No News is Good News

No news is good news.

I have learned a lot in the past month as an empty-nester, but the biggest lesson I have learned? No news is good news.

We moved our daughter in with a roommate, counseled her through sorority recruitment, cheered her on as she went to her first college classes, and checked in with her several times a day after she had her first college medical emergency. All that has happened in the past month…less than 30 days, actually. There have been some days we have spoken with her several times, but mostly, we receive texts…usually with happy face emojis and lots of exclamation points. We know she is happy when we get those.

But we have learned something else along the way. We have learned there will be days we don’t hear her voice. We might even just get one text with “hi.” But from that, we have learned that the less we hear from her, the happier she is.

There was one day soon after sorority Bid Day that she called me sounding a little down. She sounded like she was doubting herself. She sounded like she was questioning her decision to attend my alma mater. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, the day before classes started. I remember where I was sitting…in a golf cart at a dock in Hope Town, Bahamas, while I waited for a ferry to take us (me and my husband) across the harbor to climb to the top of the lighthouse. We missed the first ferry and the second while I talked with our daughter, listening to what she was saying and offering words of encouragement. I reminded her that I had warned her this would happen. There would be days she would feel a little homesick. I offered some suggestions on things to improve her mood, and soon thereafter, my husband and I were on our way over to the lighthouse. While we enjoyed the view from the top of the lighthouse, we talked about how sad she had sounded. I assured my husband that what our daughter was feeling was completely normal…she would be feeling better soon.

However, I didn’t expect to answer the phone six hours later to hear her happily announcing to me, “I love this place!” She had made it over the hump…and in just six hours, she was happy. We laughed with her over the phone for a few minutes, but after that, she didn’t call us for a couple of days.

At breakfast two days later, my husband asked if I had heard from her. I said, “No.” He replied, “That worries me.” But then I reminded him that she called us when she was feeling down, and I felt sure she would call us again if she needed encouragement. Clearly, the fact that she wasn’t reaching out to us meant she was happy. I resisted the urge to call her to check, and soon thereafter…before lunch…she called and announced how much she loves her sorority, her classes, her roommate, and her friends!

I remembered taking her to two different soccer camps when she was younger. While she was at one camp, I heard from her many times a day…she was very unhappy and wanted to come home, but I suggested she make it through the camp just to prove to herself she could. She did. And then, a year or two later, she wanted to go to a different soccer camp with a different friend. In fact, it was a soccer camp at the University of Alabama, where she is enrolled as a freshman now! While she was in that camp, I went to visit my mother. On the second day, my mother asked if I had heard from her, and when I told her I hadn’t, she said, “Well, that’s good.” My mother, who had far more parenting experience than I did, knew…no news is good news. In fact, when I got there to pick up our daughter at the end of the camp, I could barely drag her away from her friends there!

And now, she’s in college. Yesterday, I texted her and said, “You might need to call your girl to get a hair appointment.” Her reply? “I’m not coming home anytime soon.” And you know what? It was like music to my ears! I knew at that moment that she is truly happy, because she isn’t missing home at all! She’s got this!

No news is good news.

Pre-Departure Breakdown

Pre-departure breakdown.

The daughter leaves in three days. I haven’t had a breakdown. My husband hasn’t had a breakdown. In fact, our daughter only had a minor sniffle earlier today because she is going to miss her friends.

But something wicked this way comes…

I can feel it in the air at our house. I’m a little tense. She’s a little tense. And she is trying to squeeze in as much time with her friends as she possibly can. She slept at a friend’s house last night and came home long enough today to pick which clothes she wants to pack…or maybe I should say she picked which clothes she wants me to pack for her. And that’s OK.

After she dashed out to spend time with her friends again, my husband said, “Wow. She doesn’t want to spend time with us as much as she wants to spend time with her friends.” I told him, “That’s normal. In fact, I would be worried if she wanted to be with us more than she wants to be with her friends right now.” He looked surprised, so I explained further, “She knows we are here for her. She knows we always love her. We are the sure thing. But her friends are all going in different directions. I’m glad she wants to spend time with her friends.” And he got it. The fact that she wants to be with her friends means she feels secure in her relationship with us. It’s a good thing. We should actually be flattered by it.

It’s like when a kid behaves perfectly well in public but then gets home and acts like the spawn of Satan. My mother used to tell a story about 4-yr-old me. She said she took me somewhere, and I acted like a perfect angel, but when we got home…I was mean and fussy. She finally asked me, “Why do you act like this at home?” My 4-yr-old answer? “Where else can I act like this?” And she got it. She said, “Nowhere, honey. Just here…where we love you.” She knew I felt secure enough at home to have the breakdowns and act a little out of sorts. I knew she would love me no matter what. And that’s what our college-age daughter is feeling right now. She knows we will always love her no matter what, but she is trying to cement her relationships with friends before she leaves.

So yes, she teared up a little earlier, telling me she was going to miss her friends. She then told me, as we were packing her clothes, that one friend texted her earlier that she had a full-on meltdown about leaving for college. I think our daughter knows it is going to happen to her too. She had a fearful look in her eye. And I reminded her that she is going to be OK. She will, in fact, love it once she gets there and gets through the initial jitters. She laughed and said, “I feel like I am going to sleepaway camp. I guess it’s kind of like that.” I said, “Oh, honey…it’s so much better. You’ll have a brand new dorm room with a great roommate and your own bathroom. You’ll have lots of new friends. You’ll have lots of boys to meet…they don’t have boys at sleepaway camp.” She laughed. She knows I’m right.

She also remembered that I said I would like for her to stay there till Thanksgiving, so she can become a part of the community, and she asked, “What if I want to come home one weekend?” I laughed and said, “Honey, you know I will get you home if you need to come home.”

She can always come home.

I reminded her of something that happened when she was on a group trip hiking across Iceland a few years ago. They were near a volcano, and the guide told them it was due for an eruption. Apparently, she also told them that air traffic is halted for a month when the volcano erupts. (I actually remember that happening 10 or 12 years ago.) Another girl on the trip panicked and ran to their tent (yes, a tent…ugh). My daughter followed her in there, and the friend said, “We could be stuck here for an extra month if it erupts!” And my daughter replied, “Don’t worry. There is no way my mother will let that happen. If that volcano erupts, she will find a way to get us out of here. She knows people.” I laughed out loud when she told me that after she returned home from Iceland. But she wasn’t wrong…I do know people…people who could have “extracted” her from Iceland in no time. And so today, when she was saying she might need to visit home before Thanksgiving, I assured her she can always come home. But if it’s just homesickness…try to stick it out, because she will enjoy college life a lot more if she becomes a part of the community, and you can’t do that if you’re running home all the time. Make college your home.

So with three days left before departure, I feel pretty sure a meltdown is on the horizon. The question is…will it be my meltdown or hers?!?!

Now I’m Getting Nervous

Now I’m getting nervous…

It’s no secret that I have been looking forward to my daughter’s high school graduation. She has been at the same independent school since she was four years old, so she really thinks she is ready for graduation. Plus, she is an only child, so when she graduates and goes off to college, we become empty-nesters. We start a new phase of our lives. It’s a phase we are excited about.

And up until now, I’ve been nothing but excited. I have been looking forward to summer vacations. I have been excited about how much she is going to love college. I have been looking forward to the adventures my husband and I will have…traveling to different places…the possibility of living somewhere else (not right away, of course, because we know our daughter needs to be able to come back home during her freshman year). There’s a lot to look forward to.

But earlier today, I was talking with a friend whose only child, a daughter, is a sophomore in college, and she gave me a warning, “No matter what you think right now, you are going to miss that girl when she goes to college.” And it hit me. She’s right. I’m going to miss her. I’m going to miss her like crazy. We have been together almost every single day of her life. Soon, she will be leaving me behind. I’m happy for her, but now I’m nervous for me. It’s uncharted territory for me.

I wrote recently about how I have one job. I’m a mom. And that has been my one job for eighteen years. But now that’s about to change. I’m not officially being “fired” from that job, but the job description is going to change. She won’t need me daily; frankly, she probably hasn’t needed me daily for a long time. However, once she goes off to college several hundred miles away, I will likely go months without seeing her in person or giving her a hug! She will be fine. I’m worried about me.

God prepares us for this. As they grow up, kids gradually become more independent. Even in elementary school, they start going to friends houses without us. They go to sleepovers with friends. And then, before they can drive, we drop them off at places to meet friends regularly. Then, they learn to drive, and everything changes. As soon as our daughter turned 16, she was off to the races…we hardly saw her anymore, because she had the freedom to move around the city at will. Four months after she got her license, though, COVID hit. Because she couldn’t spend as much time with friends, she did a lot of driving around. She even invited me to go for drives with her. We looked for places to drive around…sometimes just driving around town, and other times driving into South Carolina to see what it looked like when states started to re-open during the pandemic. South Carolina opened way before North Carolina did, and we drove around looking at the lines outside restaurants!

Because teenagers are social creatures, we were not particularly strict about the COVID restrictions. She needed to see her friends. She needed to spend time socializing, so we let her. I joked that she spent the summer of 2020 trying to catch COVID but never caught it. I felt sure she would bring it home to me and my husband during those first few crucial months, but we never got it. Actually, I did have it in late January of this year, but I didn’t get it from my daughter.

Pandemic restrictions lifted, and school eventually went back to “normal.” She has been going to school dances and sporting events. Her social life has resumed in full force. She is hardly ever home, but we usually see her for at least a few minutes a day. Lots of times, I don’t even know when she will be home after lacrosse practice.

And now, she is taking another step toward independence…and so are we! We are going to have lots of free time on our hands. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be fun. But even while we are having fun, I’m sure I will miss our little girl who’s not so little anymore. She is three inches taller than I am and ready to face the world. We just have to get ourselves ready to face the world in a different way…and really, that’s the scary part. I’m going to have to reinvent myself!

Yes, God prepares us by making their independence gradual…so gradual that we hardly notice till they’re ready to fly the coop! And now it’s almost here…

Once we get her to college, we plan to take a nice, relaxing vacation to “celebrate” our new status as empty nesters. Hopefully, we embrace the freedom…

The future is bright!

While He Was Gone

While he was gone…

A few times a year, my husband and I go on our own vacations. Yes, we vacation together too, but we don’t always enjoy the same places, so instead of arguing about it, we do our own thing.

Last week, my husband visited the beach where he grew up. He got to hang out with his friends there, and I didn’t have to go! Seriously, I didn’t have to go…thank you, Lord. It’s a lovely beach, but it’s just not somewhere I want to spend my vacation time…so he goes when he wants. I go several places each year without him. We take vacations together too…no big deal.

But this time was different. He left Wednesday. He had a routine departure early that morning, and honestly, I was looking forward to having a few days to myself…to enjoy the peace and quiet, catch up on some reading, watch some rom-com movies I’ve seen advertised, and just do whatever I wanted to do. But my plans were foiled as early as the first night.

About ten minutes after I got into bed that night, I heard chimes in the hallway outside our bedroom. The chimes were followed by a loud female voice saying, “The battery is low on your smoke detector. Please change the battery now. The battery power is very low.” Yes, we have a weird talking smoke detector. I felt sure it couldn’t be too low, and I thought it probably wouldn’t talk to me again before the next morning. I was wrong. The “lady inside the smoke detector” repeated her message ten minutes later. I promptly grabbed my pillows and went upstairs to sleep in the guest room.

The problem? I’m short, and we have ten foot ceilings in the hall. I could reach the smoke detector with a ladder (which we have), but I have vertigo. Ladders are not my friend. And any time I lean my head back to look up, the vertigo kicks in…I’d likely fall backward off the ladder. I know my limits.

The next day, I got a neighbor to come change the battery. Problem solved, right? I will be able to resume my peaceful weekend, right? Wrong.

That very afternoon, as I climbed the stairs to retrieve my pillows from the guest room, I noticed that as I got closer to the top of the stairs, it got warmer. Not good. I walked over to the upstairs thermostat, and it was blank. It’s electronic, so I tapped it, hoping it was just in sleep mode. It wasn’t. My husband always deals with the HVAC company, so I called him and asked him to call his contact there. A couple of hours later, the technician arrived, and after an hour or so, he told me we needed a new upstairs HVAC system. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew it was about time for that, but I didn’t expect it to happen when the husband was out of town.

The next day, I sat down with the representative from our service provider, and the day after that, we had a new system installed. It was pretty quick, but it meant I had to sit home half the day while they worked. Not exactly what I had in mind for my peaceful weekend at home.

As soon as the new HVAC was installed, I sat down in the kitchen and thought, “Well, at least I get two more nights to myself.” Not…so…fast! Less than ten minutes later, my husband called and said, “I’m coming home today. Hurricane Ida is coming in, and even though it won’t be a direct hit here, the traffic is going to be impossible if I don’t leave now.”

OK. OK. The peaceful weekend of rom-com movies simply wasn’t meant to be. My husband arrived home safely last night, and we are back to watching the shows he wants to watch. Don’t get me wrong…I’m happy he’s home. I just feel like I missed an opportunity. At least he was grateful that I had handled all the issues in his absence.

It’s OK, I’m driving our daughter to Asheville next weekend for her to meet some friends, and I will stay in a hotel by myself…eating room service and watching rom-coms!

College for Your Teen

College for your teen…

Where do you want your teen to go to college?

Someone asked me that question recently. It didn’t take me long to answer, because I know exactly where I want her to go.

I have always thought she would love a big state university. I went to a big state university and loved every minute, so I have always thought she might like the “full college experience,” just like I did.

And then sometimes, she will tell me about some smaller schools that interest her…different ones all over the country. It’s then that I think, “Maybe one of those will be best for her.” Maybe she would like being on a small campus in a cute little town somewhere.

There are so many colleges and universities all over the country to choose from. Almost anyone who wants to go to college can likely find a place that work for them. Interested in big time sports? Check out state universities. Interested in the arts? Check out liberal arts schools near you. Interested in a smaller school setting? Looking for a school that has a high commuter population? You want a school that doesn’t have a high commuter population? You can likely find something that works.

But with so many options, the decision can be difficult. I peruse brochures that come in the mail. I take virtual tours online of different campuses. I talk to friends about where they went to college and listen to their college stories. And honestly, if you talk to the right person, almost every college experience sounds great. I always encourage my daughter to talk to people about their experiences.

It can be difficult to choose.

But here’s the thing: the decision isn’t mine to make. It’s my daughter’s.

My husband and I decided a long time ago that we want her to go to the college of her choice. We want her to find her people. We want her to go into the college experience knowing she picked exactly what she wanted. We want her to be excited. When she has tough days adjusting to college life, we don’t want her to think, “If my parents had let me go where I wanted to go, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Sure, I can listen to her and help her make the decision, but she will make the decision. This is a teenager who, as a toddler, wanted to make her own decisions. She’s got this.

We have made “unofficial” visits to colleges all over the country, just so she could get a feel for the campuses. She has narrowed it down to five or six that she likes. But she’s just entering her junior year of high school. She could find new places of interest over the next two years. She will likely learn about colleges she doesn’t even know exist, and it’s possible some of them could look interesting to her.

So when someone asks me where I want her to go to college, I will give them the same answer I gave my friend a few days ago:

I want her to go where she wants to go.

For the next two years, I will be an innocent bystander in the college search process…simply a facilitator. I will make sure she has access to information about lots of different types of schools. If there is a college she wants to visit, we will do it. If there’s a college she wants to mark off the list…by all means, mark it off the list. Because, when it comes right down to it, it’s her life. She gets to live it. She is quickly approaching adulthood, and she needs to know how to make decisions. I firmly believe a child/teen who isn’t ever allowed to make decisions will become an adult who doesn’t know how to make decisions. I’m going to trust that my daughter will make the right decision for herself, and I’m excited for her to do it.

She has two years to decide.

Let’s get this party started!