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Sending Your Kid to College Is Very Much Like Kindergarten

Sending Your Kid to College is Very Much Like Kindergarten

Four years ago, my oldest child left for college, a large university two hours away. As she prepared for this exciting adventure, I took to pen and paper to express my feelings. The sentiment is likely similar for many who are sending your kid to college, a gap year, the military, or wherever. So, this is for you…

To My College-Bound Daughter

You are leaving for college in less than two weeks. I knew that this moment was coming, and maybe it was a little denial or perhaps it was genuine thoughts of “it is a long way off…” Either way, now the moment is practically here. and I’m having a mini panic attack.

I realize all parents have this moment in their lives, but how I’m reacting to it is a bit odd… for me. As you know, I’m not one to show much, if any, sentimentality or emotion—particularly tears—but I’m finding that even the littlest things are creating small leaks in my eyes.

A song on the radio (thank you, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”), a photograph, your shoes left in a pile by the door (please pick these up!), a gathering with your friends who have poured their hearts into you.

So, please forgive me if you hear me sniffling in the corner or catch me wiping my eyes at a seemingly random time…

Seriously, just look the other way. I’m going to need a moment.

parenting adult children the great shift of motherhoodSending You off Is a Lot Like Kindergarten

I remember these same feelings, while definitely not as strong, when you went to kindergarten. You were ready, eager to learn, meet new people, and seek adventure beyond the comfort of our home—at four years old.

You stood on our front porch with your cute striped pink dress and bright white shoes, backpack and lunch box in hand, with an adorable, proud, eager, and confident smile on your face. When we arrived at school, I kissed you, and you looked up at me with those huge blue eyes and said, “Bye, Mom. See ya later.” You smiled and waved at me one last time and then turned to start playing with some other children. You were ready… ready!

Now at 17 (almost 18) you’re doing the exact same thing… except you won’t come home to us each afternoon anymore. We’ll hear about the exciting things in your life long after they happen. We won’t be able to give you a hug when you’ve had a bad day or sit on the couch and hold you as you cry over a broken heart or a failed assignment. We can’t remind you to set your alarm or to eat vegetables. We can’t help you pick the strong trees to hang your hammock on. We can’t pretend to understand politics or calculus or genetics while you do your homework.

It’s very much like kindergarten, but it’s not.

My mama brain has a million thoughts every day lately like this (with very good answers, but whatever):

What if you don’t like your professor/teacher? (Suck it up.)

What if you get hurt or sick? (Go to Health Services.)

What if you can’t figure out the washing machine? (Ask the cute guy next to you for help.)

What if you don’t like the food for lunch? (Eat it anyway or starve.)

Will someone call me if you’re having a bad day? (Yep, you will.)

What if you fail a test? (Study harder.)

What if there’s a creepy guy living next door? (Trust those little hairs on the back of your neck.)

What if you don’t get along with your “potluck” roommate? (There are lots of other people to hang out with.)

What if you use all the data on your phone? (Figure out the Wi-Fi spots or buy more from mom and dad.)

What if you get lost while riding the bus? (Ask for directions or use it as an excuse to explore.)

What if you can’t find a group of people that are your people? (Keep looking.)

What if all your dreams come true and you don’t want to come home? (That’s actually the whole point, and we can always come to you.)

What if ? (What if?)

What if? (What if?)

What if? (What if?)

The rational side of my brain knows that we’ve taught you to handle all of these situations and more, but my (sometimes) irrational mama brain is having a difficult time shutting off… just like when I dropped you off at kindergarten for the first time.

The best part about kindergarten (well, K-12)? You found your people, you found your passions, you found your heart and soul, and, best of all, you found yourself. We know you will be true to all of those things and develop new and interesting passions. We know you will be nothing short of successful and have a college experience unlike anything we can even imagine. We are so very, very proud.

You found your people, you found your passions, you found your heart and soul, and, best of all, you found yourself.

Always Remember This

While the tears are likely (at least for me) and a little depression is probably going to happen, this is a temporary but necessary step in your life. I cannot wait to hear about every single failure, every single lesson learned, every single relationship that makes your heart swell or the ones that break it, and every single adventure.

So, go, sweet child of mine, and conquer the world. Shatter the glass ceiling. Create adventure. Be brave and strong and kind. Learn from those around you. Empathy will get you everywhere you need to go in life.

Remember where you came from. And, most importantly, be where you are.

For the record, she’s now a college grad, living in the big city, chasing her dreams, and all my concerns may or may not have played out as I thought, but she made lifelong friends (including a roommate sent from heaven).

Yours will be OK, too.

Don’t miss this episode of our podcast This Grit and Grace Life: How Can You Raise Great Girls? Darlene’s Daughters Tell All – 054

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When not being placed on a pedestal by the humans and animals in my life, I can be found reading, gardening, or hiking, and sometimes enjoying a glass of wine or a bottle of cider in my backyard oasis in the Mitten State.

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