Here’s Why (I Think) I’m Going To Be Okay On University Drop Off Day
Our oldest is going off to university the first week of September, and, admittedly, I’ve been a bit of a hot mess over here. I’m not ready for my daughter to leave the nest. Some days are good, others are not so good. My heart is sad and heavy, but my thinking is more along the lines of ‘it’s going to be okay’. Over the years, I’ve heard many parents talk about their experience, listening intently because I knew my turn would come. It has.
I spent the last months of my daughter’s senior year thinking about missed opportunities of being together, yet also understanding that a teen’s school and social life can take precedence. Sometimes I felt guilty about how I could’ve parented her differently as a kid. And, sometimes I just cried a lot.
When we first found out we would be parents, my husband said it best: ‘we’re going to have a visitor for 18 years!’ I was impressed with how insightful he was about raising kids and then letting them go. I’m a bit slower about accepting and understanding my role, but time has been the perfect teacher.
You see, summer has a way of weaving its warmth into your soul and helping you slowly accept the inevitable, like the start of a new school year and that your kids are older. Instead of feeling sad every day, I’m sharing in my daughter’s excitement by embracing the positive aspects of her going away.
So…here’s why (I think) I’m going to be okay when we drive away on that first weekend in September: it’s her time to explore her life; it’s my time to move on to a new phase in mine; and, most importantly, I’m coming to terms with accepting that I’ve done what I thought was best in raising her to date.
It’s Her Time To Explore
There are many signs letting us know that our daughter’s ready to leave the nest. She’s in a small program at a big university, providing her with an instant like-minded community. Study abroad is a beckoning option as early as next summer. She’s been collecting dorm-friendly items like strings of lights and photo frames for the past few months. And, she chose her dorm based on its social reputation. It’s safe to say she’s excited lots of things, including a relaxed curfew! I get it.
When I was fifteen, I went off to boarding school, many miles away from home. I couldn’t wait to be free of my parents’ demands, observations, and customs.
When the time came to say goodbye to my mom, I cried like I never expected I would. There was no Internet or cellphone to bridge the 7000-mile gap between my parents and me. I waited patiently for snail mail from them. I treasured these so much so that I had a box in my first apartment full of their letters that I only tossed when they begged me to throw (most of) them out.
As emotional as each parting from my family was, I knew that within days I would be thriving on the freedom I had and the independence I was building. I learned how to make friends and keep them. I had my values and beliefs tested and learned how to defend them. And, I enjoyed every minute of being away, still loving my parents and savoring time with them. I want my daughter to experience this self-discovery, too!
It’s My Time To Try New Things
Just like it’s time for my daughter to spread her wings, it’s time for me to pay more attention to myself, my youngest daughter, and to my husband. As a work-from-home and stay-at-home mom, I’ve done a lot for my family, and loved every minute of it.
I’ve driven my kids and their friends for many years. I’ve spent lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking, and lots of time working out so I can burn off the calories from the decadent desserts I make! I started a blog and got a certificate in digital strategy. And, I’ve spent time meeting other moms and making new friends.
It’s now time for me to deepen these friendships, pay more attention to my book club, develop recipes, write regular blog content, and network with my fellow writers.
It’s time for me to put on age appropriate makeup and nail polish that will last longer than a day. And, it’s time for me to change the composition of my workouts and meals and to engage in more meaningful and present relationships with my family.
It’s time to show my daughters that, despite being a SAHM, I have my own interests and opinions (not always related to parenting them). Knowing that I will be happy and satisfied when they’re away is a good thing because it means I won’t be texting them all day, reminding them of what to do!
While my daughter’s discovering what’s important to her, I plan on doing the same, hoping that, whenever we’re back together, we can share our experiences with admiration and respect.
I’ve Done What I Thought Was Best In Raising Her
This has been the hardest part for me: it’s taken me years to understand that parenting doesn’t come with a manual and, even if it did, it would have to come in a digital format unique to each child.
My oldest and I are more similar than we both think, yet outwardly different: she’s a free spirit, I’m a rule-follower; she’s more flexible, I like routine; she’s more trusting, I’m more cautious. This means that it’s been hard sometimes.
I feel guilty about not recognizing these differences and adjusting more quickly to how I should’ve parented and supported her. But, I did what I thought was best at the time.
I taught her our family values and traditions and I recognize that it’s up to her to embrace them as she gets older – much like I did as I matured. Yes, my parents and I are very close and talk every day!
My daughter and I are very similar in that we’re both emotional, care deeply about our friends, and are in tune with others’ feelings. And, I trust these common aspects of our characters will bring us together, as long and as much distance as that may take. I’m willing to wait.
Summers are for resting and reflecting and growing. Instead of feeling sad every day, I’ve been working on understanding my daughter’s excitement for going off to university. Don’t get me wrong, I still cry from time to time and I’ll need lots of tissues for the drop off.
Come September, though, we’re feeling lucky that our daughter will be 2.5 hours away by car – a distance that’s just far enough to limit unscheduled visits, yet close enough for her to come home whenever she wants. I can’t wait!
If you’re a parent who’s been through this period or are about to, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And, if you remember your college drop-off day, I’d love to hear any piece of advice!Email This Post