If you’ve dropped off a kid for their freshman year of college, I bet you have a hilarious story about something that happened on move-in day that had you thinking to yourself, “There is no way I can just leave my kid here. He’s never gonna make it. He may be an academic all-star, but common sense and maturity-wise? He’s got nothing!”
I had that exact thought when while moving my firstborn son into the dorm, the same son who would be attending college on an academic scholarship, asked me how washing machines work. “Read the back of the Tide box,” I told him, then went home and prayed that this very gifted-yet-quasi-clueless child would survive the semester.
That same child is now in graduate school for higher education and spends his days teaching classes to clueless freshmen on how to succeed at college. How that came to pass is something akin to a magical maturity time machine that takes place during the four years of college, much the same way toddlers go from pooping in their pants one year to only three years later confidently marching into a kindergarten classroom.
I promise, it happens!
Changes can you expect from first year to senior year
1. Let’s NOT party!
The majority of college freshmen have more free time than they know what to do with, and that lends itself to a plethora of bad choices to fill that time, most of which can be summed up into a “doing all the things my parents never let me do” category. Thankfully, that eventually gets old, and self-monitoring of infantile behavior kicks in somewhere late sophomore year when kids realize being stupid drunk just means you’re stupid AND drunk.
Fact — They WILL outgrow partying.
2. Skipping class? Not anymore!
There is no truancy officer on campus calling your mom, so freshmen eagerly delight in the fact that skipping class is a fun rebellion and no big deal, until one day it IS a big deal and leaves them floundering after a huge missed exam. GOOD. Let them experience failure because of their bad choices, and watch the result.
Fact — They will learn from their screw-up and move attendance up the priority list.
3. Daily life problems become more solvable on their own, and much less traumatic for everyone.
Without a doubt, you’re gonna get the “I’m sick mom, what do I do now?” phone calls their freshman year. These will be followed by the very dramatic “I had a fight with my roommate, what do I do now?” call, followed by a hundred other “What. Do. I Do Now!?” calls and texts.
When you stop solving their problems and allow them the space to do it on their own, these calls stop, and are replaced with, “This awful thing happened, and this is what I did, and now it’s ok!”
Fact — Big issues begin to melt into little ones that are easily fixed without your intervention.
4. When MAJOR reality hits.
When they become juniors and find their major, and I promise they will, there is a mental switch that goes off, signaling that now things are a bit more real. Class sizes dwindle, studies become more tailored to their personal interests and goals, and classmates now become career peers, leading less than studious kids to buckle down a bit more.
The end is near, and thankfully it coincides with continued brain development and the realization that growing up is unavoidable, and that’s what is supposed to happen!
Fact — You’ll suddenly feel like you’re actually chatting with an ADULT, and it feels amazing.
5. From 18-year-old party animal to functioning adult? Yes, please.
Four years of living and learning at college away from parents seemingly transform even the most immature kid into a budding adult. This will probably shock you at some point. Their independence may even scare you, especially when they begin talking about the plans they’ve made for their future without even consulting you. And listen, that’s a very good thing!
Fact — You will also have changed into something that looks less like a “mom” and more like a “mentor” so embrace your new role! (I swear it’s better than doling out hangover remedies).
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