It’s been a whirlwind year so far. Our eldest turned 18 in the spring and graduated from high school in May. Like any parent, we are so proud of her and all she’s accomplished. A 4.0 student who loves to write, a gifted singer who belonged to the local children’s chorus, a valued employee at the day care center where she’s worked for three years. And she got a jump on her college career, taking four classes at the local community college during her senior year of high school.
The thought of leaving home for college was daunting for her, to say the least. She thrives on routine, on plans, on knowing what is going to happen, when, and why. Her dad and I had private discussions that we thought it best she go to the community college her first year. Luckily, our daughter came to that same conclusion on her own.
And that’s fine. Great, in fact. Our county’s community college is ten minutes away, is nationally ranked, and has a multitude of course offerings at their large main campus. She’ll be testing the waters with different types of courses, figuring out what type of major will put her strengths and gifts to the best use.
However, here’s the challenging part. My news feed this summer has been filled with articles for the parents of college-bound kids. Must Have Supplies For Your College Dorm, Freshman Drop Off Do’s and Don’ts, 42 Tips I Learned My Freshman Year, Be Ready for College Move-In Day. Not to mention all the posts by fellow moms who are getting their kids ready to go away, and lamenting the dreaded drive home alone afterwards. It gives me pause, and a twinge of sadness, that my daughter won’t be experiencing these things. Some of my best experiences, most important lessons learned, and lasting friendships happened during my freshman year away at college.
I know she’s feeling it too. She visits her girlfriends’ houses. Their living rooms contain vast piles of stuff they’ll be taking with them to college. Her friends’ social media accounts are filled with pictures of them wearing their college t-shirts, beaming with pride (and rightly so) about their impending departure to this next phase of their lives.
And a part of my heart is breaking for her. I know part of her wishes she was one of them. I know that pangs of jealousness and sadness are part of her everyday life as summer winds down. She does have some friends who are also attending the community college, and she will still get to see them. But her best friend, who she’s known since kindergarten, will be attending college over 400 miles away. The adjustment will be difficult.
How can I help her? I’m a parent, and although I know she’s an adult I still want to “fix” things for her. Last week, I sat her down and said, “I know you’re feeling a bit down about your friends going away to college. How about we go out and get some college stuff for you? We can redo your room, get a new comforter set, curtains, throw pillows. And get you school supplies – new binders and notebooks and nice pens.” (This child loves pretty notebooks and planners, and likes to be organized in style.)
A trip to Target and $153 later, my smiling daughter and I loaded her treasures into the car. She seemed to be walking a bit taller with more pep in her step. While retail therapy may not be a long-term solution, it made my girl feel a bit less left out of the college preparations.