My daughter is officially going to college. I’ll be honest, I don’t think there are seven words that I’ve ever had such a difficult time wrapping my head around. Obviously, I’m elated, proud, and excited, but I also feel like the wind has been knocked out of me and a little bit like I may or may not have eaten bad sushi. Add “younger” to the syntax and you may want to take a few steps back.
To have college acceptances midway through senior year—even if they’re not places where she’ll ultimately end up—takes a lot of pressure off her. But for me, the pressure is just beginning. Because while those acceptance emails brought tears of pride and excitement, they also brought a very real invitation for my baby to step up to the edge of the nest, and I’ll be honest, I’m terrified to see her teetering there. In my mind her wings are still way too wet to fly.
Despite our fears we encourage them to scoot closer to the edge when what we really want to do is grab them, pull them back in and sit on them again, even though we know it’s frowned upon (and would probably get uncomfortable, especially after another 10 or 20 years of it). So we don’t. Instead, we cheer and encourage them and we celebrate through tears of pride and joy that are diluted with a healthy portion of fear and sadness. We hug them and tell them how happy and excited we are for them (obviously).
But we also can sometimes get caught up in the hysteria of it all, and if we’re not careful, can quickly get sucked into a dangerous vortex of swirling, complicated emotions. (I speak from experience — this isn’t my first trip to this whole going-to-college rodeo: I have the scars to prove it.)
So here’s a handy list of things NOT to do when your child gets accepted to college. Grab a Kleenex, leave your denial at the door and take notes.
Twelve Things NOT TO DO When Your Teen is Accepted to College
Don’t panic–As if.
Don’t forget they still have several months of senior year left– Don’t let the fact that they are officially into college overshadow or minimize the time and experiences they have left in high school. Things will change soon enough. Encourage them to enjoy being a high school kid as long as they can… or want to.
Don’t start over thinking it all … unless you have to– Thinking ahead to dorm room décor, class schedules, studying abroad, when the next time your family will vacation together for the rest of eternity —thinking these thoughts way ahead of time will cause you to sacrifice the precious moments of today. Not to mention, it may make you lose your mind. So, take it one step at a time. And breathe.
Don’t make it all about you– Tempting, I know, but don’t forget that while sure, this is a little bit about you (you’ve gotten them to this point, after all), this is their moment. Don’t steal it with your tears, fears, and insecurities. Keep those for your therapist, Dr. Chardonnay (or even more effective, your real one).
Don’t put off the little things– Brunch, a movie, just watching Netflix together on the sofa — take advantage of the small moments now, while you still can.
Don’t let them get away with more– I get it. It’s tempting now that there’s a hard deadline on their time at home and with you, but don’t forget once they’re in college they’ll be waving that independence flag wildly when they’re back home. Keep rules and expectations the same as they’ve always been, no matter how much Mr. or Ms. Co-Ed wants to manipulate tell you what to do otherwise.
Don’t be too hard on yourself– Listen, you’re gonna have moments where you need to let it out and just cry and feel torn apart. Go ahead. (That’s what 2 a.m. is for.) Don’t punish yourself for feeling sad. It absolutely doesn’t take away how incredibly excited and proud of your kid you are.
Don’t do things because you’re “supposed to”– Whether it’s a graduation party your grad doesn’t really want or an expensive gift you think you’re supposed to get or a big spring break trip you really can’t afford — don’t feel pressured to do all the end-of-senior-year things to keep up with the Johnsons. Don’t forget, you don’t really like them anyway.
Don’t forget about the other members of your family– Just kidding. They’ll matter again in September.
Don’t forget to take care of YOU – Who? But for real, you’re about to spend a whole lot of QT with her next year so it’s probably a good idea to get reacquainted.
Don’t forget who you raised– They’ve got this. As much as the fact that they cannot address an envelope begs to differ, they do.
Don’t forget who raised them– You’ve done a great job, mama, and you are stronger than you know.