I’m probably not the best one to be writing this letter, considering my child is about to start his sophomore year in college and I’m already missing him so much I’ve cried twice this week.
Remember the stupid stuff you did in college. You need to have a mental picture of a successful adult that did stupid things to pull up when your child is photographed dressed as a unicorn and running across campus.
Maybe the first thing I would tell you is this: It’s okay to cry. You will feel stupid when you do it, trust me, but it really is okay. And hopefully you have friends who have cried the same tears before you, who can give you a knowing hug (and probably laugh at you a little) as you sob, “MAH BABBBEEEE!”
Just try your best to hold it together on Move-In Day. Move-In Day will be a very strange day because you are trying not to cry and wanting to make the day last forever; while your child is trying to keep from pushing you into the car and telling you to go home the second the boxes are unloaded. Hopefully, you can both stay aware of this dichotomy and try to give each other a little bit of support. My son was very tolerant and let us walk around campus and take tons of pictures and he let me cry a little as we hugged him goodbye. In return, I didn’t stay and help him put his underwear in his drawers or organize his desk like I wanted. We met somewhere in the middle, which is what I would suggest you do. Remind your child this is a hard day for you and to try to be patient with you, and also promise them you’ll slip them $40 before you leave if they do their job well.
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That’s another tip: Your child will always be wanting/needing money. They will always be complaining about being poor. Remind them that the whole “Poor College Student” is a right of passage and they will thank you later. But periodically, when they come home for a weekend, slip them $40 before they leave so that they’ll come back more often in the hope for more cash.
(Yes. It’s tricky. But desperate times and all.)
Do not expect long phone calls every few days. Do not expect hours on Skype or immediate text responses. Give your child plenty of ways to communicate with you, follow them on social media if they don’t mind, and just be grateful for any communication you can get. Even if it’s just an instagram photo of their friends at Waffle House at 2am.
(This is why they are always broke.)
But when they are home and wanting to talk, or when they do call, drop everything and listen. Ask tons of questions in a way that shows you’re really excited to hear about their lives. Remember their friend’s names. Laugh at their crazy stories and commend them on their life experiences. If your kids tells you about the Fire Eater they met, point out they’ve achieved a milestone you never have. You’ve never talked to a fire eater before! Your child will value those moments where you sincerely seem excited and THAT will be what has them call home more often.
Speaking of Fire Eaters: Remember the stupid stuff you did in college. If you didn’t do a lot of stupid things, ask your very mature friends, because they’ve probably done plenty. You need to have a mental picture of a successful adult that did stupid things to pull up when your child is photographed dressed as a unicorn and running across campus.
(Mine hasn’t done that. Yet.)
Don’t only ask about grades and classes. These are the years your child will start to find their place in the world, find the people they like to be surrounded by, find the subjects they like to study, find the activities they like to enjoy in their free time. They are doing a lot of learning outside the classroom and be as interested in that as you are in their grades.
But most of all, get all of the hugs you can, now. I miss the hugs the most. I sobbed when I gave my child his Goodbye Hug on Move-In Day because that is what I knew I’d miss. The, “I love you, Mom” hugs. He obliged (even though he was ready for us to be gone already) and patted me on the back, giggling a little bit as I said through the tears, “I’m going to miss you so much!” He squeezed me one last time and said to my husband, “Don’t let her cry all the way home, okay?”
Which I did. And have every Goodbye Hug since.