Never Forget That This is YOUR Journey and Your Journey Alone

First of all, I wasn’t one of those moms. The mom who read every article, scrupulously creating lists (I mean, who are we kidding…me and lists just don’t go in the same sentence) of what she needs, what she doesn’t need, what to expect, what not to expect, how long is “too long” to say good-bye, or whether or not I should give her space & wait for her to contact me (AS IF). Nope.

College mom's advice: This is your journey alone

We were far too busy with the business of senior year – college application essays, seizing every possible senior-related opportunity, preparing for a class trip to the east coast, college application essays, play rehearsals, sports, AP tests, and did I mention college application essays? Yeah. So the busyness of senior year business had me putting out fires rather than starting them.

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I was a mom who winged it. I booked my flight to move her in about a week before we left, I didn’t have any idea as to what she would need in her dorm room, I was three months late paying her college tuition installment plan (who knew, we were supposed to start paying in May, you know, the month we were worrying about graduating from high school?!), and didn’t book a return ticket home until the day before I left.

I didn’t know there was a family orientation, so I put the pedal to the metal and excitedly poured over the schedule of events with gusto and high hopes of attending these seminars which would surely provide me every tool I needed to cope and do everything right during this momentous, life-changing moment of time. Wrong.

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Most of the events consisted of questions from parents that were mostly parenting related, like (and these are real questions):

  • How often should I expect to hear from my child?
  • How long will it take for them to make friends?
  • Is there extra support in place for my student, who is used to excelling, comes here and is now average? (I kid you not, I almost rolled my eyes out loud at that one.)

So here’s where I felt better. These are questions I didn’t have, and if I did, would never have asked in an auditorium full of hundreds of other parents to Ivy League bound 18-year-olds. Yes, we are technically talking about adults. SO. Off-track, and not meaning to demean other parents by any means (wow, I really mean what I meant in that last sentence). But seriously, letʻs get to the answer that kept popping up in my mind, in response to every single question: It All Depends On Your Child.

And you know them best.

How often they call home is a direct reflection of how much you communicated while you lived under the same roof. Did they call you to check-in? Did you have conversations about their day when they got home from school? Did you communicate openly then? If so, then they will likely call/text daily. If not, who knows.

How long it takes them to make friends depends on their personality. If itʻs been easy for them, it will likely remain that way. If they’ʻre a little more shy, it might take a little longer, unless they come into contact with my kid who doesn’t know a stranger and has been raised to reach out to those who look lonely.

I have no response to the is-there-extra-support-for-my-kid-since-heʻs-used-to-being-amazing-but-is-now-average question except *insert eye roll here* and bless their hearts. I would say this is an opportunity for a good perspective adjustment.

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So the time finally came, where I had to leave her in her new home, and yes. I hung on to every hug. Every word. Every smile. Every giggle. Every opportunity she had to make a decision, I jumped on the chance to just be her support. Her room almost setup, she assures me “I got this, Mom” and she sure did. She sure does.

The pit in my belly grows, the same space that grew her now aching with emptiness. The tears in my eyes burn, struggling at first to not spill over, but then I donʻt suppress them. She needs to know I will miss everything about her. That I will think of her all the time. That I will cry when I return home and walk past her empty room. That I will sit on her bed, my heart aching for her to be in it. That I will apologize a million times for everything I feel I did wrong, and celebrate that she still turned out SO right. That strangers who cross my path on the long, lonesome journey home, will encourage me and lighten my heart (bless the soul in the hotel lobby whose eyes softened and heart opened when I burst into tears after he asked why, I, from Hawaii, would be all the way in upstate New York).

All in all, I donʻt want to discourage you from reading all the articles/blogs/books. But what I donʻt want you to forget is this is your journey. And your journey alone. While some moms will say it was a breeze, you should be happy and celebrate, after all this is what you were meant to do, so congratulations!

Other moms will say they were literally debilitated, depressed, lost their identity, sense of self-worth. Be kind to yourself, open your heart to what is happening, accept that the universe is conspiring in your favor. Listen to your child. Encourage them to make mistakes (just not life-changing ones). And above all else, love them  unconditionally. There is no one else in the world who will love them as fiercely as you do. So do it, and let your journey unfold.

Photo Credit: DaytripperUniversity

Related:

No “Right” Way to Feel When You Think About Your Kid Leaving Home 

Family Weekend: Do’s and Don’ts of Visiting a Kid in College 

Keala Campbell is a wife (to her best friend), a mother (to two beautiful girls), and a student (of life). She currently resides in Waimea, Hawaiʻi.

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