This time of year always has mothers stressed out about sending their oldest child off to college. We’ve all read articles about the pain and suffering of packing up our first born with way too much stuff (the extra set of twin XL sheets they’ll never use, the cleaning products that will still have an unbroken seal the following May), and bringing them to a white-walled room full of boxy, wooden furniture and unpacking those boxes as said child alternately clings to us, and can’t wait to get rid of us. I was right there with the rest of the first-time moms. Even worse, mine went 1,300 miles and an airplane ride away. I’m not going to lie…I cried when I left him, waving to us, trying to look brave, at the same time looking much too young for that kind of independence.
But this isn’t about leaving your first born. This is much more important. This is about sending your youngest off to their senior year of college. That’s right. It’s about the other end of the journey. The tears of separation have long dried up and the notion of financial freedom teases you like a sneeze that won’t come. The thought that, after all those years, you’re left with only two tuition payments, is like being the first one through the doors of Walmart at midnight on Thanksgiving. You can visualize it. There is Ms. Financial Freedom, standing at the graduation podium, with her tiara slightly askew, beckoning you with a tiny wave and a smile. And you want to, no, you must, run to her, with the speed and agility of a gazelle, because once you reach her, its nirvana. No more tuition. No more room and board. No more meal plans for food they don’t eat because Domino’s delivers. No more books priced at a 500% mark up by the book store that your child doesn’t read because Brad takes good notes. The same books that the book store will buy back from you at the end of the semester for $.05 on the dollar. No more loading the “Insert Your Mascot Here” power card that can be used to do laundry, buy snacks, or, on some campuses, book a manicure. (Be sure to read the fine print.)
Parent’s Weekend, which started freshman year as a four-day long festival filled with precious memories, endless photo ops, and roommate family bonding, has been reduced to a quick lunch off campus only “if I’m up before noon, Mom.” And, like all senior parents, you take whatever crumbs you can get. You treasure the opportunity to take them for a meal and a subsequent shopping trip to the grocery store and then of course, a detour to the gas station where you fill up their tank. Then you drop them off with a quick hug and kiss, if you’re lucky, and, if no one is watching.
That’s all you’re allowed. And it’s okay. This is what you’ve been parenting their whole lives for, self-sufficiency. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. They don’t need your input, opinion, or insight unless they ask for it. But really? It means you’ve done a good job. They feel confident enough to make their way in the world. Pat yourself on the back and don’t whine about how they don’t call you anymore. You did it!
Finally, it’s important to celebrate this milestone. No, not a graduation party, although that will happen too. I’m talking about the big bash that will be thrown next summer. The guest list will include family, friends, parents we’ve met along the way, frankly, anyone who, in any way had an impact on our kids. It will be epic. And the invitation will read, “They’re FINALLY off our payroll. Help us celebrate!” You’re all invited….