“College is the best time of your life,” my daughter hears as she prepares to leave home.
“Does she love it?” my friends ask of me at the holiday break, nodding their heads up and down.
Daily she’s bombarded with images on Instagram and Snapchat that paint a picture of “the perfect” college life experience happening at every college campus across the country. Those are big expectations to live up to for an 18 year old leaving home for the first time, living with complete strangers packed three to a room made for two, managing schoolwork and activities and all the while navigating a whole new social scene.
Some days she may love it, others she may hate it and most days it’s just somewhere in between. Just like life.
As I look at the date on the calendar it’s hard to believe that in less than a month my daughter will be done with her freshman year. We have both grown in similar yet separate ways. She’s had to learn to live with new people while I’ve learned to live without her constant presence. She’s had to curb her appetite for social media as she saw that it made her difficult days even more difficult and I’ve learned how Face Time can make it feel like she’s in my kitchen with me.
She’s worked hard at her studies and has felt the intrinsic reward of receiving a good grade while I’ve used my extra time to build my business. Mostly I’ve learned to be mindful of the expectations I set for my kids as they head off on their own. I remind them that things on social media aren’t what they seem.
I try not to take their pulse daily as they navigate the ups and downs of the teenage years. I tell my daughter that her whole college life experience is like a painting. At the end she will get to step back and see the beauty and perhaps the flaws, but it will be her own creation. Freshman year can be messy, my love. Take the paint, make it your own, and paint from your heart. It may not be a masterpiece but just like you, your painting will be one of a kind.
Paula Sacco, CPCC is a certified professional coach who specializes in coaching mothers as they transition to an empty nest. Her local and online workshops, as well as her individual tele-coaching, focuses on designing life beyond the mothering years and building a community during this transition. Paula lives in the Boston area with her husband, their two teenage sons, and a daughter who is spreading her wings at college. You can contact Paula on her website and on Facebook .