You blinked and now it is here. It is that time of the year…graduation time. Now as a mom who has been through this several times I thought I would let you know something. It will be alright! Really!
I was there, when our first child graduated and we left her at college…all alone (I can still remember the feeling as we drove out of the parking lot!) I cried my eyes out, we all did. How could she be old enough to be off on her own? What if she gets sick? Would she make good choices and do well at school? Would she be overwhelmed? How would our tight knit family do with a member missing?
A million thoughts, questions, concerns and insecurities rattled around in my head. We soon discovered that she not only survived but thrived in college. She blossomed into an adult with her own thoughts and opinions and she discovered many new facets of her adult self. We also survived. We realized that we saw her often enough and she did call, text or facebook regularly. We also discovered that we liked having an adult child. Getting to know this side of her was exciting and fascinating. We enjoyed hearing about all she was learning and experiencing.
When our next two children graduated and headed off to college…well we cried, but not as hard or as long. We now knew what was ahead and that the secret is to look forward with excitement and hope not behind with sadness or loss. Getting to know these brand spanking new adults and see them try out their new wings was a blessing. If you did a semi-decent job raising them, they will bloom where they are planted. They will (generally) make good decisions and do well. They will keep in touch. They will involve you. So be present…when you get a phone call, ask questions, listen, pay attention.
Now the trick is our youngest child is graduating high school in the next few weeks…..the last one to leave the nest. That means we will have (between college breaks anyway) an empty nest. Wow. We have had at least one child at home full time for the last 26 years. Talk about a major change! But know, I know….it will be ok. Really! It is just another new chapter, another new season. Although it will be hard, and I know there will be tears, I am so looking forward to seeing my ‘baby’ grow into an amazing man in his own right. I plan on taking it all in.
So here are a few bits of advice from a veteran Mom of four…take them or leave them as you see fit.
- I had read this and many, many teachers, professors and veteran parents have said it…and now I believe it is true…when you drop them off RESIST the urge to visit or have them come home for the first month or so. Experts say that the more freshman students see their parents/family when they first get to college, the harder time they have adjusting and the more homesick they become.
- You will miss the ordinariness of everyday interactions and that is normal. It will be hard and very strange at first. It will not be very long before you are adjusted to your ‘new normal’.
- Don’t ask them if they are homesick. With so much excitement and activity they may not be. The power of suggestion can definitely change that!
- There WILL be a ‘crisis’ phone call. That A student gets their first failing grade, they have a cold or flu, a professor was dreadfully unfair, some social catastrophe has occurred, or they are just plain overwhelmed. When the call comes, be understanding, listen, give advice if needed and then STEP BACK. Don’t jump in the car and race off to the rescue for these mundane mini freak outs. Part of growing up is handling the ups and downs of life. Express support, but give your children time to solve their own problems—it will ultimately benefit them. Colleges have all sorts of support at the student’s disposal. Of course if it is super serious, go. However most of the time the crying person on the other end of the phone needs to know that YOU believe in them and their ability to get through it.
- Expect Change. They may change majors, roommates, friends, dorms, or even schools etc. You may also see changes in their attitudes, ideas and beliefs. That is all normal. Part of this experience is figuring stuff out and making changes is part of that. You helped them develop character and now they are searching for their calling.
- When you do visit try and meet their friends. Offer to take them out to burgers or pizza. These are the people in their life…and friends do matter. These are the people your child is spending their time with. Take the time to get to know them.
- Encourage your child to get out of their rooms and join some clubs, attend some school activities, volunteer, or participate in whatever might interest them. Try new things. They need a healthy balance of school work and non-school work to be happy and to grow into their best self.
- Remind them to always remember their morals, their values and their integrity. Hold on to those. Remind them that they ALWAYS have a choice. Remember that the choices they make can and will be positive or negative and they determine that outcome. Remind them to be an adult includes taking responsibility for their choices.
- Be present! I said this before but it bears repeating. These moments are a blessing. Be involved, be engaged, ask questions, read about the new topics and ideas they bring home. Enjoy the fact that these young adults are so willing to share what they are thinking about the world.
So go, take lots of pictures (and tissues) and enjoy this special day, this wonderful achievement. Be excited for them…and for you.