In just a few short days, my first-born will graduate from college, a self-confident 22 year old with big dreams and a dazzling future stretched out in front of her.
Only five minutes ago, this same child was digging in the dirt for worms while wearing a sparkly tiara and hot pink plastic high heels. As with every other stage of my daughter’s life, just in time for her graduation, I am finally figuring out how to do this college mom thing.
Luckily, she is patient with me as she has been told repeatedly she is our practice child!
For those of you soon to join our ranks, here are a few things you will need in your arsenal of tools in order to be a mostly awesome college mom.
A Poker Face
I cannot adequately stress the importance of this powerful tool. Fortunately, a great deal of your communication will take place over text messaging which allows your face to freak out while your typing fingers remain calm, cool and collected.
In order to keep the lines of communication open, a mostly awesome college mom needs to learn to be non-reactive in the face of news which would have sent you into lecture and consequence mode just a year or two earlier.
Things get a bit more lively in college and sometime the stories are, let’s say, “colorful.” Hopefully, your student is an amused bystander for most of the more shocking escapades, or at least they are when they share the story with you.
If you want them to keep talking, you better learn to smile, nod and occasionally use the big-eyed shocked face emoji on your phone.
An Awareness of 21st Century Modes of Communication
As mentioned previously, if you don’t text now, you better start ASAP. Although I occasionally break down and demand to hear the sound of their voices, 90 percent of my communication with both my college daughters is through texting.
The great thing about texting is the ability to send a quick note of encouragement without requiring their participation in a lengthy conversation with mom. I regularly let them know I am praying about their audition, wondering if their cold is better, or missing them when visiting our favorite restaurant.
Recently, I began following them on Snapchat to get another peek into what is going on in their lives. Warning, if you do choose to follow them on Snapchat, refer back to #1. For some reason, my younger daughter seems compelled to jump in the Charles River once a year and put photos online.
Thicker Skin and Strategic Use of Guilt as a Weapon
Occasionally, I need a reminder from my husband to not take their seeming disinterest personally. Apparently, my daughters sometimes have more important things going on in their lives than returning my text. Whatever.
They don’t always see the urgency in my need to know their finals schedule at 8:30 a.m. six weeks in advance. As my older daughter’s college career has unfolded, I have learned to cherish those times when she reaches out to me unsolicited and not panic when I haven’t heard from her in a while. I have also learned to save the guilt slinging for special occasions when I need to talk with her right away.
My favorite ploy is “Do you hate me?” with a little sad face emoji. Feel free to use this heartwrenching appeal but remember: only for emergencies.
Love for Their People
Get to know their new friends. Ask about the people whose names you hear repeatedly in their stories. If you have the financial resources, take extra kids out to dinner every single time you visit, and then sit back and listen.
Try not to judge the friends who are temporarily the villain in your child’s story, because they will likely be the hero again next time you talk.
Knowing the people in your child’s support system allows you a peek into their new life and reassures you they are in good hands when troubled times come. In my opinion, there is nothing in the world more delightful than a group of curious, passionate, opinionated young adults. I think college professors might have the best job on earth.
The Ability to Wait
A successful college parent needs to learn to wait. Wait before you jump in and fix the problem, wait before you offer advice, wait before you point out the obvious, and wait before you give your opinion.
Just in time for Alex’s graduation, I am finally learning to consistently say “Would you like my input?” before I offer said input. Sometimes, I even keep my input to myself altogether!
We spend 18 years teaching our kids to be good problem solvers; now we need to let them solve their problems. I am embarrassed to admit I woke my oldest up for high school every morning until she graduated, so I worried she would sleep through her alarm in college. She did a few times and then she realized she didn’t like being late for class, so she instituted some changes and took care of business.
While they may need your help with registration the first semester, wait before you help them the second semester. They can and will figure out how to find something to eat in the dining hall, get to a doctor’s appointment and get a prescription filled. They will fall on their faces a few times and then they will do something different, because it hurts to fall on your face.
We learn by making mistakes and so will they. This one can be painful when we see an easier path than the one our child is choosing. Be brave, mama.
Speaking of being brave, prayer is the path to peace for me. I believe God accompanied my girls to college, so I talk to him about them every single day. If they have a boyfriend in their life, I pray for him as well. I pray for their roommates when I know about specific needs in their life.
Prayer is something tangible I can do when much of their daily life is now out of my realm of influence. I also have a group of girlfriends with whom I pray when circumstances with our offspring warrant an extra dose of mama love.
We have prayed our college kids through auditions, dance team tryouts, swim meets, illnesses, break-ups and big tests in just the last few months. I would never have been able to walk away from my daughters’ college dorm rooms freshman year without believing in the power of prayer.
Being a parent to my girls during their college careers has been a joy. Although I miss them when they live away from our home, seeing them spread their proverbial wings and fly has made the accompanying heartache worth every minute. With patience, a sense of humor and a sprinkling of prayer, we can all be mostly awesome college moms.
In spite of my stumbles and mistakes along the way, I look at my girls now and think, “Job well done, mama!”
Read more from Kelly on www.kellyiveyjohnson.com