This is empty nest season, when we tell people how in a mere blink of the eye we went from holding our kid’s hand as they walked into kindergarten and then the next day we are depositing them in a dorm room somewhere.
Truth is, while it does seem that time flew by, we know it really didn’t. Let’s not forget the endless hours of watching soccer practices, the staying up past midnight to help with the history projects, the endless dramas of middle school, the teenage hormonal mood swings. College is a brand new script. And there are certain myths connected to sending your kid off to it that we’d like to bust for you right here and now.
1. Going off to college is the single biggest leap toward independence your kid has made to date.
Actually, it’s not. A far greater step toward independence probably came when they got their driver’s license and drove off into the sunset by themselves. Driving gave mobility to their fledgling independence. You had to trust them to make smart choices. You had to believe they were going where they said they were going with whomever they said they’d be with.
Now you can remove all those accident alert apps from your phone.
2. You won’t see them for months.
Don’t be silly. Download Skype or learn to use FaceTime and you can see them as much as they’ll tolerate it. When you left for college back in the Dark Ages, no such technology existed. Remember how you lined up in the dorm every Sunday to use the pay phone to call your parents ― collect.
Things have changed, big-time. My college daughter sometimes “joins” me while I cook dinner. With my iPad propped up on the kitchen counter, she does her homework while I chop garlic. Technology brings us closer, sometimes much to her chagrin.
3. A lot of kids are miserable their first year.
Some are, some aren’t. Either way, it’s a growth experience and your kid is best served by your encouragement ― and silence. Listen, but don’t fix the problem for them. Suggest avenues for them to resolve the issues by themselves. Room mate driving them nuts? Tell them to talk to their RA. Lost in class? Urge them to reach out to the professor or find themselves a tutor. We know plenty of southern California kids who thought East Coast weather wouldn’t be an issue for them, but it was. Another learned to his great surprise that it indeed does rain a lot in the Pacific Northwest.
Sure, some kids really don’t adjust and come home after a year. That’s fine too. They weren’t ready. No shame in trying. There are still lessons to be learned. And don’t be surprised if they were just plain old homesick.
4. College is party central and my kid isn’t a partier, so she will be an outcast.
Colleges are big places, and not everyone drinks to unconsciousness. Think of the university as a small city with many different kinds of people. You just may hear about the rowdies, but they aren’t the only kids going to college.
Besides, many schools have substance-free floors or dorm wings where students who pledge to abstain from alcohol and drug use can live. The trick is to find like-minded students in clubs and classes and make friends with them. They are absolutely there.
And for Pete’s sake, stop watching “Animal House.”
5. They won’t need me anymore.