It’s hard to believe the iconic blue Ikea bags are once again back in our hallway, but this time waiting to be unpacked.
My daughter’s freshman year at college flew by at lightning speed, and nine months ago I would have told you each day away from her was going to feel like a lifetime.
But you know what?
This year wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. The days didn’t go by at a snail’s pace and I never felt fully disconnected.
Yes, it’s different and our household changed a bit, but the year was manageable.
It’s impossible to imagine what it will be like when your baby heads off to college or moves (mostly) out of your home.
Maybe as parents, we set ourselves up for thinking a part of our life is ending when one of our kids heads off to college. And it’s true, a chapter has ended.
But, we can’t forget new doors have also opened and within this new chapter there is room for a different connection to be born between parents and the independent big kid standing before us.
So for the moms reading this with a lump in their throat, dreading graduation day, packing up the room, and saying a final goodbye at the entrance of the dorm, I promise you this…you will be okay.
Here are 3 important things I learned after my daughter’s freshman year at college.
1. Technology is now your best friend:
As a mom of teenagers, I often have a love/hate relationship with technology, and each day I plead with my kids to put their phones down.
But now I sing a different tune. Texting is a lifeline to my daughter and I will do it at all times of the day and night. FaceTime and I are BFF’s!
Once my daughter left for college, a plane ride away, technology was our connection.
Every conversation happened via the use of our phone: a text saying hi and checking in on what the rest of the family was doing or maybe one to ask what to do when she got sick for the first time away. Texting was quick and easy and a great check-in so I didn’t feel quite so anxious.
But FaceTime…it became my life preserver. Those days I missed my girl more than usual was quickly resolved with a text asking if she is free to FaceTime.
Some days I just needed to look into her eyes while talking and see her smile. That’s all I needed, just to see her. I know it may sound silly, but after 18 years of seeing her daily, not seeing her felt odd. (I can’t imagine how my parents felt only talking to me on the phone).
College parenting pro-tip: It’s more than appropriate to ask to schedule a FaceTime call just to see them!
2. Find common ground
While we used to watch movies or binge-watch a series, it’s hard to have something that we can all experience and talk about regularly.
That’s where a singular word came into play for us….WORDLE!
We created a family group text just to share Wordle scores. We didn’t text anything else but our scores. Wordle made us all feel bonded even though we weren’t playing a game in person. A simple five letter game… who knew?
But each day my first guess of the day was always the same: HEART.
I’m thankful for Wordle because it allowed connection while separated by 823 miles.
3. Their friends will become family:
Isn’t this all we can ask as parents? That when our kids aren’t under our roofs that they will have people beside them who will care for them, help them, love them? Who will continue to teach and guide them?
Our kids will find their “family” away from home.
It may not be their roommate, and it may take some time, but they will form new bonds that enrich their life. But simply knowing other people are looking out for our kids allows us to breathe a sigh of relief!
When I would hear all of the giggles in the background, listen to stories about sharing clothes and food, the concern of making sure everyone had a buddy walking home, the worry when someone was sick and running to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, and everything in between each and every day, my heart felt so full knowing my sweet girl was in good hands.
What can I tell you about my daughter’s freshman year?
It was full of ups and downs, for both of us, but you will both survive. My daughter came back to our home, and I can’t wait to see how our new relationship develops this summer.
So moms, all of the “lasts” of senior year can feel like a sock in the gut and feel as if your heart is being ripped out of your chest cavity. And yes, sometimes it hurts, really hurts, but know this to be true: you will both be okay.
And when they aren’t, (which sometimes happens) then how lucky they are to know you are there to fall back on for support, love, and open arms?
And as your heart is left at the door of their new home, know this deep within your soul: you did an amazing job raising your big kid and they are ready, more than ready to take flight and soar.
We have a gift in raising our older teens that I think we sometimes forget. We have the privilege to walk with them throughout this process and this will mend your heart because their happiness overrides any sadness you may feel. Even when you miss them with every fiber of your being, you will only smile and feel proud.
Hang in there, Mama. You’ve got this!
Ali Flynn is excited to share with you the joys and hardships of motherhood with an open heart, laughter and some tears. Ali’s work has appeared on Her View from Home, Filter Free Parents, Grown and Flown and Today Parents, where she shares inspirational stories about motherhood while keeping it real. You can also find her on facebook and Instagram, at Hang in There, Mama, by Ali Flynn where she keeps motherhood real.