A College Bound Love Letter

17 Aug

This month I became part of a phenomenon that has been going on for centuries and that is the club of mothers who watch their children go into the world as new adults. In my case, that means that my oldest child is off to college. Because of that, I’ve seen other moms do what I’m doing, and I’ve learned a lot.

My husband is the youngest of nine children in a close family, so we have been watching parents raise and launch young adults into the world for a very long time. Some have gone to college, some directly into the work force and some have become parents at a very young age. From watching friends and family, I’ve seen some parents who can hardly wait to get their kids out of the house, some who can hardly bear to let go and most who fluctuate between the two. I would fit into the last category.

This past year may be the most difficult I’ve ever had as a parent. I’ve had moments of utter joy watching my oldest son take steps into adulthood. He’s maintained great grades, held down a job and played varsity sports, all while having a girlfriend. Only those who have been there will truly appreciate the magnitude of that for a teenage boy. I’ve also been frustrated to the end of my wits when deadlines are looming and paperwork wasn’t finished, when I had to wake him because he slept through his alarm, again, and I nearly broke my neck traversing the mess he calls his room and when I had to remind him for the umpteenth time that spending every single evening at his girlfriend’s house is hurtful, whether he meant it to be or not.

During those most difficult times, there are several pearls of wisdom I’ve hung onto. The most important piece of advice I can think of is that as much as we struggle with them, they also struggle with us. While we are trying to decide how much control we want them to have over their lives and how much we should step in and be the authority figure, they are trying to figure out how much adult responsibility they want. In many cases, I’ve heard parents say that their child wants all the control without the responsibility of adulthood. Can anyone relate to that one? I know for a fact that several people can. Our children, on the other hand, long for the freedom to make their own decisions but struggle with the fact that it’s the first time the consequences of their actions really are theirs. That is a lot of pressure and they don’t want to get it wrong.

I think that the way you finally launch your children into the world has more to do with faith than anything else; not religious faith, but faith in yourself, your parenting and ultimately, your child. I once heard someone say that you need to give your children roots and wings; roots to stay grounded and know they always have a place of love and support to come home to and wings to fly to the heights of their abilities. If you’ve done this, you can confidently send them into the world, knowing they will be successful by their own definition. If you haven’t, it’s never too late to start.

My son is already on campus, and the day he moved in was extraordinary. Because he moved in early for some leadership training, there were not too many people on campus so we could take our time with the process. I know that many others won’t have that luxury, but through the process I learned a lot. First, my son was not himself. He is usually very engaged in his own process and takes charge whenever he can. That day, he let his dad and I do more for him than usual. He was quiet, when in the past; he had always been so excited to get to college. It was strange and a bit frustrating, but it all became clear as we got ready to leave. My husband left the room, and I asked my son if he was ok. At that moment, he admitted he was going to miss us. For my son, that was huge. For me, it explained everything he had done that day and why he had acted so strangely. It also reminded me that my struggle wasn’t the only one going on, and it made me love my son even more. I know that everyone’s experience will be unique, but if parents can step back just a bit from their own internal drama, I think the process can go so much better.

I am so grateful to the parents, especially moms, that have gone before me and given me great advice and support. I so appreciate those who have happily and confidently raised their children to be the best they can be and showed me how to be a better parent. To those who have already sent your children into the world whether to college or the military or some other path, I salute you and would hug you if I could. For those who have yet to go through it, I hope you have great role models like I did and you can send your child out into the world in loving confidence that the world will be a better place because of your child and the person you’ve helped them to become. Finally, if you need just a little more inspiration, please click on this link, listen to this song while thinking about your child and whatever happens, don’t give up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1-4u9W-bns&feature=youtube_gdata_player. Thanks for being you and have a great day.


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