It’s been more than a year since my wife and I sent our firstborn to a university 500 miles away. As expected, it’s been a year of adjustment, and though we still haven’t quite figured things out, we’re learning.
Despite my sophomore status, a couple months ago, at her son’s graduation reception, a mother of a new graduate asked me if I had any advice for someone about to send her new graduate away to college. This wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I didn’t.
Be glad the kid is gone. I’m pretty sure that my parents don’t want me living in their basement. After my first and only college summer at home, I was really sure that my dad was glad when August came around. Be thankful that your kid has the ambition to leave the security of home. It’s the first step toward true independence.
Speaking of my dad, have some perspective. When my grandparents saw my dad leave for Vietnam, the best that they could hope for was to see him home and healthy in a year. During that year, they couldn’t send him a text or check his Twitter feed to see how he was doing. And since they couldn’t even talk over the phone, they never heard his voice. Thinking about that makes the 500 miles between me and my son seem somewhat trivial.
Take advantage of technology. If you have a kid graduating from high school, you’re old enough to remember limited communication technology from your own early adulthood years – calling cards and making your long-distance calls when the rates were lowest. E-mail and social media weren’t even options. Don’t act like it’s still the 80’s or early 90’s. You’ll want to give him some space, but a funny, unexpected text from home can brighten his day. Encourage him to do the same thing. Modern communication condenses miles.
Realize that he isn’t your clone. Hopefully, you’ve raised a better version of yourself. I’m forever grateful that my children weren’t set on building wisdom through ill-advised decision-making, like I was. Just because you struggled to avoid temptations in college doesn’t mean that your children will.
Assume the positive. Most of things we worry about never happen, and we waste time and energy thinking about them. Very rarely will you know where your college kid is, who he’s with or what he’s doing. Don’t allow your imagination to fill in those gaps with your worries. Assume that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.
Understand that now is the time to reap the rewards of your parenting. Raising children is a tough, but rewarding job. If you’ve done it correctly, by the time your kid graduates, the hard parts will be behind you. Leave them behind you. Constantly trying to control and guide your children is an unnecessary use of energy that can be better directed elsewhere.
Lastly, see #1. This is a time to celebrate and to congratulate yourself on getting this far as a parent. Though you’re likely going to miss your kid more than you can imagine, be happy that he’s at this exciting stage in his life. This is when many things come together. He’ll likely meet his future wife very soon. He’ll add to his list of life-long friends, and he’ll start to zero in on a career. None of that is possible without letting him go.