We are in the midst of one of the most traumatic events in parentdom. This month, all across the country new freshman are showing up at colleges and universities. In vans loaded down with new computers, comforters and bikes, families pack up their kids to begin the next phase of life.
For both parents and students.
These couple of whirlwind days called “Move In Days” mark the end of the summer of dread for moms and dads, while their offspring look forward to it with anticipation of new freedoms and adventures.
Having been in this same situation several times-here are some of the things we learned as we walked this road:
1- The first one out the shute is thought to be the hardest launch…emotionally. NOT necessarily. Especially if your student has had a whole year of “senior attitude”, which both our oldest son and my oldest niece had. The same year. It looked differently with each of them. Our son was so full of himself that everyone in the house was miserable most of the year. I kept thinking “Who are you?” Each ending that I thought would be emotionally difficult was a new chance to sing the Hallelujah Chorus! As we drove off from his college, leaving him behind, my hub was upset—saying “we are losing our son forever”. I was more pragmatic…I thought—”Just wait. Time will tell.” By Thanksgiving break we had our sweet boy back and he never left again… (in attitude-he lives across the country now).
My niece spent her senior year being a calendar. At any given time she would remind her family that “I’m out of here in 5 months, 3 days, 7 hours and 10 minutes!” The countdown was painful for my sis, but again…time is the great equalizer…. 10 years later my niece is precious and would prefer to be addressed as “Dr.”
We decided that it was actually God’s mercy to us for the kids to act this way. It helped ease the transition to the changes in our home and we were kinda ready for life to take them down a notch…knowing that they would come to their senses when they got away from us and had some perspective of how good they had it. Quiet confidence is a good thing.
2- It’s a lot easier (and by that I mean CHEAPER) to take a boy off to college than a girl. I saw the difference in the way my son approached getting his college supplies together and the way my niece did. Give a boy a blanket, fridge and microwave and he is good to go. Girls have to be matchy matchy with their roommates: designer duvet covers, every little thing color coordinated with the latest and greatest from laptop covers to shampoo. It looked exhausting.
One of those times I lifted my hands to heaven and praised the Lord for His goodness in giving me only boys. Cha-ching.
3- No matter how many lists you make prior to move in day, you will still make a gazillion trips to Target and Home Depot. Just accept it and deal…out the cash. None of us thinks clearly when we are facing big life changes…you’re gonna forget something, but more likely, the dorm room/apt will be seriously deficient in basic things like covers for electrical sockets.
4- This is one I learned the hard way: speak only when spoken to in front of his new roommate/friends. Don’t divulge any information about their girlfriends back home or their athletic prowess. There I said it. Get off my back. (They said I had to put that in-you can guess who “they” is.)
5- When the time comes, forgo the long goodbye. It’s better for them and healthier for you. Despite all the big talk about leaving home, down deep most kids are a little scared of the change too in some ways. This is a great time to remind them that they are prepared for this next step; you have complete confidence in them and never forget that they are loved and will be missed at home. Give them a big hug, walk to your car, smile as you wave and drive away. Then pull over someplace safe and quietly go to pieces before you get on the highway. After no more than an hour, wipe your eyes and blow your nose. Your work here is done. Head for home.
6- Get ready for life to change. Every time someone leaves the nest, the family dynamics change. It’s not bad…it’s just different. The kids left at home step up to fill in the responsibilities that the older one left behind. Siblings have a chance to grow closer to each other and with one less chick at home, to their parents. Even when we just had one left at home…it was good for the baby of the family to get top billing for once in his life. I said to him, “You know, Jake, I don’t remember a whole lot about the first 4 years of your life, but with you being the only one at home now, I’m not going to miss any part of your last four years!” Somehow he didn’t look too happy.
With each kid leaving home, you are participating in the final act of good parenting: letting go. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to your kids and to each other. They move on and so should you…empty nesting can be a lot of fun!
They grow up and move on (hopefully) but they are always your babies. You will have peace again, I promise, even on days when it feels like this:
If none of this has been helpful or comforting to you, keep the mental image of a 30 year old living in your basement.
Works every time.