I had the pleasure (?) of taking our oldest to her one day college orientation. I question how pleasurable it was because, quite honestly, she had the biggest puss face I've seen on her to date. The whole researching and applying to college is a miserable process. Especially if you are having to drag said HS senior by her long blond hair through the whole thing. Since she will readily admit that she wants to go to college (because, as she will also readily admit, she likes the benefits of her life style which is a result in part of her parents' college educations) you would think she would have shown more enthusiasm for the whole thing.
Anyway, as I was sitting in the conference room with a whole slew of other parents, listening to people from the various areas of the college speak, it dawned on me that sending daughter #1 off to college is a lot like sending a child off to kindergarten.
1 - Buying school supplies. We haven't begun to stockpile a thing for college. We've talked about the things she will need and the things she would like to have. And, thanks to Pinterest, she has pinned I don't know how many ideas to her board. (This, by the way, is the area she has exhibited the most interest in when it comes to college.) As you can guess, we are talking about way more than some new clothes, a folder with her name on it, and a backpack. She certainly didn't get a brand new room to decorate. I can already see the dance to be done here in balancing her vision of what her room will look like (again, thank you Pinterest!) with the financial and practical reality of a budget and that there is only so much that is going to fit in my SUV, and that includes putting the car top carrier on.
2 - Visiting the school. When she started Kindergarten, the school was open the last week in August for students to come in, walk around, find their classroom and maybe even see the teacher as she/he was in there prepping for the start of the school year. To date, daughter #1 and I have been to the campus three times. And, at the orientation, they told the parents we could come by again if our student felt they needed another walk around or a peek at their dorm. While I appreciate the openness of the administration/campus, I'm hoping this offer wasn't communicated to our kids as the college is over two hours from our house, I have two other kids to run around so the likelihood of this happening is pretty much nil.
3 - 1st day jitters. Or, in the case of our daughter, the whole year before jitters. I don't remember her being very nervous about going off to Kindergarten but I do CLEARLY remember her nervousness about going from elementary to middle school. All of 5th grade was spent in angst over going to 6th grade. First, she wasn't going. No way. When it became clear she had to (I vaguely remember telling her something about being physically picked up, put in the car, and dropped off - in her jammies - if she didn't cooperate. The choice was hers……), she told us she would go but she wasn't doing anything (it was never clear if she meant school work or extra curricular activities). So I don't know why I'm surprised that she is freaking out about going off to college. She is a homebody so sleeping in a bed that is not her own for more than a week is going to be a giant adjustment for her. I overheard her tell her dad that she will be texting me every day and probably calling. She is trying to get me to make a commitment to sleep with my cell phone.
4 - Making new friends. A huge stressor for our daughter has been who her roommate will be. Will this person be respectful? Will they be friends? Will they touch her stuff? Will they be okay with her asking them to use the giant bottle of hand sanitizer she plans on keeping in her room…..she's kind of a germaphobe. I view this stressor as an 18 year old's version of "who will be my best friend in class." I want her peers to like her and I worry about the same things I did when she went out the door to Kindergarten - will she be liked? Will they see what a gentle, sensitive soul she is? Will someone take advantage of this and hurt her? Will she stand up for herself? Let's not forget that she goes from sharing a bathroom with her sister to sharing a public-like bathroom with approximately 18 other girls….this is the same girl who avoided the bathrooms at high school and made a beeline for one as soon as she came home from school. If there is any situation that will make or break the newly formed bonds of friendship it will be how these girls share that space.
5 - Parent anxiety. My daughter has no idea how much her dad and I are struggling with what is going to happen over the next 7 weeks. First, we need to get through her high school graduation. As I've already shared in #2, she doesn't always handle transitions really well so we aren't sure which child we'll get: the bundle-of-nerves-which-shows-itself-by-the-degree-of-puss-face-she-wears or the giddy chatterbox. And what will early August bring? No doubt both she and I will be increasingly on edge as her departure date gets close and the dining room becomes piled with the items to be packed/squished into the car. Our squabbling will mask the nervousness as we ask ourselves have we taught her all the right lessons so that she can advocate for herself, make good choices, and be brave? Not unlike when we got ready to send her to Kindergarten - did she know how to ask for help? Can she choose right from wrong all by herself? Will she feel comfortable enough to try and take risks? Then there are the practical things: did we pack everything she needs? Does she have enough of it so she does not have to worry about getting to a store in those first weeks? Again, the Kindergarten equivalent of does she have enough pencils and the right type of crayons. And then, we have to leave her there. Leave her to navigate a strange place and fend for herself. Leave her trusting that the professors, academic advisors and RA's on campus will guide her and have her best interest at heart.
This can't be any tougher than putting her on the big yellow school bus, watching the doors close and the bus lumber down the road, crossing my fingers that the other children will be nice to her, the teachers will help her do what she needs to do and she has the confidence in herself to be successful…….right?