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?!?!

College Nesting?

College nesting?

Nineteen years ago, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our daughter. She was due on October 11, so in August and September of that year, I was in full-on “nesting mode.” Anyone who has ever expected a baby knows what I’m talking about…that need to get every detail squared away before the baby arrives. Back then, we read all about it in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, so we weren’t surprised when we found ourselves lining drawers and washing everything in sight.

Fast forward 19 years, and I find myself doing the same thing.

Why am I “nesting” for my soon-to-be college freshman?

Why am I nesting for my soon-to-be college freshman? It had never occurred to me that this could happen, but a couple of days ago, as I packed up some IKEA bags with dorm bedding, lighting, and other items, I realized, “I’m nesting.” Unfortunately, I haven’t ever found a book called What to Expect When You’re Sending Your Child to College, so I don’t have any reference. Sure, I have called my friends who have college kids and asked them about it. They all assure me that what I’m doing is perfectly normal…that it’s a way of dealing with the transition. I just wish I could see it in writing somewhere.

Is the transition going to be easy? No. I am beyond excited for our daughter. She is going to enjoy the full college experience at my alma mater. Sure, there will be days she is stressed out or even homesick, but hopefully, I will be able to talk her through it. Or her friends will distract her. Or she will get busy and forget about homesickness. As for me, I don’t know who will talk me through it. I will miss her like crazy. Will I be able to handle it? Yes, of course. No, I’m not planning to move to be near her college. In fact, I have three big vacations planned for the month following her departure. If that doesn’t help take my mind off it, nothing will.

But that’s why this whole college nesting thing happens…for the parents. Any good parent is likely a little worried about their college bound kid. I’m not worried about her handling the school work. She will figure that out. I know, too, that she will make new friends quickly…especially since she will be living in a dorm. It’s more of a concern about her spinning her wheels trying to get everything else done. I know she can and will do it, but my nesting instinct is making me prepare everything I can for her room. Cold/nausea/pain medications? Check. I don’t want her to have to run out to look for meds if she is feeling poorly. Cleaning supplies/vacuum cleaner? Check. I have no idea how often she and her roommate will clean the bathroom in their dorm room, but I want to make sure the tools are there. Laundry supplies/clothing prep? Check. I have packed a stand-up steamer and laundry supplies, including Static Guard, a wrinkle releaser, an on-the-go spot remover, and a small sewing kit. Basic school supplies? Check. Having a few things in advance won’t hurt. Bins and organizers for the room? Check. They likely won’t be used as planned, but they have them if they want them.

I know she and her roommate will need to go out and get more things after we, the parents, hit the road. It will give them an excuse to get out of the dorm for a little while. Do I think they will end up doubling up on some of the things I have carefully packed and organized for them? Yes, because they won’t even look at a lot of the things I have packed. They won’t even realize they already have rubberbands and paperclips. And that’s OK.

Whether they use the things I have packed or not, I will know I sent her off prepared for most things. She might go out and look for Band-Aids for the blisters on her heels even though I packed them in a medicine box for them. And again, that’s OK. I know those Band-Aids are there for them. That’s why I’m “college nesting,” just like other parents are all over the country right now. Sure, it’s for them, but mostly, it makes me feel better about her departure. By focusing on mundane tasks, I am not focusing on the fact that this child (adult?) I have nurtured and loved for almost 19 years is flying the coop.

She is leaving us and will never live in our house again on a permanent basis. I think that’s the fact I am trying to process while I’m preparing her for the next school year. We are proud parents. We are happy that she is moving into this next phase of life, and we are excited about what it means for us too. But it’s going to be a transition, for sure.

I guess I should get busy packing up some clothes for her today.

Preparing for Launch to College

Preparing for launch to college.

Boxes are piling up in the foyer of our house…Amazon, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, Target, Walmart, Zappos, more Amazon…you name it, we have it. Seriously, the foyer is starting to look like a warehouse. And it’s all because we are preparing to send our only daughter off to college to start her freshman year.

She moves in the first week of August. Are we ready? Well, we don’t have everything she is going to need. But I guess we are as emotionally ready as we will ever be. Who knows? We likely won’t know until we drive away from her dorm. I’m sure there will be tears at some point. Will we cry in the dorm room? Will we cry over dinner after we get everything moved in? Will we cry in the car after we leave? Or will it be a delayed reaction? Maybe we will cry after we get home and see her empty room? I have no way of knowing, but I will gladly answer all those questions after the fact.

Freshman move-in day is a day she will remember for the rest of her life. She already knows her roommate, but she will make lots of new friends on the very first day of dorm life…just like I did back in 1985. I have written before about my first college friends. You can see that here.

My friend, Angela, whose daughter is a junior in college (fortunately, at the same college where our daughter is going), tells me she didn’t cry when she left her in the dorm the first time. However, she did cry after she got home, and she occasionally still cries.

This whole “preparing for launch” thing is real. It’s a lot these days. When I went to college as a freshman in 1985, I feel like I took the bare minimum…linens, towels, enough clothes to last me a couple of weeks, some shoes, toiletries, an alarm clock, photos and posters to hang on the bulletin board in the room…and that’s about it. I wasn’t abnormal for the time, I don’t think. But wow, times have changed.

Now, you can look online and find all kinds of dorm decorating ideas. Girls decorate their dorm rooms with lots of stuff: pillows, rugs, lamps, curtains, extra shelving, headboards…all kinds of stuff. Fortunately, my daughter’s roommate’s mom is an interior designer. Yay, me! When I first talked with her on the phone, she told me, “I can do this in my sleep.” Thank you, Lord! It wouldn’t be left up to me! No one wants me to decorate a room. I think there are two types of people: the ones who see surroundings, and the ones who see faces. I am the latter. You could ask me right now what color the walls are in different rooms of my house, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. In fact, I am working in our guest room right now, and even though I have been in that bathroom numerous times over the last few days, I couldn’t tell you what the cabinetry in there looks like. Is it white? Is it black? I’m not sure.

But back to the dorm…

The roommate’s mom and I agree that the girls’ room should not be so stuffed with extra things that it feels claustrophobic. It’s a small dorm room for two girls…two XL twin beds, a desk, two wardrobes, a refrigerator/microwave combo, a vanity area, and a bathroom with a shower. Obviously, we need to outfit it with the basics. They’ll need a shower curtain, a bath mat/rug, linens/bedding, towels, hangers, clothes, and their personal belongings. We have added some bed pillows, headboards, two throws for the beds, a rug for the bedroom, curtains, a couple of lamps, a few wall hangings, laundry bags, under-the-bed shoe storage compartments, a stand-up steamer, a vacuum (for the rug), Clorox toilet wand, and a table to put between the beds for the lamps. We aren’t taking extra shelving. We just want them to be comfortable, and I think they will be.

But for now, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the boxes in the foyer. I just walked into our daughter’s room and told her we need to go through the boxes to see what is “keep” and what is “return.” She just looked at me. I’m sure she feels overwhelmed by the boxes too. Looking at the ever-growing stack of boxes, it seems like a daunting task to open them and make decisions right now.

Last year, I purchased lots of big, blue IKEA moving/storage bags well in advance of this endeavor. A friend told me to purchase them early, because by the time I realized I needed them, they would be out of stock. So they’ve been in a closet just waiting to be used. And tonight, we will carry some of them downstairs to start sorting through the boxes. We will start packing the “keep” items in the moving bags, and we will start putting the returns in my car for me to transport to the store, UPS, or FedEx…wherever they need to go.

I need to get out my checklist and start checking things off. There are checklists all over the internet. I found a helpful one on the Colleges of Distinction website. You can see it here. Some of the items we definitely won’t need, so we will redline those items, but then we will finish collecting all the other items we need and getting them packed. We also have to remember we must be able to fit it all in the car when we go! Sure, we could ship things ahead to the university post office, but honestly, that just sounds like a bigger pain to me, because I’m sure parking would be difficult, and there will be lines to stand in. No thanks. We will simply have to figure this out with the space we have.

Am I dreading the process? In a word…yes. But I’m not dreading it because we will be leaving our daughter behind. I’m dreading it, because we actually have to get all the stuff there and into the room. Even though we are trying to take a somewhat minimalist approach, we will have lots of “stuff.” Once the stuff is in the room and put away, I’m sure I will dread the actual departure without our girl.

Preparing for launch to college is no joke.

Sunglasses at Night

Sunglasses at Night.

Last week, my husband and I were on vacation in the Bahamas, and when we weren’t snorkeling, we were hanging on the beach. No one loves 80s music more than he does, so it was playing the whole time we were on the beach. One afternoon, Sunglasses at Night came on, and I was transported in time…

The year was 1985. I was a wide-eyed, naïve college freshman. It was a good kind of naïvete. I thought I could do anything. I thought I was well-equipped. I was making new friends left and right at my new college and in my new sorority. It was a good time. And to add to the good time, my whole pledge class had a retreat to Six Flags Over Georgia. But wait…there’s more! If you know anything about 1985, you know Corey Hart was still red hot after his hit single, Sunglasses at Night was released in 1984. The album it was on, First Offense, went platinum in the US and quadruple platinum in Canada (Hart is Canadian).

Soon after we learned we were going to Six Flags, someone in our pledge class discovered Corey Hart would be performing there on the day we were there! MTV was alive and well in 1985…back when it actually played music videos…and we knew Corey Hart was easy on the eyes.

Early one September morning, we all boarded a bus at about 5am and sang along to the Violent Femmes on the way to the outskirts of Atlanta. I was well-versed with Six Flags, because I loved rollercoasters, and I had been riding the coasters at that particular theme park my whole life…starting with the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the world’s fastest wooden coaster, when I was nine years old. To read about my first rollercoaster experience, click here.

For two hours, we sang the Violent Femmes Blister in the Sun…”when I’m-a walkin’, I strut my stuff, and I’m all strung out…” all the way to Six Flags. I’m sure we sang other things and played trivia games on the bus, but the main thing I remember about the ride? The Violent Femmes.

When we arrived at Six Flags, somehow we divided into smaller groups. We were all pretty new to each other, so I’m not quite sure how the groups formed, but somehow, everyone ended up in a group of new friends. For the entire day, we rode rollercoasters, took a break by riding a boat through the Tales of the Okefenokee ride (later renamed/redesigned as Monster Plantation and now, Monster Mansion), ate lots of junk food, and just laughed and talked…getting to know each other better. It was a memorable day.

I think we were scheduled to board the bus at 8pm, but we had all learned Hart would start playing his concert at 7pm. Clearly, we wouldn’t get to be there for the whole thing, but we could be there for part of it. A little before 7pm, we all met up near the back stage of the park. Fortunately, it was near the parking lot, so we would be able to listen right up till time to board the bus.

Also, we were lucky he started playing on time, so we were able to hear a lot. By this time, he had released another album, titled Boy in the Box, so he had new music he wanted to share. I vividly remember he played Never Surrender, and every teenage girl in the crowd swooned. He played a few other songs from the new album, and we were afraid we would have to leave and miss Sunglasses at Night, but just in time, we heard the familiar opening notes. We were able to stay for the whole song before we ran to the bus, all laughing and talking about Corey Hart. We had bonded over rollercoasters and Corey Hart…and we all remember it to this day.

So yes, for a few minutes on the beach in the Bahamas last week, I was a naïve 18-year-old college freshman again. I told my husband about the Six Flags concert experience, and we both laughed. We then listened to Never Surrender, just so I could reminisce a little more.

Fortunately, I’m no longer so naïve…or maybe that’s not a good thing? There is something refreshing about being unjaded and ignorant about the real world. But there’s something soothing about having the knowledge one can only acquire over the course of 50+ years.

It’s nice to know we can be transported by music for a few minutes, though. And if you’re wondering, I was wearing my Rayban Wayfarers while I listened to those tunes on the beach…taking me back, not only to that day at Six Flags, but also to my memories of seeing Risky Business in the movie theater for the first time.

Great memories!

My College Advice to My Daughter

My college advice to my daughter.

It has been a long time since I was in college. In fact, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree 33 years ago…hard to believe! It’s especially hard to believe, because I have so many great memories from college, and when I see friends from college, we fall right in step…as if we have been hanging out together every day for the past 33 years. But I remember…I remember college. And because of that, I have some advice for my daughter, who is leaving for college in five weeks. Yes! Five weeks! My “wisdom” might not be wise…I’m the first to admit that, but I can only base my advice on my own experiences or things I witnessed in college. Here we go:

  • Make your college/university your home. Wait at least six weeks before going home. You might be homesick, but you want to become a part of your college/university community. That won’t happen if you’re running home every weekend. We are encouraging our daughter to stay at her university (450 miles away) until Thanksgiving week. Sure, we will attend some football games and see her then, but she needs to stay there. As long as she has one foot in her hometown, she’ll never become a part of the school community.
  • Butt in seat. First and foremost, go to class. If your butt is in the seat in classes, you are more likely to have success. You can’t succeed if you don’t go to class. It has been proven time and time again. I know I was most successful when I never missed classes.
  • Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. This is something my husband shared with our daughter recently, and wow…it’s wise. Whether it’s a friend or a love interest, no matter what, do not let your happiness be dependent on another person. You need to make yourself happy. It’s a difficult lesson, but your happiness is your own responsibility. I have told friends and family for years, “You can’t make someone love you.” But you can create your own happiness.
  • Make as many friends as you possibly can. Become friends with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, different geographic areas, and different ethnicities. College is the perfect time to make lifelong friendships. And it’s also important to make at least one friend in each class you take; you never know when y’all will need each other.
  • Attend sporting events, even if they don’t sound interesting at the time. I always went to football games in college, but I didn’t always go to other sporting events. In my junior year, I realized how much fun basketball games and baseball games were at my university. And track meets too! All those sporting events made for some fun memories, and they were great opportunities to make new friends!
  • Keep a planner. Keeping a planner is the easiest way to manage your time. This was something our school taught students starting in third grade. Each year, they learned more organizational skills. Because of all the newfound freedom, time management can be a big problem in college. It’s crucial that students find a way to keep time from getting away from them.
  • Get to know your teachers. I’ve told this story a million times: when I was a second semester freshman in college, I took a math class that was tough for me. I got to know my teacher and met with him two or three times a week to make it through the class. Going into the final, I had a high B or low A, but then I failed the final. The next day, I went to meet with my teacher to find out my grade, and after he told me what I had made on the final, he asked what grade I thought I deserved. I turned it to him and asked the same thing. That’s when he said, in broken English, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” I was grateful. And this is a perfect example of how a teacher who knows you have worked hard might give you the benefit of the doubt.
  • Get involved. Find activities you love and try new things. Participate in some leadership opportunities. Enjoy some outdoor activities. Learn a new sport! It will enrich your college experience and your life.
  • Exercise. Always get plenty of exercise for your physical health and for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the hormones that relieve stress and create a feeling of well-being. Work out regularly…whether it’s walking, running, playing tennis, rowing, hiking, racquetball…just exercise.
  • Don’t burn bridges. This is crucial life advice. I am a forgiver, so I know the importance of forgiveness. Why do I forgive? Because it’s easier than carrying the burden of a grudge or anger. Plus, it just feels better. My daughter has heard me say it her whole life…don’t burn bridges. You never know when a friendship can be mended, but it will never be mended if you burn the bridge behind you.
  • Do what you need to do so you can do what you want to do. Take care of business…or as I always say to my daughter, “TCB.” When I was in college, I saw lots of people having “too much” fun. Trust me, I liked to have as much fun as the next person, but I knew I had to make my grades to be able to stay there to have the fun. And I did. But I knew people who didn’t, and they failed out of college. Take care of business.
  • Have a budget (or at least be aware of your spending). This is a life skill. Know how much you can/can’t spend on different things. If you know you have $100 to spend on food but spend $120, you’ll need to take that $20 from another part of your budget. Truly…life lessons.
  • Keep the laundry under control. Whether you do your own laundry, have a service, or pay a friend to do it, keep it under control. You don’t want to run out of clean clothes. Make sure it gets done one way or another.
  • Change your sheets once a week. Just do it.
  • No friend left behind. This one is especially important for girls. Going out with friends? Do not let one friend linger alone somewhere (a bar, a party, anywhere) after everyone else leaves. And don’t let your friend leave with someone she doesn’t know. Be a good friend.
  • Be careful where you park. Girls generally know this, but it’s OK to remind them. I also tell my daughter not to use the parking deck alone. If she drives into the parking deck, and it appears there are no other people there, call a friend to meet you…safety in numbers.
  • If you think you need to call 911, you probably do. Dorm living means our kids might witness or have medical situations they have never encountered before…or never had to deal with on their own before: seizures, choking, injuries, illness, etc. It is important that they understand how crucial it is to get medical help. If you think you might need to call 911, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret calling, but you might regret not calling. On a side note, make sure they know not to mix alcohol and acetaminophen/Tylenol, as it can cause liver toxicity. Don’t even take Tylenol the day after drinking. If they’re hungover, the best thing to do is hydrate. Make sure they have plenty of Drip Drop or Liquid IV on hand in their room. You can purchase Drip Drop in your local Walgreen’s, or you can order it here. You can order Liquid IV here. Or you can order from Amazon.
  • Never leave your drink unattended. Why? Because people will drug your drink. They can even do it when you’re holding the drink; and bartenders have been known to do it when preparing drinks. Always watch your drink being prepared. Or better yet, just order beer. But always keep it with you, and don’t make it easily accessible to anyone.
  • Don’t abandon your friends for a boyfriend/girlfriend. I know falling in love is fun. I know people enjoy spending time with their significant others. But if you abandon your friends for a boy/girl, you will regret it, without a doubt. How do I know? Because I have seen it happen time and time again. You need friends. And college is when you want to make lifelong friends. Don’t let having a significant other mess that up for you.
  • Take some classes that will broaden your horizons. When I was in college, I took an art history class. I was majoring in journalism. I didn’t need art history. However, I learned a lot about 19th century art, and that knowledge has been useful for me in lots of conversations in different settings over the years since. I even surprise myself sometimes with my knowledge of 19th century art!
  • Call your parents! We are part of your support system. We always have your best interest at heart. You’re our favorite.

I know I’m leaving out some things, so this piece will likely be fluid and ever-growing. Let’s equip our college students with knowledge and wisdom they need…and send up lots of prayers.

Real Life Can Be Stressful

Real life can be stressful. The transition from high school to college can be tricky.

I haven’t posted anything since May 9. Why? Because my brain has been scrambled…that’s why.

If you have never had a child graduate from high school, but you have kids who eventually will graduate, hold onto your hat. What I thought should not be stressful or a big deal of any kind has turned my world upside down.

OK, maybe that’s being extreme. But during the weeks leading up to our daughter’s high school graduation on May 21, there were so many events and activities. I don’t consider myself low energy, but man! They wore me out! Parent meetings, Baccalaureate, Senior Supper, sports awards…and so much more! And those are just the things parents attended…the seniors did all that and more! I know the school was trying to cram lots of “memories” into a few weeks, but I’m not kidding when I say it was overwhelming. Back in 1985, when I graduated from a public high school, we had graduation rehearsal and graduation. I don’t remember any extra things we had to do, and I was cool with that, because honestly…graduating from high school is something we are supposed to do.

Soon after our daughter’s graduation at the end of May, she and I flew down to attend her college orientation. The event itself wasn’t stressful, but it was a lot of information at one time. Y’all know I didn’t even know want to go. I don’t think parents should have to go to orientation. In this case, nothing ever said it was mandatory, but as I talked to other parents leading up to it, I was afraid my daughter would look like an orphan if I didn’t go with her. So I went. But again, I don’t think there should even be sessions for parents. Back in the 1980s, my parents didn’t go. I drove myself there without GPS or a cellphone, and everything was just fine. I think they started doing parent sessions to give the parents something to do. You know, in 2022, we can’t just let our kids do things on their own. {Insert eye roll here.} So that one day I spent in the parent session is one day of my life I will never get back. Nope, I didn’t attend the second day. The second day, I just dropped her off with her roommate for the sessions, and I went back to the hotel for a leisurely cup of coffee…just as it should be.

But things went awry in our household after that. It actually started at orientation. Without getting into too much detail, I will say it has been a tough couple of weeks emotionally. Graduation actually hits these kids harder than we realize. Internally, they know they are feeling something stressful, but they don’t know why! Here’s why: they are leaving their family and friends to go to college soon. Everything they have ever known is about to change, and I don’t care how “ready” your kid is, it’s a scary time for them. I honestly believe it’s why we see so many friendships change in the summer after graduation. We see romances end. And seriously…I have seen my daughter trying to disconnect from me. It’s OK. I knew it would happen. I know she will need to disconnect emotionally for the college transition. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but I know it’s part of the process. She is moving 450 miles away to experience a new life. She won’t be coming back to Charlotte on the regular. It doesn’t make it any less sad, though. But that’s what stress does…we react to it in weird ways…and our daughter has certainly reacted. Wow.

We were fortunate to be able to slip away last week for some mother/daughter time at our favorite hotel in California. No, we didn’t just stay in the hotel the whole time, but frankly, I would have been OK with that. It’s a place of great comfort for me. It’s a place we feel at home. It’s a place we see friends. There is a reason it’s our favorite. We were able to relax, shop, eat great food, and relax some more in a beautiful environment. Did it help? Yes, it did. It helped us feel better, but it also forced us to have a conversation about the pressure we are feeling. She and I had a few heart-to-heart conversations. I told her everything she is feeling is normal. It’s OK to feel stress. It’s OK to feel pressure. It’s even OK to feel the need to disconnect. But it’s also important to try to handle things respectfully and compassionately. She is a sweet girl who is simply experiencing something new. And I’m a mom experiencing something new. As we barrel toward becoming empty-nesters, I’m feeling weird emotions too. I’ll likely sleep with one of her dirty sweatshirts after she leaves, just so I can have her scent nearby.

So, she moves into her dorm in six weeks. Of those six weeks, we will be on vacation again for two of them. I will have gallbladder surgery in July (ugh), so that will be two weeks of nothing. And then, we will move her in. Of course, I won’t be able to carry anything heavy for six weeks after the surgery, so it will be up to my husband to do all the heavy lifting. I’m not sure he knows that yet. We will move her in, and when we drive away, I feel sure I will shed a tear or a thousand. They will be sad tears for me, but they will be happy tears for her, because I know college is going to be a great experience.

And once she gets all moved in and starts classes, there will be more stress. College life is an adjustment, but she will figure it all out.

College is a good way to learn to deal with the stress of life, because real life can be stressful.

I’ve Already Graduated from College

I’ve already graduated from college.

When our daughter was in third grade, she came home one afternoon and asked me to help her with a math problem. She didn’t ask for help often, and I was happy to oblige. I sat down and worked with her, showing her how to do a problem. When I finished, she just looked at me and said, “That’s not how my teacher does it.” I said, “Well, that’s how I do it. I won the math award in high school…I know what I’m doing.” Again…”that’s not how my teacher does it.” My response? “Then ask your teacher in the morning. I have already passed third grade math.” And honestly, that was the best response for lots of reasons, the main one being that I don’t know how to do “new math.”

It reminded me of my mother when I was in school. I remember asking her for help with geometry, and her response was, “Honey. I don’t remember. That was 30 years ago. I’ve already passed geometry.” And with that, she turned back to continue watching Dynasty, because what Krystle Carrington was wearing was important. At that point in my life, I guess I thought moms retained every bit of math knowledge they had acquired in school. I guess I expected her to be able to recall the Pythagorean theorem on demand…30 years after passing her geometry class. My daughter has not asked me for math help (or any other kind of help in school) since. I guess, if she needed help along the way, she asked a classmate or a teacher.

And now, she is finishing high school in the next few weeks and preparing to leave for college! Exciting times at our house! She is enrolled, but she has lots of things to do before she can go off to college.

Back in the 80s, when I was applying to college and preparing to leave, I did it all. I don’t remember my parents helping me at all. Sure, they paid for everything, but I did all the legwork. I remember brochures and packets coming in the mail from different colleges and universities. My mother put a bag in my room to deal with that. Every day, after the mail arrived, she would bring all the brochures and packets up to my room and drop them into the bag. Every now and then, I would weed through the information and throw away the information from the schools I wasn’t interested in. When I applied to colleges, I simply asked her for checks to mail with the applications. I wrote the checks, and she signed them. I’m not even sure if she knew which schools the checks were going to. And that was OK, because I was the one going to college. She had already graduated from college.

Now, as my daughter is preparing to leave for college, I have joined some Facebook parent pages for her university, which is also my alma mater. I have written about the parent pages before. They are annoying, to say the least. Moms asking how to send baked potatoes to their kids’ dorms. (Not kidding.) Moms asking where their kids should park. (Not kidding.) Moms asking about tutors for their kids. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to do their kids’ schedules. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to drop/add classes. (Not kidding.) Rarely, there is someone who asks a question or shares information that is useful.

Why did I put “not kidding” behind each of those items I listed? I will tell you why: because those are all things the kids should be handling themselves. And do you know why? Because they are the ones going to college. Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t asked me to handle anything for her (I don’t have any login information for her student account). She likely knows I would say, “That’s something you need to figure out like I had to do when I went to college. I’m not going to college; you are. I’ve already graduated from college.” Does it mean I don’t care? No, it means the opposite. It means I care enough to let her do it herself. She needs to learn to solve her own problems. She needs to know how to get her own questions answered. She needs to be responsible for herself. I have full confidence in her, because I have let her figure things out for herself for a long time. Heck, it’s easier for them now than it was when we were in college! Now, all the information they need is on the website!

Back in the good ol’ 1980s, if we had questions about college stuff, we had to search through the university catalog. Or get the university phone book and make some calls to get answers. If we were wondering about where to order a baked potato to have delivered to our dorm, we had to find the yellow pages and look it up. Only, we couldn’t look up “baked potato delivery.” We had to look up restaurants and search for one with an ad for delivery. We also had to have some idea of which ones offered baked potatoes. Or we could walk down the dorm hall asking people if they knew where we could order a baked potato…that often worked. But back in the 80s, our moms were not ordering food to have delivered to us. No way. Honestly, I’m not even sure my mother knew the name of the dorm I lived in freshman year! No joke.

All this also makes me think about something that happened when our daughter was about six years old. My friend, Wendy, and I had taken my 6-yr-old daughter, Wendy’s 6-yr-old son, and my twin 6-yr-old nephews to Great Wolf Lodge one weekend. When we took them to dinner, my daughter was holding her own plate, but standing next to me at the buffet. Wendy’s son was holding his own plate but standing next to her at the buffet. I looked around for my nephews and saw one at the prime rib station, asking the server for a slice of prime rib. The other one was navigating the salad bar on his own. When we sat back down, Wendy and I talked about how awesome it was that they handled it all on their own! I called the nephews’ mom the next day and said, “Wow! They handled the buffet like champs!” And I still remember her response. She said, “That’s what happens when parents ignore their kids. They become self-sufficient.” I laughed, because I knew she didn’t really ignore them, but she didn’t baby them. They handled things for themselves at six! And I learned a valuable lesson. l didn’t ignore my daughter, for sure, but I let her handle things on her own. Those same nephews are off to college this fall too, and I feel sure they can handle anything that comes their way.

When we get my daughter moved into the dorm in August, I will feel pretty sure she can figure things out. She can handle it. She has always been a decision-maker. She is like me; she can make a decision…it might not always be the best one, but she can make a decision, and that is a life skill. Why can she make decisions? Because I have always stepped back to let her make her own decisions. I might present the facts before she makes it, but she makes her own decisions. I’m proud of that, because “the road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” If your kid is about to leave for college, and you haven’t let them make life decisions, you have a few more months to let them practice, so they don’t become a flat squirrel.

I’ve already graduated from college.

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!

Down to the College Wire

Down to the college wire.

It’s April 1. College admissions decisions are out there for most schools, and now it’s time for lots of high school seniors to make their final choice. My daughter decided long ago, so we were happy to step off that hamster wheel, but she has friends who are still deciding. God bless them. Some of them are having a difficult time for lots of different reasons. Some didn’t get into their top choice. Some got into none of their top choices. Some got into every school they applied to and can’t decide which one is best. It’s just not easy. It’s an adult decision…the first adult decision lots of them have ever made. They feel alone. They know they are embarking on a new experience, but it can be scary, and they are afraid of making the wrong choice. You see that guy in the feature photo for this piece? He’s sitting there alone…that’s how lots of them feel right now… like they are alone. They need support from the folks who love them.

I’m no college counselor. I’m simply a parent of a high school senior, but there is one thing I wish all kids would consider: they need to find the best choice for themselves.

I hear lots of seniors saying their parents want them to go to one college, but they want to go somewhere else. I hear lots of them say they don’t want to disappoint their teachers/college counselors. I hear lots of them say they want to pick a school by how it’s ranked in US News and World Report. Who am I to say they’re wrong with their methods of decision-making? So no, I’m not going to say they are “wrong.”

I do, however, want to remind them they are the ones going to the school. Their parents won’t be attending. (If their parents are paying, affordability might come into play.) Their college counselors and classmates won’t be sitting in their desks in the classrooms, living in the dorm, or going to athletic events. Each senior needs to make his/her decision based on his/her preferences, because guess what? US News and World Report isn’t going to college either. What US News and World Report thinks is most important might not be what you think is most important. Different people like different things!

And as these kids (yes, they are still kids) make their final decisions, we need to offer them support instead of shaming them for their choices. I know lots of kids who get into “highly ranked institutions,” but they choose a school with a “lower ranking” because it offers other things they want. My own daughter would never get into an Ivy League school, but that’s OK, because that’s not where she wants to be anyway. And there are other kids who do get into Ivy League schools but opt for something else where they will have a different experience. Big sports are important to our daughter, and she would laugh at Ivy League football games. No offense to the Ivy League people of the world, of course, but she likes to watch more competitive football. I have lots of Ivy League friends I love, but even they admit SEC football is awesome.

Some kids want to go to schools that are more outdoorsy. In North Carolina, one school that is “outdoorsy” is Appalachian State University. I know lots of very successful people who went to school there and loved it. Is it a Top 50 school, according to US News and World Report? No. But it’s number one to those people who love it. All kinds of people go there, though…not just the “outdoorsy” people. I went to the University of Alabama. Again, not a Top 50 school by US News and World Report’s rankings, but I think it’s number one! It’s fun! It’s absolutely gorgeous…looks like a movie set. It has a wide array of majors and lots of opportunities in different areas. And it’s geographically diverse. I made some of my best life memories there and certainly made lifelong friends from all over the country. Over 65% of the student body is from out of state. The weather during tornado season is iffy, but most winters are pretty mild, and the sun shines a lot. Some people (like me and my daughter!) don’t want cold climates. And come on…football season is crazy fun there. Also, BarstoolU just ranked it as the number one party school in the country. Lots of people likely think that’s shallow. I think it’s important to have lots of options for fun, and so does my daughter.

Some of these kids might get into “highly ranked” big colleges/universities, but some of those same kids might think a smaller, liberal arts college would be a better fit for their personality. Don’t look down on them for choosing what is best for them. Applaud them for knowing themselves! You can’t put a square peg into a round hole. Or maybe you can, but the square peg likely won’t be happy there. And ultimately, don’t we want our kids to be happy in college? We want them to be happy there so they will stay there. We want them to be successful in college and beyond.

On the flip side, I was talking with a woman a few days ago who was in distress that her daughter wanted to go to a college far away. She wants her daughter to be happy, but said they don’t have any idea how they will pay for transportation costs. Yes, these kids are still kids, but they are pretty reasonable too, and they often understand that affordability counts too. Guess who is not paying your child’s college tuition? The college counselors at your school aren’t paying it. Their friends’ parents aren’t paying it. And their friends are not paying it. Some of them truly need to go to the “highest bidder,” meaning they need to go to the school that offers them the most money/financial aid.

And I recently spoke with another parent of a high school senior who was trying to make the decision for her daughter, saying, “She wants to go to XXXX University, but I just think she would love XXXXX University. I wanted to go there, but my parents wouldn’t pay the out of state tuition.” She’s trying to push her daughter into going where she wanted to go. Ick. We can’t live vicariously. We, the parents, aren’t going to college. We need to remember that too.

Here’s the skinny: each kid who is deciding on a college right now has different factors to consider. They have different priorities and different interests. Let’s applaud them for their decisions; this is one of the first tough decisions they will make in life.

We’re getting down to the college wire. Again, I’m not a college counselor, but I know it’s a tough time for lots of teens. Celebrate their decisions.