Visiting Your Kid at College is a Chance to See if Your Teen is Adulting

Yay! Your child jumped through all of the senior year hoops – tests, essays, applications, FAFSA, and college visits – and was admitted to (one of) their dream colleges! And whew, you – parental units – also survived the process. Near summer’s end, you moved them into their housing, wept (or didn’t) when you hugged them goodbye, and then left them to begin their new lives.

Visiting your teen at college

Welcome to the next stage of parental anxiety!

Is your new college student successfully adulting?  Or have they experienced the Matthew McConaughey movie malady called Failure to Launch? Or, does the marker land somewhere between those two points?

Two months ago, I moved my daughter into her college dorm. As we put away the final few items, I dreaded the countdown. I fully admit, I was not against aborting this mission. But inevitably, we tearfully hugged goodbye, and she moved towards the stairs, and I to the exit, I muttered to myself,  “Houston, we have separation.”

Time has passed, and she’s been in college orbit for nearly eight weeks. She gives me clues to how the adulting is coming along. Case in point: My darling daughter called to tell me she’d missed the free flu shot provided by the campus, but she took her insurance card down to a local CVS, spoke to the pharmacist, and found out the shot was covered. She got the flu shot! Yay!

However, in the very next breath, she asked, “Could you please bring me some dish soap when you come visit in two weeks?”

“Umm, honey, weren’t you just at CVS? They sell many things…like dish soap, for example. It’s $1.00.”

So, while we’ve had texts and FaceTime chats, it was beyond time to check-in physically, and view the adulting yardstick in person.

Fortunately, our daughter’s college recently hosted a Proof-of-Life, er I mean, a Family & Friends weekend. I was excited to see if I noticed any changes in my daughter. Besides hugging and squeezing her, I longed to see with my own eyes (not on a phone screen) that she was “okay,” both mentally and physically. Hey, “failure to thrive” applies to college kids, too; it’s not just a malady of babies.

An Uber-ride later to our designated reunion spot, found us running across a daisy-covered meadow and  as we met in a warm embrace, I swung her around in circles of delight. (Not really, but humor me, as it sort of felt that way.) After the mushy stuff, I held her at arm’s length and studied her. Happy face – check. Clean clothes – check. Body shape – definitely, more fit and toned from 4+ miles of daily campus walking. Overall, she seemed structurally sound.

There has been growth in other areas, though. During the visit, I notice she exudes a new air of self-confidence, purpose and poise. She is tackling this adventure with a determination and grace I could not have predicted. In fact, at one point she commented, “I’m surprised how easy my transition was. (ouch) In fact, I only cried twice.”

She. Looked. Great. Better than great. And while sure, that’s what we Moms want, there’s just a teensy-weensy flaw in us that desires to see just a little something lacking in their demeanor. A little something that requires – oh I dunno – some MOM help?

But, she doesn’t, as she announces with wonder, “Mom, I have a squad!”

She has formed a core group of caring friends. They’re the kind of friends who during your weekly movie night join you in climbing on chairs and chanting, “O Captain, My Captain” at the conclusion of “Dead Poet’s Society.” (Yes, for real.) This camaraderie and these shared experiences will be the memories to last a lifetime.

In her summation of her new life: The campus is gorgeous; she has a renewed interest in learning instead of worrying about a GPA; there are clubs and activities galore, and the only problem is choosing what to do.

When she mentions going back “home,” I realize she’s no longer referring to her childhood home, but rather to her new home. At college. With her people. And, it’s okay. It’s more than okay. My heart sings a duet of happiness with hers. It’s all – and more – than I ever wanted for her college experience to be.

[Read Next: Here Are the 33 Life Skills Your Kid Needs to Know to “Adult”]

She. Is. Home.

I gaze at my daughter for a good long moment. I study her sweet face, trying to take her all in, as I won’t see her again until the holiday break. I tease her a little with, “Your phone still works all right? No troubles making outgoing calls?” (cough, cough; a bit of mother guilt for old times’ sake)

I stall for more time. “Need any money…or dish soap?” I inquire in an attempt to remain relevant.

She laughs, “Oh, Mom. I have a job, remember?”

I probably hang onto her a bit longer than I meant to. She turns to go and I watch her retreating back. I admit that inside I hope for a quick look back, and it does come, along with a blown kiss my direction…as she simultaneously calls out to a friend passing by.

Photo credit: Yowlong

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About Deb Nies

Deb Nies is a contributing author to It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. Her writing has appeared in Our Wisconsin, Modern Bliss, among others. Deb was a proud cast member of the Listen to Your Mother Show - Madison in both 2011 and 2017.

She and her wife, Linda live in the only Waunakee in the world, Wisconsin. They are new empty nesters, as beloved daughter (Hannah) is a first-year at Wellesley College. In real life, Deb is a Social Media & Marketing Consultant, a foodie, an adventurer, and an infrequent blogger. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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