When we arrived home yesterday after dropping our eldest son at college, my husband retorted, "one down, one to go". I have to say that I was quite offended by this remark. I did not feel the relief that this comment connotes. When I got home yesterday with one less child in tow, I felt empty.
Eighteen years ago when I found out I was pregnant I knew that my life's path had taken an immediate change in a different direction. The world no longer revolved around me and my career ambitions. My world now revolved around the baby I nurtured and gave birth to. His health and his happiness were in the forefront of my mind and it remains today. Even though your child turns eighteen and is off (on their own?) to college, as a parent, you are still responsible and will forever put your child's needs first!
A few days before my son left for college we sat at the dining room table and were giving him pep talks and words of encouragement. We reminded him that while he should explore his interests and have fun and meet new people he should keep in mind that he is ultimately paying for his education. Whatever he puts into it is what he will get out of it. If he veers off the path and gets distracted or falls behind or fails out of school, he will immediately owe money and have to repay his loans. Without a college education it will be difficult for him to find a decent job to live and pay off the loans. I believe we scared him enough that he knows what his financial commitment is at this point.
At the same time, I made it clear that he will always have his bedroom in our home. We are not converting it to an office or gameroom or any other such nonsense. I anticipate that when he does graduate, four years from now, he will live at home. I am not one of those parents that will cut ties with my kid just because they are eighteen and should be on their own. My children will always be welcome in my home.
A home and family is a support system. There is no age limitation or discrimination based on life choices. We will be here for our sons for the rest of our lives.
I realize that at some point I have to loosen the leash and let them find their way and I plan to do this. I know from my own experience that this is a critical step to allow your child to become who they were meant to be.
When I applied to colleges I chose schools that were somewhat far from home. I did not choose the typical UCONN that over half my high school fell back on. I felt I needed to be far enough away from home so that I couldn't just run home if things got tough.
I applied to nine schools and got accepted to eight. I had quite a choice. I visited six of the eight. I chose a small, private college in Florida because it was where I felt the most comfortable. It was a small community within a city. It had aesthetic surroundings and small classes. The dorm rooms were bigger comparatively speaking. Bottom line, it just felt right. Yeah, I could of went to a big name school but when I visited them, I just felt like a number; a fly on the wall. I knew I would have been swallowed up and miserable.
When we took our son on the college visit road trip this last spring I told him that the most important thing is that you feel comfortable in the environment. He chose his school based on the diverse student population, distance from home, reputation for a decent music program, proximity of buildings and small community-within-a-community feel. He knows and is friends with his roommate and has about five other friends from his high school who will be attending his college as well.
He has a lot going for him and is starting out ahead of the game, in my opinion. When I went to school, I did not know my roommate and had difficulty from the start. After the first semester I was ready to transfer to a different school. Luckily, I had met someone who, I believe to this day, 'saved' me. She became my roommate for the 2nd semester of my freshman year and my entire sophomore year. I still see her as the sister I never had. Thankfully, we are still in touch to this day even though we haven't 'seen' each other in over 23 years!
I found that the most growth and knowledge I got from my college experience was with the people I met and associated with. I met people from different countries, cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. They enriched my overall experience and challenged me. They shaped the person I am today. I value all of the late-night conversations and first-time experiences that I shared with my college buddies.
I hope my son is lucky enough to get as much out of his education as I did mine!