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Two weeks ago I dropped my daughter off at the place that will be her home for most of the next four years: a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin. What a roller-coaster ride this past summer was, with intense bonding intertwined with heated arguments. I was confident; I was cool. And I thought I was doing a fine job. So why all the arguments along with the bonding?
It turns out that as a last gasp to hold on to their childhood, graduated seniors bound for the college life can revert back to their early teen years of feigned helplessness and blaming of others. The familiar refrain—as described in the book, Letting Go: A Parents Guide to Understanding the College Years—is repeated from coast to coast. The child’s point-of-view after being pressed to fill out yet another form and make another decision is: “Leave me alone, stop reminding me I’m growing up and leaving.” And the parent’s point of view after finding wadded-up dollar bills at the bottom of the washing machine? “I’m not so sure you’re ready to leave. I’m not sure you can make it without me.”
So, we made it through the summer of I-don’t-want-to-grow-up-and-move-away-so-stop-pressuring-me. We carried boxes of mementos, extension cords, and ecological “green” light bulbs up three flights of stairs. We talked about roommate expectations and being courteous to those we need to share space with. And then I left her with a hug and a squeeze and tears in my eyes. It’s a good thing my husband was driving.
Like all parents, I am hopeful and yet fearful that I gave her everything she needed to prepare her for adult life. Will she spend her money wisely? Will she study hard and do well in her classes? Will she remember to eat before she is ready to faint? Will she get up in time to make it for her 8 a.m. class two days a week?
All the phone calls home she’s made since we’ve left her there, along with the Google+ chats we’ve managed to arrange, have been reassuring. But it was a recent Facebook post that really let me know how things are going for her. “Found out my Environmental Studies prof is a UU . . . today is a good day.” Yeah, things are going to be just fine.
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Michelle Richards is the author of Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting (Skinner House, 2010).
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