Dear Sue Ellen,
We are getting our son ready to leave for college and I am a wreck. I want to be supportive, but I am not ready for this. Do you have any words of encouragement?
– Wrecked Mom
Dear Wrecked Mom,
Life is really strange. One day the doctor is putting a newborn baby into our arms. Then what feels like a week later, (really 18 years) we are pushing our kids out of the nest and telling them to fly away on their own.
Parents get a few short years to prepare their children for life. Some do a better job than others. Some kids manage to grow into responsible healthy adults in spite of the toxic homes they grew up in, and some kids turn out selfish and rotten in spite of the loving and nurturing homes they were brought up in…go figure. Research shows we mostly raise our kids the same way we were raised. Children growing up in dysfunctional homes may vow they will do it differently, and they can, if they are willing to learn new skills. It’s complicated, but we can be good parents in spite of our life situations.
Have you ever seen parents that never let go of their grown kids? They are always trying to get into their kid’s business and overstepping every healthy boundary there is between adult children and their parents? We really do have to let them go, but it is hard. By letting them go, we are saying, “you can do this” and “I believe in you”. By hanging on to them we could be saying to them, “you can’t do life without me” and “don’t make your own life decisions because I will always know best.” Your kids will resent you clinging to them.
You asked for encouragement, so here is my best shot. I know it is hard to let your baby go, but that is what love does. As your son grows into adulthood, he will learn to have a new kind of relationship with you that could be as special as when he was a little boy. It will be different, and different can be good. Take a deep breath Mom. You are still an important part of his life and he still needs to know that you have expectations of him, even though he is at college. He is starting a new chapter of life and so are you. Celebrate! You will get through this period of grief and loss. When you do, be prepared to enjoy life in new and exciting ways.
One more thing to think about. Reports are showing that more kids are returning home after college while they are looking for a job. See…he might be back. (If he does, you will probably fondly reminisce about the days when he was away). You got your son to college; an accomplishment that lots of parents miss out on. You did good. Now go, and enjoy your mid- life crisis; dye your hair purple, get a tattoo, or buy something silly that you’ve always wanted.
– Sue Ellen