Many of my online friends have expressed they are sending children off to college and are a little caught up in the emotions. I've been there and want to write heart-to-heart about it.
Some of us are fortunate enough that our children's college is driving distance within a couple of hours. For others, it is a flight away which makes it a little harder.
Mine were on the closer end but nevertheless, maybe something I share will comfort and guide you.
Caught up in a Myriad of Emotions
For most of us, mixed emotions just happen. No matter how brave-faced we intend to be, there's bound to be something that triggers us. It may be sadness realizing a stage of life is over. It may be fear of not being able to protect our child. It may be jealousy that we aren't getting to live the experience they're about to. It may be self-pity worrying about how alone we will feel. It may be regret that we didn't do this or that with our child before now or simple regret we didn't think to bring a cleaning bucket and tools to clean our child's dorm after seeing other parents carrying theirs around.
We are suddenly insecure, unprepared for some things, and in error of others (like the parent that has to bring large items back home because they don't fit in the dorm).
We might be caught off guard because we don't know the way, what to say, how much to control, where to park, where to eat, how the unloading process goes, etc. (Being prepared by reading online rules is very important!)
If you're experiencing any of the above, congratulations, you're normal. Just take it as it comes and try to relax as you deal with it all.
Then there are a few emotions you can put in check. For instance, becoming sad due to projecting a future that may not exist. If you find yourself suddenly picturing the rest of life alone without your child(ren), stop! That's just not fair because things will likely be fine and even enjoyable.
The controlling part of you needs to also be put into check for your sake and your child's sake. Don't be tempted to text and phone every hour. Limit setup of your child's dorm to the amount that feeds your soul but doesn't overstep your child's participation in setting up and decorating their own space.
This is one of the first chances you child gets to make their home away from home personalized. If you feel yourself tensed up and worried, ask if a spirit of control is at play. Let it go by trusting God with them.
Walking through this stage with your child as their cheerleader brings you into a brand new world you may never have predicted.
I'd never imagined at age 50 carrying baskets of goods up and down 5 flights of stairs to move my daughter in and out. She was a resident advisor and on resident student council for 5 years which meant she was require to live in a different dorm every year, and being on staff 3 summers. We moved her into 7 different dorm rooms. Usually she couldn't move directly from one to the other, so it meant bringing the stuff home or putting it in storage. So if we count moving home too we moved her about 10 times in and then out again. (She had apartment style dorms so had full kitchen equipment, but had minimal furniture except for once when she took our loveseat, her own matress, and fish tank.)
We didn't go to many activities at the school but once were invited to see a dance routine put on by a club she was in and once my husband joined her for a football game. You may go to more or less.
You can nurture your mom-instinct by taking your child grocery shopping, making frozen dinners for them, or sending care packages. It's a way to feel connected.
One Step at a Time
Don't be surprised if some days you get caught up in heart-rendering grief. It's a necessary part of letting go. When or if that hits you, it will be a watershed moment. You won't want to return to it. So you will develop coping skills that might include taking up a new hobby, creating new routines for yourself or for you and your spouse. You’ll avoid triggers. (If you can’t seem to get over the grief, reach out for help. What you focus on intensifies so if you focus on sad thoughts, they will increase. Just don’t to it to yourself!)
You can work on your relationship with your husband, work on your health, work on finding a new job, taking new courses, or just enjoy a new sense of freedom.
The wonderful news is in most cases they will be back. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays come quickly. If they are closer, they may be back every couple of weekends. Then you'll see you can survive!
Now’s the time to put all the memories in the “cherish” file and to offer yourself a graduation certificate. Raising children is hard. You’ve done it! So be proud of yourself and be proud of how far your child has come!