We know that you’re going to miss your teen off at college but here are some things you can do to help you not miss them so much.
How NOT to Miss Your College Freshman
1. Don’t go into their room – close the door. Walking past that open door and expecting to see a disaster of laundry everywhere and them lying on their bed, playing a game on their phone is torture. The closed door helps a tiny bit.
2. Do laundry. Notice how much less laundry there is. Especially if there were high school sports involved, the laundry room already smells better, right?
3. Make something for dinner that your child hates, but you love. Eat it. The next day, eat the left overs. Listen to nobody complaining about this meal.
4. Go to the store and watch all the back to school shoppers. Literally stand in that part of the store and listen to the drama as it unfolds around you. Buy yourself a pack of your favorite gum and nothing else. If you have other kids still at home, buy their school supplies, but notice the distinctly lower amount you spend this year.
5. Make plans for next weekend. Consult only the people who are living under your roof at this moment. It’s easier than it would have been. You know it is.
6. In a week or two or seven – when you’re ready – go into their room. (I know, I just told you not to do that. But now you’re ready). Don’t go in there to snoop, but to pick up the empty water bottles left behind, along with the candy wrappers and the few pieces of dirty laundry they left in the corner. Then change the sheets so the bed is ready for them when they come home. Trust me, that feels good.
7. When the phone rings and it’s your child calling from school, do whatever you need to do to answer that phone every time they call! And when you answer, be chill. (I know this is the hardest thing on the list, but stick with me here!) Ask them how they are and what’s up. Whether it’s the first call, or the 32nd call that comes in April, at some point they are going to ask you a question. It will be something they need, but don’t know how to do/where to go/whom to call.
This is your moment. It’s a magic moment, so don’t miss it. They will ask you for advice and truly want to hear what you have to say in response. Smile, but only if you are not face-timing. Feel this moment that you may have been waiting for since this child was born. This is why we parent. We parent these adorable babies through the difficult years until they become adults who want to handle their own lives. The bonus is when they realize you are the most trustworthy resource they have.
Tips for When Your Freshman Finally Calls
- Don’t laugh (especially if they are asking how to do laundry or how you buy a stamp or where you find peanut butter in the grocery store)
- Give them the answer they are looking for first.
- Don’t ask a zillion questions about classes and roommates and when they are coming home to visit (unless they bring it up). Usually if they need something, they are actually standing in the grocery store or hauling laundry as you speak. Listen for their cues and hang up when they are ready.
- When you are off the phone, replay this conversation in your head 47 times and pat yourself on the back.
OK, I know. You still miss them. But here’s one more thing: it’s fun to remember them at age 4 and age 8 and sometimes even age 12 on that one sweet day in middle school. But try to think about them as they are now. The 6’2”, 30 inch waisted, always-hungry boy-man who just left to pursue his dream.
Or the courageous woman who picked a school far from home because she knew exactly what she wanted and now she’s working to wrangle that goal for herself. Or the twins, one of which has no idea what she wants, and the other is hoping to find it when he gets there.
Your son or daughter is their own big person now. Miss THOSE lovely people. The ones you raised to think for themselves, or who are on the cusp of learning how to do it. Miss the adult who is about to mature exponentially during this first semester. You have your whole life to think about those early parenting days. The four-year-old has been gone for some time now.
We don’t need to freshly mourn the loss of pre-school aged cuteness as they go off to college. Right now, embrace the person who is the college-aged kid you just moved into a dorm and pray/wish/hope the very best for him. That’s our job now, along with answering the next phone call.
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Jennifer Fromke is an aspiring novelist who writes from North Carolina, where she pines for colder temperatures all year long. Northerners by upbringing, she and her husband of 27 years have raised three Southern-ish children, the youngest of which just left for college. Jennifer hosts a book review blog at Shetalksbooks.com.