Friday, July 15, 2016

College Bound

My world is changing.  

Not because Cleveland finally won a championship, not because the election, not because of the threat of terrorism in the world.  My world is changing because this fall both our daughters are starting college.  Jessica is going to commute to a local college and Alyssa is going to live at a different school about 45 minutes away.

This week I spent two days with Alyssa at her new school’s “welcome week” program.  It was so nice to have extended time with only her.  Of course as she grew up we spent a lot of time together just the two of us, but this seemed different.  We weren’t in the car headed off to some errand or even a skating competition.  This was me being there for her as she headed off to become a woman.  This was her finding her path through life.  

We found her dorm building.  She led me from her dorm to the ice rink, to prove to herself she could find it on her own.  The whole time we talked.  For the most part it wasn’t about super important things, we just talked about whatever came up; a cute guy that passed, being nervous and excited about scheduling classes the next day, decorating her dorm room.

At different points throughout the two days, they separated all the parents from the in-coming students to talk about specific ways to support your child’s journey, to help them be successful. They led the kids away to have meetings with their new advisors, schedule classes and get to know one another through ice-breaking and team building games.  

I sat there listening to all the speakers, surrounded by other parents.  Some who’d already sent several kids to college, some new parents like me.  Many were nervous, asking all sorts of questions.  One lady asked, “How can I make my son not procrastinate?”  Lots of heads bobbed as if the same question was running through their minds.  Another said, “I was told that even though we only live 20 minutes away, I’m not to visit or let her come home until Thanksgiving so she can get the Real College Experience.”  It was like they were asking for the prescription for a perfect college life.   

I sat there listening.  I didn’t ask any questions.  It’s not that I’m not nervous.  There are plenty of little worries that I have like, will she be safe?  Will she eat enough?  How will we pay for all of this?  

But I thought back to when I was starting college.  I was a lot like Alyssa, a little shy at first but outgoing once I got to know people.  I had a great time in college, sure there were bumps along the way but I figured it out.  I lived at home for my first 3 years of college.  My mom and I made dinners together, she’d often pick me up for lunch between classes, I still went to all my brother’s hockey games, I just had a lot more homework. I still made new friends, got involved with the ice rink and hockey team on campus, and found my husband to be.   I loved every minute of it.  I don’t think anyone can say I didn’t have the Real College Experience.

There is no prescription to the perfect college experience or perfect parenthood.  If there is anything that I have learned from being a parent for 19 1/2 years, it’s that every kid is so beautifully unique that even if you know what “works” for one, it may totally backfire for another. You make plenty of mistakes and figure it out as you go.  Maybe your kid will benefit from not seeing you until Thanksgiving and maybe not.  And if they are still procrastinating at 18 there is nothing you can do to make them otherwise, they have to figure it out.  And guess what.  They will.

I know both Alyssa and Jess will do great in college!  I’m more concerned with what I’m going to do all day.  For the first time in 15 years, I’ll be home alone!  I guess I’ll just figure it out.   

Me and Alys at Welcome Week