We can almost see the end. The college application and admissions season is ebbing into its final stage. Students are being notified of college decisions – early decision students already know where they will attend, others are getting information now, and there are those that will hear in early April.
As the mother of three, this is the second time I’ve been through this. I have one child who has already flown the coup, one about to fly next year and the youngest two years away from his departure. I’ve seen how this story can play out and I’m “paying it forward” by passing on my own observations for others that may not have been through this before.
Paying It Forward
My oldest went away to college about an hour and a half from home. I was the envy of my closest friends – “you’re so lucky, you’ll see her all the time”. I almost believed them, except in my heart the distance did not matter. Leaving is leaving and the texture of our home was changed irrevocably.
Yes, my daughter would return for holidays, summers and the occasional weekend but our home would never really be the same as it had been for the past 18 years. She would never again truly live at home in what we thought of as a permanent state. We were all changing…….the first of many new adult milestones to come.
It was also the first time I was dealing with my own bittersweet feelings. Happy she would be attending the school she dreamed of, while feeling sadness that our home life was changing and guilty that I was having these feelings.
I busied myself with all practical matters – buying items for her dorm room, setting up a bank account for her and making sure her vaccinations were up to date.
What happened next took me by surprise. Two weeks before she left I cried several times a day without warning. I’d pass a store or see a movie title and they all somehow had a memory related to her childhood. You see, I too was struggling with the changes. I too wished to turn the clock back and have more time to savor with my family as it was for the past 18 years. Father time snuck up way too fast on me. I saw him coming but didn’t understand who he was till he stood at my front door.
I’ve learned and realized that as my children move into adulthood they continue to need the chance to grow. Growing and moving away doesn’t mean we love each other any less than when they were apart of our everyday household. In fact young adults NEED the chance to move away to become healthy adults.
The transition is never easy and for some, leaving in a state of anger helps ease the difficulty of saying good-bye. So don’t be surprised when your child starts an argument from out of the blue or has a different opinion to everything you say. Anger helps them feel powerful and strong and that strength gives them the courage to leave our safe, protected nest to go into the world on their own.
When your “soon to go off to college” child acts indifferent, angry or demanding, understand they too are struggling. It’s not easy leaving the love and safety of home for new, exciting yet unfamiliar adventures.
Susan Lachs, our guest contributor, is a nurse practitioner, earning her degree from The University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in research, student medicine and cardiology. She is also a former nursing instructor at Yale University, where she studied psychology. Her most rewarding credential is being a mom of three. This has provided on the job training in navigating the emotions of high schoolers in all phases of the college process. Susan also writes for the The 7 Sisters.