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Ode To All College-Bound Kids (Including Mine)

The countdown is underway, folks.

Note to Readers: I penned this advice for my daughter (and other college-bound teens) back in April, a few days before learning that she’d be matriculating at the university atop her list. As I send her off today to begin this new and exciting era, these heartfelt words still ring true....

The countdown is underway, folks.

In a few more weeks we’ll know where my 12th-grade daughter plans to spend the next four years of her life — learning, growing and changing (hopefully in positive and meaningful ways).

I’ve avoided tracking the days until now, not because I’m dreading her departure; more so because I’ve been living in the moment with her, enjoying the process as she considers what next steps are best-suited to her still-developing goals and dreams.

She, on the other hand, began charting her course “to freedom” at 12:01 a.m. New Year’s Day — matter-of-factly announcing the number of months, weeks and days until she would be a high school graduate and living away from home.

I laughed and reminded her that even as she spreads her wings and grows into adulthood, she’ll never lose the need to be connected to, cherished by and supported by her parents, and by other adults who love her — whether she needs us to replenish a dwindling college bank account; to offer encouragement before exams; as she navigates new friendships and relationships; or to reinforce that the journey is just as important as achieving milestone moments.

I’m certain I’ll shed tears in the hours leading up to her college drop-off day, yet I’m confident that much of my weeping will be from excitement over the opportunities I’ll have to watch her blossom, even from afar.

My mother did it for me, and you can do the same for the babes in your nest.

For isn’t our best gift of love to prepare our children well enough to soar where their hearts long to fly?

The advice I find myself sharing with her these days includes messages that I hope will sustain her through college and beyond.

Among the sentiments are my heartfelt admonitions for her (and possibly for the children you’re preparing for independence) to:

  • Never stop at “No” if the dream in your heart keeps saying yes; because the “no” might simply mean “not now,” or that there is another route you must travel to achieve your goals.
  • Remain humble, and remember that none of us is successful without the shoulders, prayers, kindness and generosity of others.
  • Pay it forward. When someone treats you well, opens doors, grants a blessing, be sure to do the same for others.
  • Take time to care. Consider that behind the smiles, laughter or crankiness of your classmates, roommates or colleagues could be challenges and experiences that deserve compassion rather than disdain.
  • Be true to yourself, even if you’re led to be different from the crowd. Your uniqueness might just make a difference in the world.
  • Do the right thing, even when it’s hard. Integrity and authenticity are priceless and help you sleep well at night.
  • Know that it’s OK to not always get it right. Shaky seasons happen to us all, albeit in different ways; but with time, patience, self-care and hope, you can come through wiser and stronger.
  • Regardless of what you major in or what career you pursue, always value who you are, and who others are, rather than prioritizing what you do or what you have.
  • Trust that love scales mountains, especially from a parent’s heart to a child’s — no matter your age, and wherever you land.

This piece first appeared in Stacy’s Life Notes column, penned for the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper.

Stacy Hawkins Adams with daughter, on high school graduation day.
Stacy Hawkins Adams with daughter, on high school graduation day.