By Vicki Little
As much as each age and stage prepares our children for the next phase of life, we too have learned a lot as we watch them grow. That sleepless third trimester prepared us for the sleep deprivation we would soon face. That half day of Kindergarten eased us into the full day of elementary school. The drama of middle school was a mere sneak peak at high school, and the late nights we spent worrying about our new student driver gave us a reason to stay up reading good books again. And collectively, all of this time you spent teaching your children to become independent was also preparing you for the day when they would leave home. But all that preparation doesn’t take away the empty feeling in the house when that time comes. While you are filling out scholarship applications and buying new stuff for the dorm room, find some time to prepare yourself for the next stage in your life when your child leaves for college.
Create opportunities to spend time with your child before he or she leaves. Sit down and schedule one-on-one time with your child rather than assuming your child will have the time to be spontaneous. It’s a busy, exciting time before heading off to college, and there are many people who will want to say goodbye. You will most likely end up in a fight if you make plans that they can’t (or don’t want to) attend. Make these times special for your immediate family or for the two of you. Sure, their aunts and cousins want to say goodbye as well, but they aren’t going to be the ones feeling the emptiness when they are gone.
Fill your schedule for the week after they leave. Think of a time when you were waiting for the phone to ring — whether it was a doctor telling you results or your child the first time he or she walked to school alone. Remember how slowly the time dragged by? Well, it is going to be even worse, so make sure you stay busy. Now would be a good time to pamper yourself and touch base with friends you haven’t talked to in a while.
Ease your mind by not rescuing them for at least a couple of months before they go. One of the hardest things about letting your baby go off on their own is wondering if they will be OK and how they will handle things. Your mind can take you to crazy places thinking about all of the possibilities. Letting your child take the reins of their life before they go will be beneficial to you both. They will gain confidence and learn some lessons while you are still there to help if things get bad, and you will gain confidence that they will be able to make the right decisions. You may even consider dropping their curfew for senior year. It is going to happen in a few short months, and this will give them some time to get used to freedom. It will also build trust between you.
Be realistic in your expectations. Most likely it is going to be harder on you than on them. Sure they will be homesick and they will miss your wonderful spaghetti dinners and a clean bathroom, but it is going to be such an exciting time for them. They also will have a full schedule. So while you are waiting anxiously by the phone for them to call, that conversation may have to be put off until tomorrow. They won’t have a curfew, and since they are on their own, it will be unrealistic to expect them to call you when they go home for the night.
Don’t become a stalker. You know they hate that — they spent hours complaining about an ex-boyfriend who called every half hour and filled up the voicemail. Or the friend they stopped talking to because said friend kept texting until they texted back. And don’t become a busybody either. College is all about change and getting to know yourself better. Allow them to want to talk to you without fearing your judgement. If they don’t enjoy the time they spend talking to you, those calls and texts will become fewer and fewer.
Find a new passion. You will feel like you have a lot of time on your hands. All those little things that you did for your child through the day probably took up more time than you realized. Instead of dwelling on what is missing, look at the positive side. You can finally crotchet that blanket for your best friend’s new grandchild. Or you can take that new fitness class you never had time for. Or maybe you can even bring back to life the garden that wilted five years ago. This is a great time to rediscover your passions.
Talk with a friend or your spouse about how you are feeling. Don’t keep all of those feelings to yourself. Alienating yourself will only make you feel even more miserable. Talk with your husband or a good friend about how you are feeling. Those feelings aren’t wrong or bad or stupid. They are legitimate feelings and talking about them will help you deal with them and move forward instead of letting them fester. Perhaps your spouse will find new and fun ways to help you stay busy — it could be like a second honeymoon!
What helped you get through your first baby flying the nest?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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