As I flip my calendar to September this morning, I think to myself, “What a difference a year makes.”
Fifty-two weeks ago, we were in last-ditch effort mode of making sure we had bought everything on the dorm list and that we had rented a car big enough to fit all that stuff into. We were maintaining a façade that conveyed, “Everything will be great,” when at certain moments, I just wanted to hug my son’s warm body and never let go.
The first year of college goes by quickly
But you know what? Everything was fine. Is fine. And it will be for you too.
I’d like to tell you not to worry. But you will.
I’d like to tell you not to cry too much. But you might. And that’s fine,too.
I’d like to tell you it will all go smoothly. But it won’t. And that will be fine, as well.
Because here are the things that will probably go down:
They’ll feel awkward living in a very small space with someone who’s not family.
They’ll feel weird using a bathroom with a stranger in the stall next to them.
They’ll get lost.
They’ll be late for a class.
They’ll flunk a quiz.
They’ll lose their ID.
They’ll lose their phone.
They won’t communicate with you for over 48 hours.
They’ll get sick.
And they will survive.
And here’s what else will go down:
You’ll feel lost.
You’ll feel awkward that their place at the table is empty.
You’ll miss their dirty socks on the floor.
You’ll shed a tear in the snack aisle at the grocery store looking at a bag of pretzels.
You won’t think about them for a day and then you’ll feel guilty and proud all at once.
And you will survive.
And a year will quickly pass by and you will look back and think:
Why did I stress about the bedding? And the Command strips? And the under-bed storage containers?
And why did I worry about a dozen other scenarios that never happened? Because they are our babies, just in bigger bodies. Plain and simple.
And as their parents, we all want them to succeed. And not be scared. And not get lost.
And you know what?
They figure it out. All of it. One way or another.
Just like we did.
And a year from now, you’ll be looking back and feeling so much relief and so much pride. And you’ll probably smile at how silly it now seems that those little “necessities” were deemed so vital to their college success.
But we want things to be as perfect as possible, knowing deep down inside they will never be perfect, but we do our part. We try our best.
And the year wasn’t perfect. Because life is never perfect. But they survive.
If they got lost, they found a path.
If they felt awkward, they got over it. Or got used to it.
If they flunked a test, or a class, they figured something out.
If they got sick, they got well again.
If they got scared, they found a way through it.
And if they were unable to overcome any of those hurdles, and things got really bad, you all figured it out together. And you all got braver and found solutions.
So, if you are a parent who’s struggling right now, I know deep in my core what you are feeling, and fearing, and hoping. And I’m also deeply certain that a year from now, no matter what happens to your teen at college, you will be thankful for many things. And you will feel intense pride. And you’ll be the one telling friends that they will survive. And to try to relax about the mattress pad and the laundry basket.
And you will exhale deeply and be thankful that this year is so much easier, but you’ll still shed a few tears as you send your teen away again. Because we are parents and some worries will always take up space in our heads. They are always our babies. But as with each progressive stage of their life, we all get over the hurdles and keep moving forward.
And as we now laugh, thinking back to how we stressed about potty-training and starting kindergarten, in a year you will be laughing at some of your concerns during this send-off. I promise.
So, go ahead and do all the things that make you feel prepared and more at ease, but try your best to put it all in perspective.
They will survive, and you will too.
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