“Will you come to the bathroom with me?”
I turned to look at my 18-year-old daughter. She was green. I knew what was coming. We raced to the bathroom and got there just in time. At least that was where she threw up and not in the seminar we had been attending.
24 hours earlier, on the 4th of July, we were sitting in the Urgent Care office of her pediatrician. She had woken up with a cough, a cold, and just felt “icky.” I prayed for the strep test to come back positive. My wish was for her to get an antibiotic and, hopefully, feel better by the following day. No such luck. We had to leave the next morning for her college orientation and she was just plain old sick.
I have worried about this time in both my daughters’ lives ever since their father passed away unexpectedly almost six years ago. Now that they are 18 and 16, the time is here. Prom, graduation, college applications, choosing a school, orientation, moving into the dorms – these are all moments that should be shared with my husband, their father. For our family, we happily celebrate this time but there is always someone missing.
My 18-year-old suffers from anxiety. This has been true since way before her father died. It was apparent from the moment she was born. It worsened after he passed away, and there have been times when her anxiety has been debilitating.
With working hard over the past few years, she has learned how best to live with her anxiety. I am so proud of her strength and resilience. I know she is ready to go away to college, but her anxiety about leaving home is high. I was hoping that orientation would ease her mind about the process.
I tend to become anxious when my daughter becomes anxious. I have also been very worried about something else – handling these milestones on my own. It is a huge responsibility to not have someone to share with.
Where college orientation was concerned, I got lucky. A friend of mine has a son going to the same school. She is divorced – also a single mom. We spoke and decided it would be beneficial for us, as well as both kids, to all drive up together. This lessened both mine and my daughter’s anxiety. We would both have a partner to walk in with, not to mention I was able to cut my hotel expense in half by sharing a room. The kids were sleeping in the dorms which was a great way for them to get familiar with the school.
These few days seemed to be falling into place. I was almost looking forward to orientation on July 5th – until the morning of the 4th. Feeling sick would throw a wrench into anyone’s college orientation experience. For a child with anxiety, like my daughter, the results could be almost catastrophic. I knew that her anxiety level was through the roof because of this. This made me a nervous wreck the entire day before we had to leave. All I could do was pray that she would wake up feeling better the next morning.
These are the times when I wish I had my husband to share decision-making with. Should we drive three hours while she is not feeling well? Is she okay to sleep in the dorm? Should we just stay home and skip the whole thing?
The answer to the last question was a definite no. Missing orientation would produce more stress for her than going while not feeling well. Unless she woke up with a raging fever, we were driving up first thing the next morning with the mother-son team.
We did. She seemed somewhat better when she woke up, and much better on the drive. The four of us comfortably chatted the entire trip up. After we arrived, I saw her slowly fading, until finally – the bathroom incident during the lecture. As we stood in that bathroom afterwards and she told me that it was one of the worst experiences she ever had, my heart went out to her. There is nothing worse than seeing your child in a terrible moment.
The first day of orientation was tough for her, but she did wake up the next morning feeling somewhat better. The experience improved from there.
College orientation became both a good and bad experience for her, and I am proud that she made it through. It was the first step in the next phase of her life.
My daughter will always have anxiety, but she is equipped with tools to help her through it. I understand that she does get more stressed than most. This is a part of her that she has always had to gain control of. Despite this, I believe she is ready, and will have an amazing college experience.
As for me, I learn from her every day. Her resilience inspires me, and I will also be ok.