Your child will be just fine

Kari Collins is a former MSU student who worked for The Wichitan. She resides in Iowa Park, Texas and works for  the Iowa Park Leader.

Kari Collins is a former MSU student who worked for The Wichitan. She resides in Iowa Park, Texas and works for
the Iowa Park Leader.

Right now I think I understand where you are as a parent.

You fed your child their first bite of oatmeal. You watched them take their first step, throw up something that looks like goulash and most likely silently prayed in the passenger seat the first time they drove.

I would also bet you sat through games in sub-zero temperatures, took their bedroom door off the hinges when they slammed it one time too many (or, maybe that was just me), and wanted to stab them with a spork at least seven times their senior year in high school.

Conversely, I understand that you hold a love in your heart for your child no one could possibly match, that you have been so proud of an accomplishment of theirs you couldn’t contain your joy; and that you cannot imagine life without them.

And now, you are setting them free — at least a little — as you move them into their first home away from your home.

Rejoice, for your need for sporks has been greatly reduced and you are probably running low on them by now anyway. Still, you will no doubt be crying as you leave your child in the dorm, most likely because you think they will be just fine without you. And you will be right.

Congratulations and welcome to the club.

Ten years ago this month, I went through exactly what you are when I dropped my youngest off at Texas Tech. I felt I was abandoning him.

This is the same child who, 12 years earlier, I was afraid of sending to kindergarten because I wasn’t sure he was up to the task of carrying his own lunch tray.  I was clearly that mom.

Now, here we stood in his top-floor dorm room and just like that time in kindergarten I was expected to leave. Even worse, after unloading everything he might need in case of the apocalypse, fungus filled showers, or post-nasal drip it really was time for me to go. Smart one that he was, he walked me to the elevator and said goodbye from there.

It is utterly mind-boggling how much snot can run in 13 short floors while trying not to make eye contact with anyone. After I finally located my car through the saddest tears ever cried by a mother, I sat and ugly cried some more.

“He doesn’t need me,” I thought. Several minutes, tears and ridiculous “What if?” scenarios passed before sanity finally found me in a parking lot full of crying parents.

That sanity said to me, clear as day, “He has his entire life in front of him, and I still have mine in front of me.” So I began formulating a plan to turn his old bedroom into my new home office.

In that moment I went from being a helicopter mom to a paper airplane mom, deciding only to glide in occasionally. After all, I had an office renovation to keep me busy.

I learned many things my son’s freshman year in college, but these stand out the most.

They will grow up tremendously that year, if you let them. The first time my son came home to visit, he sorted, washed, dried and folded his own laundry while I watched suspiciously from my new home office.

When a college freshman calls you and asks, “So, do you want to hear a funny story?” Say no. Just trust me.

Go to Parent’s Weekend and Homecoming.

If they don’t answer your call or text message, they are not necessarily at the police station or morgue, a lesson I learned in embarrassing ways.

Get to know the campus. It is beautiful and features artwork by internationally known artists, some beautiful architecture and I can’t lie — I have a soft spot for D.L. Ligon Coliseum.

It’s unlikely that your child will stick with the same major his entire collegiate career. It is possible and has happened, but I think more often than not, most people under 20 don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their life, which is a long time.  Don’t freak out if they change majors a couple or four times. My son began his college career with a major in physics, and four majors later he graduated with a degree in English. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The good news is the first 18 years of your child’s life was about getting them ready for this moment — the moment they don’t live at home for the first time. You raise them to set them free and if you really think about it, you probably don’t want a 30-year-old on your couch eating Cheetos and getting their grimy fingers all over your remote and German Shepherd, even if it is that kid you couldn’t bear to be away from 12 years ago.

You’ve been getting your child ready for this day their entire life. But like me, you may have just forgotten to get yourself ready.

Your child will be just fine, and so will you.

Kari Collins is a former MSU student who worked for The Wichitan. She resides in Iowa Park, Texas and works for the Iowa Park Leader.

 

OTHER THOUGHTS

Stand back and let these talented young people begin to grow. Being the parent of a college student is one of the most prideful things that parents will ever experience. I thank parents for working so hard so that college professors like me can have the joy of working with the children that they have so carefully nurtured. I then tell them to go home. The kids will be OK. | Marshall P. DukeCharles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology, Emory University

If you’re dropping them off, drop and go. Don’t hang around helping to unpack and organize things. | Charlie MacPherson, Altadena, California in an NBC News article by Amy Diluna

There’ll be a lot of new people to meet and names to remember. And that’s your child’s job to keep it all straight, not yours. | Linda Lowen, About News

Exchange contact information with the roommate and his/her parents — for emergency use only. | Linda Wolff, blogger, Carpool Goddess

I wish someone had told me that if she says she wants to come home, it doesn’t necessarily mean for good. It made her feel really sad when I told her she had to stick it out for a while and that she should wait to come home. We learned that coming home for a weekend could help the transition in the long run. | Joey Brenneman, New York, New York in an NBC News article by Amy Diluna

Give them space, but realize you don’t have to completely leave them alone. If you’d like to, it’s fine to call to see how your student is doing, but only once at the most. The conversation itself is more important than its content, because it provides students with a still-familiar thing in their lives. | Princess Fox, Director of Student Programs at Northwest Christian College (Eugene, Oregon) in the Christian College Guide by Jeremy Weber