One Parent's Perspective

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It's hard to believe we actually pulled off getting my "little one" to college a few weeks ago. And I'm not just talking about the trip up there, even though that was a feat in itself. Imagine trying to get almost everything you need for a semester in a mid-size car, and despite plotting where everything should go beforehand, still having to fine tune the car arrangements once it actually came time to leave. Good thing we were able to ship some things ahead of time, and we decided to keep some of the heavier clothing items at home. We can bring those up after Thanksgiving. Oh, and who knew that garbage bags serve as better luggage than suitcases when you have a car to pack. We also found out comforters are great for cushioning!

Once we arrived at school and saw the dorm room, we found there were still a couple of things our child needed. It doesn't matter how many times we went shopping, how many times she talked to the future roommate and how many lists we found online. Somehow we still missed a few things. I'm definitely grateful for online shopping!

Looking around the room here at home and seeing all the college catalogues on the shelves, and college Web sites bookmarked on the computer, I wonder how she even picked a school. There are so many things to take into consideration. Not only one's major and the expense, type of campus and even the weather. Also, the size of the school is a factor. She attended a small high school, and we worried that she may not be able to handle a big university. But looking at her current college's Web site, and seeing so many options as far as classes and activities, we thought, "Aren't options what college is all about?"

Of course the journey certainly doesn't end at choosing a school, as I'm sure all of you college parents know. Ever since she was born, we knew to save, but never really could save enough. Thank goodness for financial aid. Our high school guidance counselor was a great help making sure we filled out the FAFSA form and helping us look for scholarships. Also, let's not forget all the admissions applications and essays. Actually our child's guidance counselor was a great help since she first started high school pointing her in the right direction as far as what classes to take to prepare for college, and encouraging her to get involved in activities that fit her interests. As for those financial aid forms, my husband and I sat with her to fill out the forms, but only offered help. She needed to learn how to fill out all these forms on her own for the upcoming years. Yes, they need to be filled out every year!

Now I'm worried if she will be able to handle living on her own. Will she remember to eat? Will she keep that budget we helped her with? And that credit/debit card we got her, does she realize it doesn't supply an endless amount of cash or credit? How will she get along with everyone? Will she succumb to peer pressure? When doing the wash, will she mistakenly mix the whites with the darks? And the main thing, will the homework and studying get done without our gentle reminders? My friends have assured me that she'll figure everything out just like their kids did, especially since we sat down with her beforehand to go over everything. (Showing her how to do the wash I must admit was a fun experience. I should have shown her earlier.) My husband also reminds me that we made it through our own college experiences intact! Mind you I put every possible phone number I could think of in her cell phone in case of emergency.

One friend has a daughter who would call home all the time the first few weeks at college saying how horrible it was at school, and she just wanted to come home. Eventually she made some friends, joined the college radio station and started writing for the school's newspaper. After a few months, she didn't want to come home, and when she did, she couldn't wait to get back to campus.

When I heard my friend's story, I started regretting my "little one" choosing a school a few hours away from home. Maybe she should have attended a local school, where she could commute or if she did stay on campus, could easily come home. But living on your own can be such a great experience, why rob her of that. There will be some bumps in the road, but when all is said and done, we'll be okay.

Granted, I keep hearing about this empty nest syndrome. It's only a few weeks, so I'm not sure how I feel yet. We've planned a couple of nights a week to talk, and so far it's been working. (And she hasn't begged to come home like my friend's daughter, so that must be a good sign.) Plus, I must admit I'm enjoying the computer in a nice, quiet room instead of in the middle of the living room. I could get used to it. Finally, some more time for mom to write. It's been awhile, and I'm sure there will be lots to write about as we start this new leg of the college journey.