It’s that time of year. Spring has sprung and graduation season is nearly here. Again. We’re about to launch our second child. And I’m okay with it. You heard me right. It’s a good thing. She’s ready. And—believe it or not—so am I.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still get an occasional lump in my throat when I think about letting her go. She is, after all, my baby. My last. And I will miss my daily doses of her dry humor and the flurry of activity that seems to follow her. I’ll miss our family dinners and eating her scrumptious homemade chocolate chip cookies. (Do you think I can bribe her to send ME care packages?) I may even miss sleeping with one ear open, listening for her car to pull in the garage just in time for curfew. Or not. But having been through this high school-to-college transition before means I have a certain sense of peace about the whole thing. Like other soon-to-be college parents, I still have to reconcile the mixed emotions of excitement and fear. But this time I find myself more excited and less worried. Here are some observations I’ve made about preparing to send kid #2 off to college:
8 Observations on the Eve of Sending Our Second to College
1. You’re way more relaxed.
Truly, there’s less angst about the “what-ifs” this time. It’s kinda like having your second baby. You realize that even though you didn’t have an owner’s manual for the first one, you didn’t break her. This process is like that for me. Our oldest has launched and is thriving. And we ALL survived. #2 will too.
2. Campus visits can make it or break it.
After the third college tour, they start to blend together for parents. While the parents want to know about campus safety, the kids want to know about the fitness center and the location of the closest Chipotle. Students use tours to capture “the vibe” of the school, which is often what makes one stand out above the rest. Incoming freshman may base their search on academic programs or location, but it’s often the feeling they get during a visit that seals the deal.
3. You’ll develop a deeper appreciation for what makes your child tick.
As parents, we know each of our children is unique. The college search process can give us insight into what inspires them and why they think like they do. Our oldest had a very specific dream of journalism and was dialed in on her search of mid-west colleges. But #2 had different aspirations…and west coast dreams. She was all about location-location-location. I appreciated learning more about her as a person while her college search evolved. It opened up tremendous conversations about her love of the ocean, her fears, her priorities, and her perception of money management, which leads us to the next point…
4. If you have multiple kids in college at the same time, you think about money a lot.
We realized quickly the value in discussing finances and money management with #2. You see, her west coast dreams came with a hefty price tag—one we couldn’t afford. And one we didn’t feel was worth sacrificing her future financial stability with six-figure loans. We saw the teachable moment and seized it. For some folks with multiple dependents in college, the FAFSA gods will shower them from the fountain of currency. But others, not so much. Depending on your financial situation and your students’ academic gifts, they may or may not get help. We found this an ideal time to discuss budgets, credit cards, interest, and the long-term impact of student loans.
5. You look for opportunities to teach life skills.
When your firstborn calls home his freshman year to ask how to run the washing machine, you realize you need to do a better job teaching basic life skills to your subsequent child(ren).
Start now—the earlier, the better. Teach your children how to sort laundry and measure detergent. Teach basic car care and cooking skills. As I mentioned above, explain how to manage a credit card and maintain a monthly budget. Have him schedule his own haircuts and dentist appointments. And, of course, feel free to capitalize on the concept to get chores done at home. “Honey, you’d better practice vacuuming. It’s a life skill you’ll need at college.”
6. You take advantage of resources.
When the first one launches, you’re overwhelmed. But by the time #2 is ready to launch, you know a thing or two about what to expect. You’ve taken a handful of tours. You’ve purchased twin extra-long sheets. You can navigate your way around the online parent portal. You’ve read a book or two on parenting teens and college students. While you may not have the Dean of Student’s number on your cell phone, you do know how you’d reach the office in the event of an emergency. You learned this and other useful tips at your parent orientation session. As an experienced parent, you know orientation is a not-to-miss component of the launch, designed to help both parents and students experience a smooth transition and a successful first year.
7. You realize quickly, you’re still the parent.
Having your child move away to college is a big change—for everyone. But no matter how far they go, we are still home base. We’re their soft place to land. When times get tough, they phone home. Their knee jerk reactions are to call while the topic is still hot, often before they’ve had time to process and problem solve for themselves. Exhibit A: the 20 year-old calling home (to Nebraska) from her study abroad experience in Europe after she missed her night bus. “Hi, Mom. I missed the bus. What should I do?” Exhibit B: the freshman who is fighting with her roommates about yogurt missing from the fridge and calls home to vent at 11:00 p.m. Exhibit C: the 19 year-old who left his wallet in a cab in Chicago and called home to LA to ask what to do (and get some money wired). That’s job security, folks. We are still the parents.
8. You expect your child to change.
This time around, you have some insight on how things will change—that the child you drop off in August will not be the same person who returns home for winter break. Knowing how things will change means you’ll leap at chances to create memories together and savor the precious moments while you can! Whether scheduling a family vacation, taking in a concert, or even just snuggling on the couch watching Big Bang Theory, you’ll spend more time enjoying your child and less time stressing about the launch.
Kelly Radi is a Grown & Flown mom of two daughters–who went from diapers to diplomas in a nano-second! Kelly’s living her dream as an author and public speaker, empowering parents as they prepare to launch their children. Her book is Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and read more of her parenting wisdom at outtoseaparentsguide.com.