As my older son just started his freshman year at the University of Vermont, I am feeling extreme and understandable emotions including ad hoc crying and heart pounding nightmares. I have a deep sadness only buffered by huge pride and vicarious excitement. People keep saying it will all be fine. It’s an adjustment for all in my house and everyone with the same situation. Yeah, it was like me ignoring all those people who told me I would eventually forget childbirth. Truth is, they were right – the long term worth erased the short term stress. Hope that is true now, too.
I just didn’t expect questioning if I had done enough parental preparedness. Did I instill in him everything he needs to be ‘good’? Did I teach him how to embrace opportunity and avoid risk? Did I armor him with resilience to overcome academic and social stress? Will he miss home with fondness as a foundation, not a curse or crutch?
More surprising is questioning my own parental preparedness. Am I enough of a woman without being an everyday involved mom? Is there enough motivation to get up in the morning to know that the world still cares and needs my attention? Will I still be allowed to help mold what is my young man’s mind to give him the support, encouragement, and direction that I have for the past 18+ years? I realize I have more purpose than parenting. It just feels like I lost an important part of who I am and what I do.
Wow – such selfish, yet I think fair feelings. Yes, I know that all will be well – in fact, I am confident that it will eventually be great. It’s just so much harder and exhausting than anyone warned me. Bittersweet perhaps – it actually feels like roots are being ripped up from my emotional earth and the soil of my soul is being turned over to plant new, unknown chapters of life. It sounds poetic and profound, but also quite turbulent and uncontrollable.
So, I offer these consoling thoughts to fellow freshman-entering parents:
- Be glad that you’re sad: Celebrate the milestone as much as the emotion. We feel this way for actually very GOOD reasons.
- Like paid time off: Being a mom is hard – harder than any job on earth. You can’t choose or fire your employees. You don’t get promotions or raises. You can’t take vacation nor even get weekends off. It’s 24×7, every day for the rest of your life. Consider your kid’s college years your own sabbatical. A bit of a break though not completely. You still need to be Mom but perhaps a little less hands-on.
- Breathe and don’t blink: Given the past 17 or 18 years went by so fast, 4 years is barely an event!
- Mom V2.0: If you have other kids, they need you even more. Big sis or bro isn’t there which stirs up newfound emotion, energy, and curiosity that needs to go somewhere into the universe. It’s a new challenge to guide the younger kid(s) so they can adjust to this new norm and become the people they are destined as well.
Yeah. I know. Easy to write it. Wish us all luck. And please do offer your own current or past college parenting advice here! We all appreciate that and will give me a reason to stop crying long enough to read it….
Cheif Confidence Officer
American Confidence Institute