Love Makes Space

The Five Phases of Becoming a College Parent

As I have been a college parent for exactly three days, I feel confident that I have picked up some nuggets of wisdom that would have served me well, but will hopefully help the young friends that are following close behind me on the path of parenthood. Launching a grown adult out into the world isn’t a feat that takes merely months. No, It takes YEARS! It is all the trips to the grocery store with screaming toddlers, reminders to say, “Please and Thank You,” and fights about clothing, friends, and phones.

People warned me that it would be difficult to send a child away to college, but I was completely unprepared for how difficult it actually was. As I have made sense of this madness, I have broken it into five neat little phases that will help my fellow weary traveler navigate this weird terrain.

Phase 1: This is the phase that happens before you even realize you are in it. You’ll be dancing through your regular, boring, ordinary life and something will hit you. You’ll realize that this time is fleeting and you’ll do something weird, like try to snuggle your grown man of a son. You’ll take pictures of him in crazy ordinary places in the house because you will begin to anticipate the change that is coming. You’ll even notice how other family members are beginning to draw closer to the one that is leaving soon. This phase can last for years, and most of the time, you’ll be unaware that it is upon you.

Phase 2: This is the phase leading up to the actual departure. High school graduation is over and you are accumulating a small furniture store in your living room. You will spend approximately one million dollars at Walmart on things like “shower caddies” and “snack carts.” Your checklists will have checklists, and you will quite possibly take a thousand selfies with your kid. At this precise moment, you will wonder why people don’t have “College Showers” instead of “Wedding Showers.” (See one million dollars at Walmart reference.)

Phase 3: This one happens when you load up all the things and drive the child to the college dorm where he will begin his reign of freedom with all of the other chemically charged, adrenaline pumped college students. You will keep your crap together because you don’t want to embarrass your child in front of five hundred of his new closest friends. You’ll throw out totes adorbs lingo in front of everyone because your face may say, “Gen X,” but your voice screams, “Millennial!” And you are the COOL college parent. Also: This is the time to trade snap codes and Insta info with your child’s roommate. You are SO relevant!!!

Phase 4: Don’t be surprised if this phase kicks you in the actual face. After the painful process of watching them pack up their eighteen years worth of life and move into a room the size of your bathroom at home, you will actually lose your crap…unless you are dead inside. For me, a person with VERY BIG feelings, this particular phase almost did me in. Five minutes after returning home from the college drop off, I took one look at the empty room of the college child and began crying a guttural or (if you ask my husband) ferrel sounding cry. I could not breathe and I could not cope. My world had changed and I had no choice but to change with it. After crying so hard I almost gave myself a heart attack, I collapsed in bed and slept for about twelve hours. Since that moment, I have tracked him incessantly on “Find my iPhone,” and repeatedly sent text messages to make sure he has not been kidnapped, poorly influenced, or talked into some form of stupidity. I’m not a monster, I send quirky memes to soften the sound of the hovercraft parenting technique I am employing. I’ve second guessed every minute of how I raised him, and I’ve worried that I didn’t do enough. I’ve missed him, worried about him, and prayed for him constantly.

Phase 5: I think this is the final phase, but I’ll let you know. I hit this phase today after cyber stalking my son all over his college campus through his gps. When I sent him a message asking if we could have a quick chat, he messaged me back with these words, “Maybe later?” And this is how I knew that I had been pushed off of the sacred seat of influence. He had chosen his new friends and adventures over me. I will always see him as my little boy. I can’t help that he still looks that way in my mind. But I will do my best to honor this stage and his need for independence. ¬†We agreed that we would only speak on the phone once this week, but text quick check – ins periodically. I will do my very best to abide by these boundaries. But I will absolutely NOT disable his location finder on my phone. Baby steps, people! This college parent thing is NO JOKE! If you have any tips or tricks to making the transition bearable…easier, hit me up! I’d love to hear your thoughts.




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