Sending Your Firstborn To College
Wellness-Teri Socia, Owner of Rae Soap Co.
You find out you are pregnant. It seems like a lifetime as you wait 40 weeks to meet this tiny human that you conceived. You eat all the right things, take your vitamins, drink the recommended water, and attempt to exercise. She arrives. The excitement is overwhelming! You are not going to listen to the naysayers who did not think you should be a mom at age 19. You love motherhood. In fact, you feel like this is exactly who you were supposed to be. You hold that precious baby and pray over her each day. You document milestones and health checkups. The days pass by and before you know it, months pass by and then years. Strangers give advice and adore your then toddler while telling you to enjoy each moment because the time goes by too fast. You kinda laugh in disbelief and shrug your shoulders. You are thinking to yourself, I don’t know how I am going to make it until bedtime as your now 2 year old is throwing the tantrum of her life in front of said stranger.
Before you know it, you are buying school supplies and labeling each purchased item with detail, so certain that everything is just right. Your preschooler is excited to pick out their very first pencil box. You check all the boxes on the supplies sheet and make sure they have their little art smock and gym shoes labeled too. You volunteer for field trips and sign up for room mom and you look on as your younger children are coming up through these same stages soon enough.
You realize in their middle school years, how everything you say is so not cool and the desire to have mom around lessens quite a bit. Moods shift and patience is tested. I thought this ended in toddlerhood? Their independence has been asserted and you watch as they make choices on who they want to become. You also cannot keep enough food or chocolate in the house.
The high school years bring on headaches and heartaches. It is full of makeups and breakups, drivers training, studying for exams, and pressure that creates more gray hairs for mom and dad. It is also full of newfound friendships, football games and bonfires, homecomings and prom, spirit weeks, and plays. Junior year, you begin to take your student to visit colleges and prepare for the SAT’s. Senior year hits and it seems like nearly weekly there is another deadline to meet. You begin ordering announcements, complete senior pictures, order the yearbook, start reserving vendors for the graduation party because companies book up 6 months in advance. How are we here now? Am I behind on things? My Pinterest board is full of fabulous ideas that I was sure to execute. You talk to seasoned moms who planned way farther in advance than you and a pinch of panic glazes you over as you realize you aren’t as organized as you thought.
Time is suddenly moving at a high rate of speed. You start to gather up pictures and sit and admire the little baby you once delivered as it seems like that was just a month ago. You look through projects and pictures and imagine how it felt like it was yesterday that you were standing in the kitchen staring at the little face that handed you that special project. Tomorrow, she is giving the commencement speech at her graduation. Time is moving so fast. Your child graduates and turns 18 and you find yourself in this weird limbo where they still need you very much for many things and they will always be your baby but now they are called an adult. You start to question, did I teach them everything they need to know? Do they know how to balance a checkbook or book airfare? How did we get here already? Deep breaths.
The graduation party is a blast and you see so many old faces from years past. You watch as your first born baby, now an adult, begins to answer all the questions that guests ask. They eloquently respond about their university choice and what they want to do as a career. Success! The party went off without a hitch and you realize all of your excessive worrying was not necessary.
You blink and it’s time to move your child into their dorm. It is time for college. Freshmen year is about to begin. You check all the boxes off an entirely new list of supplies. Essentially, it is like furnishing a new home. You help your college kid get settled in. You help clean and organize with them. You find yourself saying “am I bothering you by helping or do you want to do this solo?” As you don’t want to take the experience away from them and step on their independent toes. Your daughter laughs and says “No mom, you are okay to stay and help, thank you.”
The moment you say your goodbyes and try not to linger, you leave their dorm carrying an odd feeling. They are not coming back home with you. They smile and wave out the window and you keep that brave smile on your face to keep your child encouraged until you get in the car. Truth is you might drive away belly crying. “This is ridiculous, what is wrong with me?” I thought as I began the drive home. My husband looked over at me and asked me why I was crying. They are happy tears but also a new set of emotions you have never experienced. You tell yourself, they have to begin this journey. You remind yourself this is everything you have prepared your child for.
You begin to go through everything in your head on the drive home. You analyze if you did what you were supposed to do while you were bringing them up. Afterall, you worked full time, you have 2 other kids at home and worked opposite shifts as your husband all those years. You were so tired. In fact, you were exhausted. Did you do everything right? Is my now adult going to thrive or sink because of me? Will they be “that adult” that society likes to tear down? Doubt starts to creep in on this long drive home.
Will they wash their clothes as they should? Wait, did I teach them how to wash every type of laundry? Will they drink enough water or sleep enough or eat nutritious foods? Will they know where to find the lecture halls during the day and get back to their dorm safely at night? Will they make friends and adjust to college grading? You gently remind yourself that you have taught them everything you could and if they have questions, you are just a phone call away. They will call right? You are already planning what type of care package you will send. You snub it up and put your big girl pants on and keep driving. You turn on the radio and Sam Smith’s “I’m way too good at goodbyes” is on. Seriously? Of course it is. You tell yourself no way and flip the channel to something obnoxious and upbeat so you don’t succumb to more tears. You’ve got this! Your kid made it to their dream college, how could you be sad? You are not the preverbal helicopter parent, you ask yourself where are all these emotions coming from? Head up shoulders back, deep breath you should be so proud.
You get home and decide to take a quick peek in their bedroom to make sure they didn’t leave any towels on the floor. The room is mostly empty. They made their bed. Everything is in its place like time is frozen. You stand there and feel a sense of emptiness. It’s a hollow feeling. You close the door behind you and realize that another door has been opened before them. A door to new opportunities and experiences. You realize that this is truly everything you have planned for, prepared them for and prayed for. You watched and encouraged your student for four years through intense AP classes, NHS, cheerleading practice and executive board meetings, so they could be at their dream college. They took all the tours, spun the cube and realized at heart she bled Maize and Blue. Relax, now it’s her time to begin her life’s journey. Take delight in the gifts we have been given and celebrate each journey. God gives us our children to shape and mold them in the way they should go. It is such a bittersweet feeling as they do go ahead, but trusting that you have done your best and watching them succeed is very rewarding.
I am cherishing the moments with my high school senior and high school sophomore as I know they too will be heading off to college before I know it. I truly enjoy each stage of parenthood and have embraced each journey. To all the parents out there wondering if they did everything just right, everything just perfect – stop beating yourself up. You are doing the best you can for your children and that is enough. You are enough.
As the texts and facetimes come through from my college kid, I celebrate the growth I continue to see in her. When she tells me everything she is accomplishing and chasing her dreams, my heart is full. When she tells me thank you for the mom that you are and for always being there, my heart rejoices. When she tells me you were my mom first and now that I am an adult you have become one of my best friends, my heart is overjoyed. Watching her assert her independence into this world and staying firm in her faith with Jesus, my heart is still and my worries leave me. There is no stronger love than the love a parent has for their child just as Christs love for us is overwhelming and unending.