appreciated by a graduate. To purchase, click here.
Monogrammed Towels. Monogrammed towels are one of the best gifts ever for high school students. If they are going to college, it’s an easy way to keep their towels from disappearing! I highly recommend monogrammed towels for guys or girls, but I’m not going to recommend a brand, because it’s all about personal preference.
That’s a list of suggestions for gifts for guys and girls who are graduating from high school this year. If you have a friend or family member graduating this year, you will likely make them happy with some of the gifts above, but shop early! Good graduation gifts sell out fast, and won’t you be more relaxed if you get it done early?!? Happy shopping!
My daughter will finish her freshman year of college in less than a month. It’s hard for me to believe she is 1/4 of the way through college. I remember my own college days so well; I’m so happy she is getting to go to the same awesome university and have her own experiences. We feel pretty seasoned now that she has survived freshman year in a dorm, and soon we will be moving out all the stuff we took for her when we moved her in. So while I’m thinking about it, and since you have time to prepare now, I’m going to make some suggestions on necessities. Seriously, I know graduation festivities (ugh) are upon you, but start purchasing and ordering now, and you’ll have less to do as your college freshman’s departure approaches. These are just a few items I recommend purchasing early, before everyone else jumps in, and they’re sold out.
Mattress Topper. I never met a dorm mattress I liked. Goodness. One would think they could find a way to improve those things. I was a freshman in 1985, and I daresay my daughter’s freshman dorm mattress is no more comfortable than the one I had way back when. We knew that would be the case, so we invested in a quality mattress topper. There are lots of them out there, but we opted for the Sleepyhead brand. Our daughter’s dorm room has a twin XL bed, so we ordered the Twin XL 3″ Topper from Sleepyhead. She loves it. Priced at over $300, it’s not cheap, but they do offer a 20% discount for students. I don’t think I was aware of the discount at the time I purchased, but I will tell you, it’s probably the best $300+ I’ve ever spent. Our daughter loves sleeping in her bed, calling it “cozy and comfy.” In fact, because she will have the same type of bed her sophomore year, she will get another year out of it. Check out Sleepyhead on Amazon here.
Stand-up Steamer. I think people thought I was crazy when I told them I was getting our daughter a stand-up steamer to take to college with her, but it is one thing that definitely got used…and it’s so much easier than ironing! Our daughter participated in sorority recruitment as soon as she arrived at school, so I knew she would need to steam out her dresses before she wore them. We couldn’t have her showing up all wrinkled! She tells me she has used it countless times throughout the year for steaming formal dresses, cocktail dresses, and anything else that was overly wrinkled. We opted for the a Rowenta model. You can see it and purchase it on Amazon here.
Bankers Box Smooth Move Wardrobe Boxes. These stand-up boxes are more for the move-in, but they were big helps with our daughter’s hanging garments. They have a bar across the top on which to hang the clothes, and they hold a lot of clothes. We only used one, and our daughter took a lot of clothes with her. When we arrived in the dorm, we simply lifted the hangers off the bar and moved them straight to the closet bar…super easy. For about $32, we got three bankers boxes. We gave one to a friend who was going off to college too, and saved the third one…might use it for move-out. You can purchase here.
Swiffer Sweeper 2-in-1 Mop. I don’t know how often this item has been used, but you will want to run it through the room before you set everything up. I hope our daughter and her roommate have used theirs, but if they haven’t, I’ll have a new-ish Swiffer when I bring her home! Just get it. It will make you feel better knowing your child can mop the floor if he/she chooses or needs to! Get it from Amazon here.
Velvet Hangers. I know how easy it is for a college student on the go to grab a shirt and just snatch it off the hanger on the way to class. Hangers go flying, and other items fall to the bottom of the closet. That doesn’t happen with velvet hangers. They have added a lot of organization to my own closet. I purchase Zober non-slip Velvet Hangers in Ivory. Just trust me on this one. Shirts don’t get horns in the shoulders. Dresses hang nicely and don’t fall off the hanger and into the floor. Get them at Amazon here. You’ll think you won’t need many, but start with 200.
And I’m going to repeat some move-in essentials from a piece I wrote recently:
Hulken Bag. I ordered two. My daughter has one at college, and I have one at home, but I will take mine down with me when we move her out. They simply make moving lots of items easier. We got large ones. Get them here.
Moving Bags. These are similar to the Ikea moving bags, but I ordered from Amazon, because I thought these were a little bigger and sturdier. They worked great for move-in, and I expect them to work great for move-out too! Get them here. (Keep in mind: these sell out during summer, as families stock up on them, so get yours early.)
Collapsible Wagon. We got one of these for our daughter when she was returning to college after the holidays. It was an easy way for her to get everything from the parking garage to her room. Get it here.
Versacart. This is one my aunt told me about, and it’s awesome! She calls it her “old lady cart,” but it does the job! She uses it to bring in groceries or any packages from her car. Get it here.
Stick with me, moms of future college students, and I’ll provide you with all sorts of helpful ideas over the next few months. Start shopping now! And please use my links above to purchase! *I may be compensated for some of the items I suggest, but I wouldn’t suggest them if I didn’t believe in them!
Let me start by telling you I am not a professional anything. I’m not a psychologist or an educational counselor or anything like that. However, I am a mom of a college freshman. If you have a high school senior who is planning to attend college next year, I have some tips for you. Take them or leave them. Everybody does their own thing, but these are based on experience and observations.
-Join the Facebook parents’ page of your son or daughter’s future college or university as soon as you know where he/she is going.
-If you choose to post on said page, be careful what you post. Always remember your name can be linked back to your child, and you don’t want them to start college having to live down “where can little Johnny meet a girlfriend?”
-In fact, also on said page, resist the urge to post snarky replies to stupid questions. The stupid questions will be plentiful, but just resist the urge. Call your friends and laugh about it instead.
-Let your future college student handle the logistics of registering for everything. You don’t need to do it for him/her. Let them register for orientation, if necessary. It’s OK to remind them. It’s even OK to scan the parent page for info or recommendations, but let your student do it! Same with picking classes…make recommendations, but don’t make their schedule for them. Let them learn how to do it! When I went to college, my parents wrote the checks. That’s it. I tried to do my daughter the same favor…the favor of letting her figure it out. And yes, I keep sending the money.
-Little Jane doesn’t need your help finding a roommate. She can do it.
-Since I mentioned roommates, I have to say this: if your child is going away to college and has the option of living off campus freshman year, resist that urge. Freshmen need to live on campus. It’s how they make friends…almost immediately. I don’t care if Little Janie has never had to share a room or bathroom before. My daughter is an only child and has always had her own room and bathroom, but she lives in a traditional dorm and shares a bathroom with her roommate. She absolutely loves dorm life, because she has made lots of friends. I saw a post on the parent page just yesterday that said, “My freshman daughter who lives off campus has had trouble making friends.” They need to feel like a part of the college community. They also need to learn to share space with other people. Off-campus living is a big mistake freshman year.
-Plan ahead to decorate dorm rooms for girls, but don’t overdo it. It’s claustrophobic when you put too much stuff in a dorm room. And remember: whatever you take in there, you will eventually have to bring out.
-Once they get there, they might have bouts of homesickness or sadness. It’s normal. Don’t go pick them up and bring them home. Be positive. I remember my daughter calling me soon after class started. She was sad. I was on vacation, but I sat down and said very positive things to her…in a calm, soothing tone. Three hours and a new friend later, she called to tell me how happy she was!
-Know you will say the wrong things to them sometimes. If it’s your first child going to college, you are on a learning curve too.
This is all I have for right now. I’m empty-nesting on a beach today, but I’m sure I will think of more in the months leading up to move-in day. I get lots of fodder from the parents’ page on Facebook!
Our daughter is returning to college for the second semester of her freshman year. In just 36 hours, our blissful month of having her under our roof will end. She and my husband will load up her car and start the 450 mile drive back to her university. She will drop him off at the airport before she goes to her dorm. He will fly home…without her.
And our house will be eerily quiet…again. It will be as quiet as it has been for the past few months, since we dropped her off in August. That dorm move-in is a distant memory now. Remember all the planning? Remember all the boxes of dorm supplies and decor stacked up in my foyer? I can hardly remember it now.
She survived first semester. With medical emergencies, the flu, late nights, lots of fun, lots of new friends…she survived. Not only did she survive, she thrived. Our girl was made for the big college atmosphere. It’s her happy place, for the most part. Don’t get me wrong; there were occasional tears. If you have a child leaving for college next fall, just know there will be tears. Sometimes they just have to get through the tears to get to the good stuff. I have told our daughter that in many late night phone conversations. If we didn’t have the bad, we wouldn’t appreciate the good. It’s absolutely true. The good seems so much better after you experience the bad. If your child calls you crying from college, remind them and yourself of that.
I will be having to remind myself of that over the next few weeks, as we adjust to a quiet house again.
Our house has felt like our house again for the past month, while our girl has been home. We had her friends in and out of the house at all hours. Many times, I was up at 2am, making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for a gaggle of friends. I’m not complaining; I loved every minute of it. Some nights, I was picking her up from a friend’s house or a party in the wee hours of the morning. After the murders at the University of Idaho, I wasn’t real keen on her taking an Uber. That horrible crime was a reminder that a background check is just a check of what someone hasn’t been caught doing or hasn’t done yet. It’s scary to think young girls all over the country hop into the car with strangers all the time, right? So while our daughter was in Charlotte, I was her personal Uber driver if she needed me. *Say a prayer for the families of those University of Idaho students.*
Did my husband love the late nights? No. It drives him crazy to have to stay up past midnight. He leads a very structured life, and if the timing gets messed up, he’s not happy. I’m a total vampire who flies by the seat of my pants, so in my world, I love the chaos. I love spontaneity. I love getting in the car at 1:30am to pick up our daughter and friends to bring them back to our house. I love standing in the kitchen, in my pajamas and robe, preparing food for them after they get here. And I’m going to miss it.
Will we get to bed at a reasonable hour every night? Yes. Will the amount of laundry I have to do decrease exponentially? Yes. But honestly, I will miss the extra laundry. I will miss watching the clock as we wait for her to come home. I will miss the late night talks in her room. I will miss watching football games with her.
I will miss her.
Thank God we have some vacations coming up soon, so we won’t be in this quiet house. Before we know it, she will come home for a visit. If she doesn’t, chances are I will hop on a plane and go see her one weekend soon…just because I miss her. She’ll need a Mama hug, and I’ll need to see her face to make sure she’s OK.
I keep reminding myself that in just four short months, she will be home for summer. We will take mother/daughter trips again. She will likely want to visit friends in different cities, and that’s OK too. We will just be happy to have her here when we can. Just having that to look forward to will keep us going. Well, that and some fun trips.
Meet us in the Bahamas, but bring your own snorkel gear!
It’s the first week of December, which means college students everywhere are either preparing for or taking final exams. Our daughter is among those students preparing. Her first college final exam is Monday. Oh, how I remember the days leading up to those first college finals my freshman year.
I was a different person then. I carried more anxiety. I had not yet learned that worrying about something doesn’t change it. My parents used to tell me 98% of the things we worry about never happen. They also used to tell me that worrying won’t change things. Aside from that, they would tell me, if we prepare properly and turn the rest over to God, we are in good hands. Does it always mean we will succeed? No, but don’t we learn a lot more from our failures than from our successes?
It was after that first semester that I relaxed a little. I stopped worrying so much. Over time, I have become a non-worrier, except where our daughter’s safety is concerned. That’s a whole different level of worry that will likely never change.
Every now and then, though, my brain finds a way to remind me of the stress of college finals. I go to bed perfectly happy, but I wake up in a sweat, with an elevated pulse rate. No, it’s not about our daughter. It’s about me. I wake up in an absolute panic, because I am dreaming that I have just slept through a college final, or that I forgot to take one altogether. I think it’s a pretty common recurring nightmare for people who went to college, but 33 years after graduating? Doesn’t that seem like a long time to still be having that nightmare? No matter how much time passes, it’s still a painful nightmare.
Here’s the funny thing: when I was a junior in college, I actually did sleep through a final. It was my Spanish oral final. I had been up late studying the night before and knew I had the Spanish oral exam at 10:00am. Every student in the class had signed up for a 10-minute time slot, and that was mine. I feel sure I had set my clock, but I guess I set it wrong, or maybe I turned it off without really waking up. Whatever happened, I slept through the exam. I woke up at 10:30, when a friend came into my room, and I immediately realized what had happened. I had slept in a sweatshirt. I have no idea what kind of pants I slept in, but probably lightweight sweats. I jumped up, put on shoes as quickly as I could, and ran out the door without even brushing my teeth or my hair. I just ran.
Of course, the exam was about as far from my room as it could possibly be, but I ran. I ran as fast as I could and said a prayer that my teacher would still be in the room when I arrived. Additionally, the testing was taking place on the third floor of the building, so after running all the way to the building, I had to run up the stairs to the third floor…and all the way to the end of the hall. When I arrived, there were a couple of students sitting on the floor outside the classroom, waiting their turns, I suppose. I hardly noticed them as I pushed the door open and saw my professor sitting with another professor in front of the student who was testing at the time. Yes, it was rude for me to burst in, and frankly, I was out of breath…huffing and puffing…probably trying to hold back tears. Fortunately, I’d had both professors as teachers, one the first semester of junior year and one second semester, and I was on good terms with them. My professor paused the exam and said to me, “It’s OK. Go outside and catch your breath. We will call you in shortly.” Thank the Lord I had a forgiving professor. And thank the Lord I had developed good relationships with both the professors. I had been in their classes in back-to-back semesters. After waiting for a little while, they called me in, and I took my oral exam, passing it with an A. Afterward, hen I returned to my room, my friends who had witnessed my wild departure came in, wide-eyed, and asked how it had gone. I told them to let me brush my teeth and hair first, and I would be happy to give them the details!
Yes, I’m that person who actually slept through a final and lived to tell about it.
That’s not my only recurring nightmare about college, though. I also have a recurring nightmare in which it’s the end of the semester, and I have forgotten to attend a class for the whole semester! Again, I wake up in a sweat after this one too, but this one never actually happened in real life. Sure, I missed some classes here and there, but never a whole semester of class.
Sunday night, I will remind my daughter to set multiple alarms to wake up for her 8:30am exam. I don’t want her to live the nightmare of missing the exam.
And even though I don’t consider myself a worrier anymore, I’m sure I will go to bed Sunday night worried that she will sleep through her exam.
Because I’ll go to bed worried, chances are, I will have my exam nightmare again.
In less than a week, our college student daughter is coming home…for a whole week! We haven’t seen her for seven days in a row since she left for college in August! We have seen her for a couple of days here and there…two football weekends, one day when my husband visited when he passed through town, and she has been home for two quick visits. But soon, she will be here for a whole week! In fact, she will be home for a little more than a week! And we can hardly wait.
Back in September, I booked her ticket on American Airlines to come home Saturday. But then, two days ago, she called me and said she wants to come home earlier. My first question? “Don’t you have class Friday?” She told me her Friday class has been canceled. I kept her on the phone while I looked at the American Airlines website. We discussed flight times and finally decided she could come home on an afternoon flight Thursday for only $99 more than we paid for the original ticket. Sold!
Seriously, y’all, I was so flattered that she wanted to spend more time with us. Anyone who has college-age kids will tell you it’s fun when they’re around again. I told her I was excited we are going to get to spend some extra time with her. And that’s when she said, “Oh, well, yes…but I’m going down to Columbia, South Carolina, with friends Saturday morning for the South Carolina game.”And that’s when I realized she isn’t coming home early to spend more time with us. She is coming home early to go to the University of South Carolina! I laughed out loud, because of course that’s what she wants to do!
I remember what it’s like to be 19, so I’m happy she gets to go visit friends in South Carolina with friends from home! I loved going to football games at different schools with friends when I was in college, so I get it. Will we, her parents, be offended when she wants to spend every evening with her friends? Nope, not one bit. In fact, I hope she will bring them here to gather at least once or twice. We love the energy they bring into our home, and I love preparing food for them…grilled cheese sandwiches, avocado toast, or even a late night breakfast.
But I also realize that, because she wants to go to South Carolina for a day or two, she is still coming home earlier than she originally was, and that’s a bonus for me and my husband! We are so excited! Of course, at the end of her stay, I’m sure I will be writing about how little time we actually got to spend with her! And that’s OK too, because we just want her to be happy and healthy. Spending time with her friends in Charlotte will be good for her. When she returns to Charlotte from South Carolina Saturday night, I will be here, ready to feed her (and friends) when she gets home.
Plus, I’m sure she will sleep a lot. Our daughter who has never been much of a sleeper will need to make up for lots of lost sleep while she is here. Sleeping in a twin bed in a dorm just isn’t the same as sleeping in a queen bed at home. I remember that too. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under your parents’ roof, with your dog in the bed like old times. She will sleep soundly knowing her daddy will bring her coffee in bed in the morning, and I will call her down for a hot breakfast shortly thereafter. Just like her last visit, we will have all her favorites at breakfast: scrambled eggs, grits, hashbrown casserole, bacon, biscuits, and Conecuh Sausage (again, if you’re not familiar with this, you want to try it. It’s from Alabama, but they carry the original sausage at most Publix stores. See the Conecuh Sausage website here). Some mornings, she might want avocado toast too. And she will get it if she wants it.
We are excited for her to arrive Thursday. My husband can hardly wait to go pick her up at the airport…a job he has already volunteered to do. I will ask her what she wants as her “welcome home” meal, and I will have that ready when she arrives. Of course, she’s likely to eat and run…or as my late friend, Wendy, would say, “chew and screw,” which means the same as eat and run. She was from Boston, and I don’t know if that’s what other people say there, but I think it sounds funny, so I say it occasionally.
Now, we just play the waiting game. My husband started his countdown today, telling me she will be home in just five days!
We are excited!
***Feature photo from Charlotte Business Journal***
This past weekend, I went to visit our daughter in college. If you have read anything I have written lately, you already know she is a freshman at my alma mater. In fact, you probably know she participated in sorority recruitment and pledged. You probably know she had a medical emergency soon thereafter, and soon after that, she was in an automobile accident while I was out of the country. That was a couple of weeks ago. I would say it has been a couple of quiet weeks since, but I don’t want to jinx it, so I’m not going to say it.
I arrived in Tuscaloosa (she goes to the University of Alabama) Friday evening and checked into the hotel, prepared to go to the football game against Vanderbilt Saturday. We do not have season tickets to the games, because we usually only go to a game or two a year, but I do have connections to get good seats, so I scored some club level seats for four of us…my daughter and a friend, me, and my friend, Angela.
For those who don’t know, it’s commonplace for freshmen girls to have dates with freshmen boys for the football games at Alabama. Our daughter had a date for Saturday’s game, so I knew I probably wouldn’t see much of her before the game, and I might not see her much during the game either. In talking with some other parents before the game, I discovered lots of parents don’t know that. One mom said she couldn’t believe she had traveled all the way from Virginia to see her daughter, and she was barely spending time with her. But I was prepared. I knew that would be the case. Heck, I barely saw her when she was still living at home! Plus, I remember college. I remember just wanting to be in the thick of things. I loved my parents, but hanging out with “old people” when I could be having fun? That was not on my agenda. It’s not on my daughter’s agenda either!
And as my friend, Lauren, says about our daughter, “The wind wasn’t blowing hard the day that apple fell from the tree!” Honestly, I had fun in college, but our daughter is a lot more fun and less reserved than I was. She just flies by the seat of her pants, and she doesn’t want to miss a thing. So was it a big surprise to me that she didn’t want to spend every moment with me? Not at all.
Truly, I decided the trip down to Alabama was really for my own peace of mind. She didn’t care if I visited or not. Do some parents get their feelings hurt by that? I’m sure they do. But I told our girl in advance that I didn’t expect her to spend a lot of time with me. I told her I wanted her to do what she wanted, but I’d love to have a meal or two with her.
Here’s the funny thing: I am absolutely thrilled that she didn’t want to spend lots of time with me. You can think I’m crazy, but let me explain. It goes back to the old “no news is good news.” If she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with me, it means she is happy where she is. It’s not that she doesn’t care about me. It means she is so secure in the knowledge that I love her that she feels free to do what she wants. I’m cool with it. I think I wrote once about something I heard Dr. Lisa Damour, a well-known author and psychologist say. She compared the world to a big swimming pool, and the edge of the pool represents parents. Our kids dive into the pool (the world) and swim right out. Sometimes, they get tired or scared, and they swim back over to hold onto the edge of the pool (parents) for a few minutes. But soon, they’re swimming back out to the middle of the action. That’s my daughter in the world right now…except she isn’t swimming over to the edge very often…and that means she is feeling pretty confident about her swimming ability!
Before the game, my daughter and her best friend were with their dates at their fraternity house. I was visiting friends in other places on campus. I had “transferred” two digital tickets to my daughter, so we didn’t have to wait for her to go into the stadium. Angela and I went to the stadium a little while before game time, and at about kickoff, my daughter and her friend came strolling into the club…starving. So they grabbed some food from the buffet and sat down with us for a few minutes before going to their game seats, where we joined them a little while later. At halftime, they announced they were going back to join their dates, and we didn’t see them again that night. Our team won, and we left the stadium happy. The next day, we all had brunch together, and after all the fun had died down Sunday night, she went out to dinner with me and then came over to the hotel and watched a movie with me, snuggled up in bed, just like old times.
All of this is my long way of saying that if you visit your child at college and he/she doesn’t spend a lot of time with you, say a prayer of thanks. Be thankful that they are so happy where they are and so comfortable in their relationship with you. Be happy that they are out swimming in the middle of the pool all by themselves! There will still be times they need to swim back to the edge, but it’s not today.
I’m saying my prayer of thanks right now.
*If you’re interested in reading some of Lisa Damour’s books, you can purchase them on Amazon here.*
Oh, it’s the Facebook parent page for my daughter’s university again! A parent posted that her son stopped going to class after his computer broke. They are four weeks into the semester, and she is getting him a new computer, but he seems to have given up. The mom doesn’t know what to do to motivate him, and she wonders if maybe she should just cut the losses and bring him home.
Of course, there were lots of suggestions. Some said, “Rent a laptop from the library.” Others said, “Maybe he’s not really ready for college.” Quite a few said, “Maybe you should encourage him to get back in the game. It’s early.” And then, someone said, “When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?” That one made me think.
When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?
That’s a tough question. Should we allow our college students to make their own adult decisions with no input from us, their parents?
The first thing that came to mind for me was, “I’m paying for it. I’m paying a lot of money for our daughter’s college education, so yes, I have input.“ I can have an opinion, and I can tell her what I expect from her. I make no bones about it. Our daughter is very social, so even before she went to college, I stressed to her that while her social life is very important, she has to take care of business first so she can stay in school to enjoy the social aspects. Does that mean she remembers that conversation? Not necessarily, but I ask regularly, “Are you taking care of business?”
Another thing that came to mind about “allowing her to make her own adult decisions on her own” is that I don’t always make adult decisions on my own…and I’m 55 years old! When I was in college, I regularly got my parents’ input about big decisions. Heck…until my parents were dead, I regularly got their input about adult decisions! And now that I don’t have my parents, I often turn to my spouse, other family members, or friends. I get lots of info and do my research before making big decisions. And you know what? I don’t want my college-age daughter getting all her advice or input from other college-aged people. I have always told her it’s good to get input from friends, but she needs to remember their brains aren’t fully developed either. They don’t have any more life experience than she does! I have stressed that she should come to me for advice, because I have a lot more life experience, and I always have her best interest at heart.
Think about it. What are college students like? There are some who do their schoolwork and work toward an educational goal with no distractions or interference. That’s not my child, and honestly, I don’t want her to be that student. There are college students who quickly find a good balance; they enjoy some social time while working hard in school. There are those who play a lot, and the academic part is secondary. And then there are all kinds of students in between.
My daughter falls somewhere in the balance/having fun category. The first semester of college is quite an adjustment! And since she is at an SEC school, football season is a big deal, and she pledged a sorority, which does take some time. I want her to have fun. That’s why I encouraged her to take the easiest classes she could this first semester, so she can learn to manage her time and become accustomed to college. It can take a while for them to learn how it all works! I remember! By my sophomore year, I knew how college worked, and I had a system for “taking care of business” while still having a good time. I think some kids jump in with the hardest classes they can take freshman year, and for some of them, it causes problems/stress. They need some guidance. Mine’s not taking the hardest classes, and she might not even need my guidance, but I “check in” regularly, and I always remind her that I am always ready to help.
She’s almost 19 years old. That means she has less than one year of adulthood experience. Would you hire a lawyer who had one year of experience and no mentors? No. Would you want a surgeon who had one year of experience and no assistance? No. I’m not expecting my almost-19-yr-old to make all her own decisions. In fact, she’s going to get my input whether she wants it or not right now.
So when will I allow her to make adult decisions on her own? She makes some of them on her own every single day. But the big decisions? Personally, I don’t think she really wants to. As long as my husband and I are on this planet, she can come to us. And if it’s something I know nothing about, I will encourage her to go to someone with more knowledge…no doubt. Will I make all her decisions for her? No way. But if I think she is making a bad decision or needs my help, I will let her know it…even from 450 miles away.
I’ve said it a million times…no matter how old they are, they’re still our “babies.”