Next week is Hailey’s last week of high school and I am mentally unprepared and also incredibly proud to announce that Hailey got accepted to their first choice, Texas State University:
What will they do in college? The same thing everyone does, I suppose…change their minors a million times and deal with the self-doubt of seeing everyone else pretending they know exactly what they’re doing while secretly panicking because I think that’s pretty much what college is for. In my mind, a degree is basically just a way to show your first employer that you have the ability to finish a long-term project while making terrible mistakes and new friends.
I’m feeling incredibly lucky that Hailey will be close enough to come back on weekends and also a little bit at loose ends. A friend of mine said that when your kid graduates it’s like being laid off from a job that you only just started to get good at and that is it entirely.
I’m a little terrified because when I went to college I still lived at home so I never knew what it was like to stay in a dorm or be away from home so young and I don’t know how to do this best. Do I call every day? Do I let them call when they want? Do I call them in the morning to make sure they didn’t forget to set their alarm or do I let them oversleep and be tormented with dreams of missing classes for the rest of their lives? What do you need for a dorm? Do I encourage them to be in the same dorm building with their sweetheart so they can support each other or a different dorm so they won’t get distracted? HOW DOES COLLEGE EVEN WORK ANYMORE?
I know this is the time when I need to start letting Hailey take the reigns and I know that they’ll do well no matter what but it’s so hard to figure out what my new role is. They will always be my baby but now they’re an old baby (probably a better phrase for this) and I’m not sure what I should know. So I ask you, parents of old babies…what have you learned? What should I know? What’s the thing that helped the most when sending your kid out into the world? Is it overkill to place GPS trackers in all of their shoes and hide a baby monitor in their dorm room? How many hobbies do I need to get to not constantly worry about them and instead celebrate how far we’ve all come?
All. Advice. Welcome.
323 thoughts on “Ends and beginnings”
Read comments below or add one.
this is the time for mistakes to be made by the student. let them oversleep and miss a class. let them set some boundaries. send care packages.
I’m just getting started on this crazy parenting journney – but try to call no more than once every other day and know that they’ll call if they need/want you, because that first year especially there are going to be days when they just need to hear your voice.
Congrats to Hailey and to you and Victor for making it this far!!
Text semi regularly. These kids don’t use phones for talking. Deep breaths. It’ll be fine. Hugs!
Congrats to Hailey! With my daughter she had already gotten in the habit of texting me frequently, and that continued through college. She would tend to come down about once a month when she was at her first college (which was about 75 miles away), although her freshman year she had no car. But don’t call them every day- my mother did that and it drove me nuts although she was what you would call a helicopter parent nowadays before the phrase was invented.
Jenny, I have a 24 yo. If the relationship is like ours, let your kiddo text first. If it makes you feel better, ask if ya’ll can do weekly chats/facetimes. For the dorm, if H is attending an orientation where they stay in dorms, that will help make a list. Or look on Pinterest. Students need to be comfy in their new “independent” space. Don’t forget to pack an illness/first aid kit. Let Hailey continue to shine in their own way and be the soft place to land when it’s needed. <3
Texting is a good way to stay in touch. Let them call you, or decide ahead of time if there’s a regular call time (I tried Sunday evenings for a while.) Sending pics of pets is a surefire hit. My son and I did that all the time.
This is their chance to make mistakes and make successes. They are responsible and I’m sure will do just fine. Let them learn on their own (as they’ve done in school) but let them know the phone line/door/text is always open.
Visit maybe once a semester – but let them do their own social life.
Ask casually about classes, don’t ask for details.
Check if they’re having fun.
Give them lots of love, and lots of space.
You will be fine, if a bit verklempt.
I don’t know my kids are a little younger than Hailey… But I’m deffo using old baby.
Encouragement, support and love. Its all you can do and it goes a long way.
The hardest thing for me and my mom (and dad too, I suppose) was coming home on weekends/breaks after having no parental rules and being subject to curfew and all that goes along with that sort of thing. Little bit of friction there!
I learned that college is different than when I was a kid due to cell phones, text messages, Facebook, etc. She won’t seem nearly as far away as you think. I also learned that the sight of a box of Mac n cheese or a can of Pringles in the grocery store can set you off into uncontrollable sobbing the first time you shop and you don’t need to buy them.
You and Victor have done a great job of raising Hailey. They’ll be fine. I was just as nervous when Emily went off to UC San Diego for her grad work, but I know everything will work out. Hugs and congratulations to all of you!
My kid is a junior so I have no advice but I’ll definitely be reading everything people say here. Just love your kid and the rest will work itself out, at least that’s my tentative plan. 😆
Oh boy – I have so much to say, both as a mom and a higher ed administrator. I actually wrote about launching college students and the conversations parents should have with their kids before they leave for college here: https://wendyrobinson.substack.com/p/before-they-go
I think the big thing is to provide support when they need it but give them space to try to figure stuff out on their own first. Let them set the tone about how much communication they want to have (they’ll probably ebb and flow depending on how busy they get). Never, ever, ever try to talk to their faculty about how things are going (unless the student is in the hospital levels of illness). Make sure they know how to access reproductive and sexual health care when they need it. Let them know that feelings like “I chose the wrong school” or “I don’t know what I’m doing” are SO NORMAL, especially the first semester.
You will transition to asking, rather than telling. “How do you feel about this?” “What are your options?” And your declarations will be more along the lines of, “You’re smart and sensible. I have faith in you.” Good luck to all of you. Also, a suggestion for the dorm supplies: pillowcases monogrammed “theirs.”
Not a parent of old babies, but as a 36-year-old who went to college: call in and check on them as much as they want, and as much as you want (but not too much). Give them some independence too. 🙂
Send them with an “ICE” kit – it is “in case of emergency” kit – have fun with it – chocolate, pens, playing cards, but also put practical stuff in it – a ‘gift’ card with like $20 on it, flashlight, phone charger, band aids, pre-addressed and stamped cards (it is always fun to get mail even in this digital age)… make it small enough that it isn’t overwhelming but big enough that it won’t get lost (think shoebox size) so when you think – UH OH – Does Hailey have ‘XYZ” – you will know you put it in the kit…Personally I think you would make the coolest ‘ICE” kit ever! And I also think they should be a more common thing to do! Good luck, you got this!
Make sure they have good shower shoes.
Different dorm than their sweetheart – just in case the relationship doesn’t last.
If you can, send a letter to their new address before they move in, so they get some nice mail.
Also – occasional letters with $ for pizza or the movies after a stressful period.
Most of all trust the amazing relationship you have built with your child up to this point. They will always know you have their back.
Oh – if you send them home with treats for the dorm mates after a weekend visit it is a huge bonus!!
There is no “not constantly worrying”. That ship sailed when they were born. My older child is 28 and I still constantly worry about her even though she has thoroughly proved that she has her shit together.
In terms of the college stuff, let them take the reins. My daughter texted me multiple times a week in college and sought advice frequently. My son (still a sophomore in college) rarely seeks advice and will respond to a “proof of life text” but doesn’t geneally reach out on his own. They both did/are doing great and I just happily accept the scraps of data that my son doles out.
Good luck with your next grand adventure!
I went to college close to home, too, which was good because I forgot my pillow the first night! Best thing my parents did was make sure that I always knew I could come home when I wanted to but they I didn’t have to come home all the time. That security made me feel so much better. Give Hailey time to figure out their schedule and ask them how often they’d like you to call, and make sure they know that they can call YOU any time. This way, you know you’ll call every however-many-days, but they can call you more if they want to.
They will need money and space. And to know there’s a soft place to land just in case. You’ve raised an amazing human and I’m sure Hailey will be just great 😊
Now is the beginning of the time when you learn to bite your tongue until it bleeds, only call once a week to make sure they’re still alive and now they are going to make a tons of mistakes. It is also times to let them sit in those mistakes without mom rescuing them. Parenting semi-adult children is WAY harder than parenting any other age. No one warned me it would be this hard!
My dad sent me a care package every week for the entire 4 years I was in university and I loved him for it. It had things like a newspaper article he thought I might be interested in reading, dental floss (he was a dentist), scratch tickets. Sometimes funny things like cartoons or pamphlets on how to brush your teeth properly or gum disease (again, he was a dentist lol) It told me he was thinking about me and my dorm mates loved to see what was in the care package each week.
Perspective: I have a disabled 18 year old who may never launch and, as hard as it would be to let them go, parenting without end is even harder
Oh, my friend. I just went through this last year and I’m happy to say, we both survived. I forced him to install Life 360 and then pretended that I didn’t hold my breath and track him all day every day. I held my tongue even though I could tell he didn’t go to the dining hall (or anywhere else) to eat SO I KNOW YOU’RE EATING CRAP (sorry). Congratulations. Also…check out The Naked Roommate and the companion book for parents.
Mistakes and triumphs will be made no matter what. If they aren’t a morning person, encourage signing up for later classes. I would suggest a different dorm than the S.O. It will help develop both as humans and make their time together more precious. I called at least once a week and took their calls at any hour (and they knew that). At least yours will shower and change sheets more than the ones you put on their bed on move in day. I had 3 boys. Stinky, smelly boys. They all survived, and most of their crazy college stories I will never know. And that’s how it should be.
If they’ll have their own bathroom – don’t forget a plunger!
This is the time for the little bird to fly. Cross your fingers and wish them the best. They will let you know what they need. I repeat (3 adult children, trust me) They will tell you what they need.
Documents you should consider for your college student if you didn’t do this when they turned 18. (UPS stores have a notary if you don’t have access otherwise.)
1.) HIPAA Release Form – It allows medical providers to discuss your child’s medical information. This is especially important in the case of an emergency. Once your child turns 18, medical professionals such as hospitals are not allowed to tell you anything unless you have this form.
2.) Medical/Health Care Proxy – allows you to act for your child if they cannot advocate for themselves.
3.) FERPA waiver
4.) Make sure they take their health insurance card and Covid vax card with them.
Professor here! Let them take the lead on calls (aka give them space!), but don’t be afraid to check in more if they seem off. In the classroom, let them fight their own battles. They NEED to learn to take on their own challenges. Office hours will be her best friend (we love having students come in to ask questions, but also it makes it so much easier to write letters of recommendation and such). Multiple extra long charging cords (they disappear) are a must (bonus points for an outlet expander on campus to share with more folks). As much as you want to, don’t track her. She has the skills and she deserves to be independent (as hard as it might be to keep from checking in!). Sending a midsemester care package (even if she’s not far) is really nice and will get her (again) bonus points from dorm friends. Cross stitching curse words is very soothing as a hobby. Good luck!
❤️ they will let you know what they need. When I started College I called my Mom everyday, and I’m still very close. My own daughter will be joining the same university but staying home….but I have been backing off and letting her come to me with questions to figure out. Above all else I think letting them lead is the way to go.
Call her in the middle of the week. Don’t wake her up, don’t wash her clothes, none of it. Ask her about her experience and remind her to enjoy it, and let her know that you KNOW she’s got this. Don’t make the decision re dorm w/or w/out sweetheart. That one’s her decision. If she asks, have her do a pros and cons list (e.g we break up and still see each other at breakfast every day). She’ll know what to bring.Send a really nice blanket. My favorite? the Minky Blanket. It’s a Utah thing -but it’s amazing. Pay her phone bill. Give her some walking around money in some form and don’t monitor it – but don’t let her bum extra off of you. Make it predictable. And then, if she’s the only one at home, look to your husband. He’s STILL THERE – and yes, it’s weird to see him so much. I cried and cried. And then I rejoiced.
All of that is absolutely, totally valid.
I don’t have kids but I think my Mom actually really had this down when first my sister and then I went off to college. She let us take the lead. That first week, my sister called home constantly because she needed the reassurance. I called the first day because I knew mom was worrying.
She generally let us reach out first but would call if it had been 5-6 days just to make sure we were still breathing. 😂 But I tended to call more often than that. And with texting and social media now I imagine it’s much easier to unobtrusively just say “hey, love you, thinking of you.”
It’s a real give or take, and it’s going to take the time to find the balance. Y’all seem like you have a great relationship, so I think that it’ll all turn out well. It may take some trial and error to get to a happy balance and it may not feel like it but I’d bet money you totally got this.
Hi, old baby here. I went to college quite a few states away from my parents. They were pretty hands off. Maybe too hands off in that they dropped me off from college and then came to my graduation. I think the best thing you can do is tell Hailey that you’re only a phone call away, that you’ll miss them, and that you’ll welcome their phone calls. But if they’re coming home for the weekend, you may not get that many. My parents always said college was the best years of their lives because you had some adult responsibilities, but you could mess up without very big consequences (most of the time). Hailey is an adult on training wheels. Be there to mop up the spills if they need it, but let them make those mistakes and be there to tell them it isn’t the end of the world. They will be fine ❤️
Go to any family orientation session(s) offered by the university. Let them make mistakes – college is a safe place to do that. Ask them how involved they want you to be, and listen to what they tell you 🙂
I gave my daughter lots of space to succeed/screw up, whatever that day would bring. The only “rule” was that she had to check in with me once in a while. She ended up Skyping me every day and was home every weekend. Give them space and they’ll surprise you with how often they want to talk and see you. Stay strong and just be there, momma!
At first I was contacting him too much, so I let my kid tell me how often we would talk. We did 1x/week and also any time he needed/wanted to in addition to that. But I knew it would be at least that weekly talk. Good luck!
Longtime academic administrator here. We often see parents who want to manage their student’s experience, and that never goes well for the student. My number one tip is don’t encourage any specific choices. Instead, encourage good decision-making practices. Offer a pro-con session on the dorm question. Let them know what services you’re willing to offer, eg. wake-up calls, but with your expectations: no crabbing when they pick up the phone, 24 hour notice if they don’t need a call the next day unless they’re ill, etc. A supportive parent is a good safety net, but if they can’t fall at all they don’t learn.
After you drop H off, go somewhere! You and Victor take a mini vacation or plan something fun. After I’m dropped my “baby” off, i went right back home and wished i hadn’t. And ditto what the others said… this is a time for learning about decisions, consequences (oversleeping lol), and responsibilities. Give space… as hard as it is. And yeah, you’ll be fine. New beginnings for everybody!
They will need numerous things for their dorm room, sheets, towels, a carry all to walk to the bathrooms, flip flops for showering, no one wants planter warts! A mini refrigerator will be very nice. Supplies for the laundry room. Bookshelves, Honestly, they have been super responsible their entire high school so I would expect much the same at college. I am so proud for them. I hope they love college.
All the care packages and letters! Best thing my mom did for me in college. Let me make mistakes but remind me she loved me with some snacks and kind words.
My oldest just finished her freshman year and is home for the summer. She was close enough to come home but rarely did, except for breaks. She found her peeps and they figured it out together. There was lots of FaceTiming and texting but I did my best to leave it up to her when she wanted to do it. She grew so much and I’m so proud of her! I’m sure Hailey will do great things!!
I’m not there yet. I have one going into high school and two entering middle school next fall, but I’m definitely doing the gps tracker thing for college. It’s part of my master plan. Shhhhhh, don’t tell.
Expect that they’re going to make mistakes, recognize that it’s part of growing up, remember that we were exactly the same at that age. They’ll show you what they need from you, so listen closely. Remind them that you support them and you’ll pick them up when they stumble.
First: Congratulations, Hailey!! Wooo! That is so awesome!!
I don’t have kids, so I can’t comment as a parent. I can only comment as a kid who went to college eons ago. Let them figure it out…and call whenever you need to.
As Rory said to Lorelei when she was leaving for her first journalism job…’Mom, you’ve given me everything I need.’
My oldest is also moving away and into the dorms with her partner. Scares the crap out of me. She is a good kid just worried if it all falls apart.
Set up Venmo / Cashapp / Zelle or the like with Hailey so you can send them money easily. Young people definitely seems to text more than call, so maybe send her a picture, .gif or the like a few times a week. Also care packages are wonderful!
I have no advice, only commiseration. My oldest graduated last year but they live at home and commute to college and have always just taken the reigns in their life. Now my baby is graduating and I’m a mess. He’s always been close to me and I’m definitely going through a mid life crisis. What do I do now that I don’t have band concerts and kids to feed every day? How will he manage without me? He actually doesn’t text. He prefers a phone call, which I despise. Lol I’m so worried once he doesn’t have his normal busy schedule that he’s going to lose motivation. Is he going to be home sick? What all does he need? I’m at a loss. I’m not ready and I’m not ok.
Every kid is different and you will find the right balance. My daughter was and is still in contact with me nearly every day…. My son could go weeks without contact.
Side note my daughter just graduated with her masters from Texas State… she really enjoyed her time there and made some of the best friends! I am glad she is back in Kansas closer to home, but was really sad to see her leave the really great tribe she built for herself in Texas.
Congrats to Hailey! What a wonderful a compliment. As for you, the anticipation of them leaving is worse than them actually being gone. Take them off of find my friends or whatever app because that way lies madness. Make sure to lay eyes on them either in person or via facetime every few weeks or so because it’s one thing to read their texts and another to actually see their faces and how the emotion matches the words. Lastly, you will find yourself texting them random dumb questions you already know the answer to just for proof of life. You’ve got this!!
You don’t need to have any of those answers. You couldn’t possibly have those answers, because they aren’t questions parents can just answer themselves. They are questions you’ll answer together, collaboratively, experientially, with another adult–Hailey. All you have to know is whether you’ll be there for them no matter what, and I think everyone knows the answer to that one.
I’ve worked in higher ed for 20 years and we are about send our own 18 year old kid into college life. Let them call you when they want. Send occasional texts, send care packages with favorite foods, and send good vibes and prayers into the universe. Let them oversleep, stay up too late, wait too long to write a paper, and learn some lessons. If they are struggling with a class, encourage them to talk to the instructor, go to tutoring, or seek help from a peer who is acing it. College is a hard academic transition for a lot of people who have been top of the class most of their K-12 experience, and let them know it’s okay to suck at some things. They have to fight most of their own battles from here on out, but need to know you’re in their corner. Possibly establish an SOS signal, like a certain emoji they can text you if they are feeling overwhelmed and want support. If possible, I would recommend they do not live in the same building as a sweetheart/partner, especially the first year. They both need to make new friends and broaden their networks and – should they turn out not to be forever partners – they need to have a place to go without seeing the face of an ex every day. Oh, and for the dorm – check the bed size. A lot of dorms use Twin XL sheets, which you can order online. If bathrooms are shared, they will want a bucket/shower caddy, some flip-flops/shower shoes, and maybe a robe depending on their modesty level. Take plenty of towels, a laundry basket, and check to see what kind of appliances are allowed as far as refrigerators, coffee makers, microwaves, etc. Most schools will have a list of suggested and restricted items.
HAVE FUN, HAILEY! It has been amazing watching you grow, and you are going to rock college!
Lort the first one off to college is sooo bittersweet. I set the table for my firstborn his whole first year away.
My suggestion is something my chosen mother told me.
There’s two things to give your children; one is roots the other is wings.
It appears you’re doing just that. Mostly carry a lot of tissues with you over the next few weeks. Crying is inevitable and totally acceptable.
Sending love xx
My Dad said that with all 3 of his kids, the “settling in” time period is around 6 weeks. They’ll feel homesick and struggle somewhat for those first 6 weeks and then will settle down and find their place. So from that point of view the only advice I have is not to panic if they are seeming a little lost sometimes for the first 6ish weeks and just be supportive but encourage them to stick it out for a while.
Do not, under any circumstances, join a mom facebook group for their college and then ask about networking for them and try to set up friendships for them and how to fix all their problems on campus. When they call about their problems, say “Yeah, that sounds tough, how do you plan to fix that?” and then make sympathetic noises unless they specifically ask for advice.
When mine went off to college, at first he came home every weekend. Mostly so I could help with laundry & feed him. Over time, he came home less & less as he figured things out & developed a social life there. I insisted on a phone call every Sunday night so I knew he was OK. We went to his rescue a few times – he had a problem losing keys (car & dorm). He always brought dirty laundry home when he visited. And I always fed him well & sent him back with cash & goodies. And I always cried when he went back.
Let her go explore and remind her that you will always be there for her…even when she fucks up, which we all do. My parents had to tell me to call them at least one time per week when I was in undergrad and then law school. It was the late 80s and early 90s and I was coming out of the closet. I was not supported by my parents but I know from your posts that you support Hailey. You have already provided HUGE support to her in letting Hailey know she is accepted. Maybe one day, I won’t have to write about this shit.
my oldest still lives with local family (though she moved out of my house to one where she could have a bigger room with a bathroom; we all call it here apartment) and skipped college to go to work at an animal shelter. She’s doing great! But backing off has def been a process. I just keep reminding myself that this is the part of her adulthood that has a safety net, which is pretty much what college was for me.
My youngest has one more year of high school and is debating what to do after; trade school looks likely.
When I was a college student, in the mid 90’s, I lived in a different state than any of my family. Mom called every Sunday (cuz it was less per minute to do long distance, but now any day would do) and sent me random care packages whose packing was either stale plain popcorn I could toss to the birds, or toilet paper rolls. If I’d been coming home every weekend that would probably not have been part of the routine.
From both a former college-in-a-dorm student, and a mom-of-a-20-year-old place, it’s incredibly hard, but we all feel pretty important, to let her flail around and learn to adult on her own. When I do think of something I’d like to do for her, I always ask first, and take a ‘no’ as not-personal. It’s a process, but college in a dorm is a great time to practice being on your own, setting your own alarm clock, learning how long it takes you to get places, make your own appts and remember them yourself. If only because if you find you are struggling with any of those, and need help, you *can* reach out and get it. The on campus therapy center was also a huge help while I was there.
So …advice? deep breath, add your kiddo to your “this phone rings on do not disturb when it’s this person” list, and go research as many hobbies as you need to …or do them. up to you.
Good luck with the transition! I’m super glad first choice accepted, and I feel confident your kidlet will learn to navigate All The Things that they want to.
Dorm list (this is a master list I made up and kept for reference)
Ice cube trays
Extra long power strips
Hammer screwdriver set
Ziploc baggies and a few storage things
Pop up laundry hamper
Tiny trash bags
Duvet (double size)
Blanket (double size)
Mattress pad (twin xl)
Foam Mattress topper (twin xl) (dorm beds are horrendously firm)
Sheets (twin xl)
Evidently, you’re not supposed to bring a sleeping bag and offer to stay. We insisted on one planned call per week and then considered all else icing. Currently still shocked at the grown up that arrived home at year one – let them fly! They will find their wings. They won’t tell you they found them, though, so it’s a bit unnecessarily terrifying.
Ask them! Ask what level of contact they want, and explain that you want to be supportive but not cloying. Then see what they say. It’s possible/probable that you’ll need to have that conversation more than once, since what they think they need/want now will likely change when they actually are on campus. And when they call because things aren’t working out in some way, or they are nervous or scared, listen with a sense of inquiry, giving them space to use you as a sounding board without you having to solve the problem for them.
It also helps to take up a new hobby or interest, because you are used to having them around all the time, and now you’ll have more quiet and free time. If you can find ways to fill that space, you’ll be less inclined to accidentally guilt them into more contact than they prefer.
Congrats to Hailey, and you and your whole family!
I have no wisdom to offer because I’m in exactly the same boat with my son. But you captured all the feelings EXACTLY. I have joined a band and find it wonderfully distracting from the occasional “OMG my baby is moving away to college in three months” freak-outs. Hang in there!
My son just finished his freshman year of college and here’s what I learned:
-Give them space to text you because they’ll text you more than you think. He texted me every couple of days. If not, I texted him to say hi.
-Let them figure stuff out at school. I joined the Facebook page for parents of kids who attend my son’s college. Oh boy! I’m honestly surprised some parents didn’t move into the dorms. They need to figure out stuff like who to call when the laundry machines don’t work or the a/c is busted. Not call you just to have you post in a FB group.
-Get a power of attorney for their healthcare in case something happens. No one likes to think about this, but once they turn 18, we don’t have access to their medical records unless they give us permission.
-Send goodies (always a plus)
-Allow them to tell you what they want and need to without you prying. This is so important!
-Trust them. You know how you raised your kid. Sure, mistakes happen. Mistakes are different than bad decisions.
– Soak in the summer with her.
-Remember we never stop mothering. Even from afar, they need us. They let us know when.
-Let them know they shouldn’t be afraid to tell you things. Good, bad, ugly. I always told my son: I don’t know what I don’t know. I can only help if I have information.
-It’s gonna be okay. You’ll get her more stuff than she needs. She’ll bring home more stuff than when she left.
-Everything is online in college now. You won’t have access to her grades unless she allows it.
-Small stuff: I sent some common cold meds away with my kid so he wouldn’t have to get to a pharmacy. Motrin, too. Band aids. Stuff they take for granted around the house bc it’s just there.
You’ve got this.
Just accept that it’s hard and they will and do still need you. It’s just different. I sent my “old baby” away with multiple (10 – 15) brown paper bags that all had surprises and support inside. Each one was labeled differently as an “Open when….” you feel sad, you’re low on cash, you miss your dog, you’ve lost confidence, you just need chocolate, you need a hug etc…. She thought they were great and it connected her with home when she needed it most!
How to Face Life’s Changes ttps://www.crystalclarity.com/products/how-to-face-life-s-changes?_pos=1&_psq=face+lifes&_ss=e&_v=1.0
I had to resist the urge to call my daughter too often. Instead, I mailed her a note 2x per week, but I also told her that I did not expect a reply or acknowledgment (you have to mean that if you say it). As a joke I initially included some poooorly folded origami. The origami part turned into a habit as well.
When she came back from her freshman year, I accidentally saw the box full of my notes and bad origami that she saved. Turns out, the notes meant a lot to her and she appreciated that I did not expect a response. So, that’s one thing I did right.
We sent our son off to Hawaii, and then sent our minivan to the island after him. All we asked is that he not get arrested and get good grades. He managed to get good grades, graduated on time and shockingly moved back to Arizona.
I began college with a major in Home Economics and graduated with a degree in Criminology! It’s a long and winding road.
Care packages with a mix of useful and ridiculous things. Texts that don’t need to be answered that you will worry about when they aren’t answered. Offers of movies to watch together over netflix, books to read together. Gift cards for Target, Starbucks, Panda Express, etc. Suggest they use the Lyft feature where you get notified when they take a Lyft somewhere and can follow along. Laundry and comfort foods on the weekends they’re home. Turn their room into a laser light show factory escape room bonsai garden. Send pictures of taxidermy animals missing them. Pick up an instrument. Put it down. Practice saying “did you want advice or an ear?” Don’t give them a real ear.
Everyone says text. But research has said even among these digital age students that the mental health of students who speak on the phone with their parents is better than students that don’t. Students who just text with parents show no difference from students who have no contact from their parents at all. So call, but maybe only once a week and text other times.
1. Trust them.
2. Ask them how they want to communicate.
3. Trust them.
They are going to make absolutely splendiforus mistakes. They have a great safety net to catch them when they fall.
First: Yay Texas State, my Alma Mater! (only then it was called Southwest Texas State)
Second: when our son went there, I forced myself to text only when he reached out, or when I could no longer stand not to. Whichever came first. This is the time for them to learn to do for themselves-no helicopter parenting.
As for the dorm room, take whatever will make Hailey feel comfortable and like home. I would *not* recommend being in the same dorm as the sweetheart. (These high school romances often go South after a couple semesters and things could get awkward).
This is such a hard time so momentous for them, but leaves us at such a loss! I have two old babies, the youngest just finished their freshman year of college and the oldest heads into his final semester in the fall.
The eldest was only 30 minutes away, but the youngest was 3 hours. So that one was even harder! When my oldest went to college, I still was occupied with my youngest. Once he left I was lost. I was super involved with their sporting activities, president of the track boosters, announced for boys lacrosse team – and when the youngest left I was like…. What on earth do I do? Who am I?
It’s been a learning experience but I have loved watching my boys grow and excel beyond the nest. My youngest tells me everything- and lord knows I wish he’d leave details out. But the things that make me cringe are things they need to learn for themselves. What I have learned is to let them come to me. I offer an ear, advice, but remind them that they are adults and have to make decisions that work best for them. I offer counsel, but ultimately they have to figure it out.
We spend their whole lives preparing them to live without us. To no longer need us. And then, when the day comes you are both fiercely proud and filled with a bittersweet happiness that you succeeded. And it takes time for that to make sense.
Send a first aid kit. My kid knocked their toenail off on the first day and was so grateful to have supplies. I gave one to my nephew and my sister said it was the most useful gift he got.
My daughter attended TX State. I’m happy to be a resource for you. I can tell you that it will be hard but probably not as hard as you think it will be.
In my experience, they prefer texts, but mine does FaceTime regularly (most days except his busy days – he’s a Physics major at A&M). When you talk to them, remind them to eat & hydrate, always ask if they need anything. Make sure they have medicine and soup for when they inevitably get sick. Even when they roll their eyes.
We recommend staying in a different dorm/apartment from sweethearts. Sometimes they need space (and less distraction) and that’s easier with some distance – even though they don’t always grasp that. Plus, in the event of a breakup, it’s a huge help.
A lot of personal growth happens.
Remind frequently that nothing is too big to overcome. Mistakes happen. Being overwhelmed happens. It’s OK! I always tell mine that there is nothing we can’t work through, but they have to talk honestly to us at the first sign of trouble so we can help them figure it out. (TOO many kids find out at the last minute they failed a class and won’t graduate and tragedy happens. It’s a fixable problem in most cases, but students can’t always see that. Plus, as you know, depression lies!)
For our son & niece each getting an apartment for the first time, we made sure they knew to call us before they ever went without food/essentials or let utilities get turned off. We can help, just ask! Also, we will venmo money immediately at any hour for an uber.
Get the BIG BLUE IKEA BAGS. Also, in the event of dorms without elevators, hire other students to help you move in/out – there are usually ads on parent FB pages advertising this service. Be prepared to throw away any bath/floor rugs, curtains, etc.
I’m sure Hailey has good judgement, but what we told our grown up babies at this stage was: enjoy yourself! Enjoy your freedom! & if something comes up that gives you an icky feeling, ask yourself – would this be something I would want to tell the grandparents about? If no, you know your answer. Also, tell Hailey that no one is expecting perfection – everyone makes mistakes & it’s okay and part of life.
On a practical front, I highly recommend a combo microwave -fridge, if they’ll allow it. So so helpful.
On the emotional front, I have no good advice because it feels very much like their problems get bigger as your influence gets smaller. It is very easy to fixate on the things you think you did wrong in raising them. It’s a really good time to try (I am still trying, probably always will be) to trust that you’ve done your best, and try to remember the Serenity prayer (I’m not religious, but it still fits, even if you’re praying it to yourself)
Taking my girl to college last summer was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done (emotionally), so prepare yourself. I was blindsided by her anxiety, as she was so confident in her choices in the months leading up to leaving home. She did move really far away (BC, Canada to Pittsburgh!) and I don’t think she realized how far away she was going to be until we started the trip out there. But it didn’t take long after I left her sobbing on the sidewalk to return home (seriously, I’m just being brutally honest) to start to make friends and find her groove. And then she started to love it there and I finally relaxed (see the 6 week settling in period in another comment). We stay in touch mostly through a group family chat on WhatsApp, which is nice because we just pop in with casual comments whenever we want. Other than our food budget going way down and way less laundry and no more driving her around, we actually feel like she’s still very connected in our lives despite being so far away. And I admit that I still have the tracking app active on her cell phone, which just makes me feel better when I want to see where she is. Except when it’s 2am and she’s not at the dorms…(suggest not looking at the app at 2am…). Also she loves mail (sending and receiving), so it’s been phone to send off the odd care package or card and to get things back the old fashioned way. Good luck, it’s such an exciting time in their young lives!
Kelly Corrigan’s podcast has a ton of episodes this year on all aspects of college life and being an empty nester. Great advice on lots of aspects of college life and how to navigate it as a mom.
TXST is a great school and perfect distance from home. The theater dept. is so amazing- every time I see a show I cannot believe that students, not professionals, are on stage. As a SM resident, they will need care packages of healthy snacks (our H-E-B is not great), a tube for the river, and sunscreen. Oh, and $$ to eat at Pho Tran 88, the best place in town!
What I have learned is you do you. What worked for me and my kid might not work for you. I told my son I did not want to hear from him for a week. I wanted him to immerse himself in campus and not worry about having to call home. This worked for me because I was so freaking independent and I’ve always encouraged my kids to be that way. He just graduated two weeks ago after six years (having ADD, the COVID years, flipping his major and minor, a bit too much fun, etc) but he did it. The advice I have for everyone (and this is coming from me in my role as a college instructor) is let them figure things out for themselves. The questions I see on parent facebook pages drive me nuts. Your kid doesn’t know the cafeteria hours? Why are they calling you and why are you asking this in a FB group? Do none of y’all know how to search the college website? Does the laundry room have an iron? Tell junior to haul his ass down to the laundry room and find out for himself. Barbie doesn’t have any friends – do any of your kids want to have a play date with her? Stop the madness! They need to learn how to adult. You’ve laid the foundation. They’ve got this.
P.S. Do send reminders to do their laundry if needed. My kid’s freshman roommate did not do his AT ALL during first semester.
Some great advice above; I especially like pokerpilgrims. My “kids” are 39, 42, and 44, so I can…first of all…tell you that there is no “not constantly worrying” …ever. You will learn with practice/time, though, how to selectively worry, in a more ebb/flow sort of way. My middle “child” attended a college 2-3 hours from home and the best advice I can give you is this: just be who you already are, and they will be who they have been and who they are becoming, alternating between the two states back and forth, as time goes on. If you’re ‘too much’ you’ll hear about it…and if you’re not calling enough (haha), be thankful for cell phones, because Hailey will be able to take matters into their own hands and reach out as much as needed. As for new hobbies? I feel like a new Jenny Lawson, College Life Edition, could be a great way to channel all the feelings (angst, sadness, boredom, guilt for not actually missing dirty dishes in the sink) and fill the days/hours/minutes between calls/texts/weekend visits! XOX
As a former Bobcat I’m so happy for Hailey. Texas State is perfect because they will have their independence but you will be close enough for peace of mind. The university will probably have summer orientation and back in the old days they had had some sessions for parents too. You got this. You will never stop being their parent.
I’m in this same boat, and totally unprepared. In fact, it hasn’t even seemed real until NOW. Graduation is next week, then he heads on a road trip with friends…then off to college three hours away. Far, but not too far. BREATHE…. It’s a trip, for sure.
Oh Jenny! Hailey will be great at college. Some tips, in no apparent order, from the mother of a freshman and a first year grad student, both two states away.
• Family conference call, every Sunday at 11 am.
• No parent pop-ins. They need to be independent without the fear of judgement, etc.
• Stress/encourage they talk to TAs, briefly introduce themselves to each professor at the beginning of the term, go to office hours, identify the tutoring centers, etc., before a problem arises.
• Join an affinity group, like LGBTQIA student union, theater group, etc. This allows you to get to know upperclassmen who can help with choosing or avoiding certain classes and other things that a freshman might not know, and can lend perspective when freshmen peers are losing their emotional shit.
• We took them to the bank and opened a limited Visa card and bank account that we had access to, too, and encouraged them to keep an eye on what they really spend in a month, then we adjusted the accounts accordingly. They both spent far less than we anticipated, and helped us realize our daughter only needed/wanted a 5-day meal plan. But I’d recommend the 7-day for the first semester/quarter, until they know what works best for them.
• Prepare to dig deep for everything on the university website. Housing doesn’t talk to Financial Aid or Academic Advising, etc., etc, and you may have to triangulate a bit to get cohesive information about that first semester/quarter. After that, they’ve got it.
• Don’t get pressured into buying the care packages advertised in emails to parents. Send your own, with Hailey’s favorite snacks, just before midterms or finals.
• Buy Twin XL sheets at your nearby Target. The ones near campuses run out of them quickly. Also, an IKEA mattress topper is nice to add to those dorm beds.
• Rent the mini fridge/microwave on campus instead of buying. Have roommates chip in, or buy other items for community use, like a small vacuum and a hot water kettle. Note that the roommate situation is likely to change during the course of freshman year. Lots of emoting in a small space can lead to room shuffling. Remind them this is normal and not the end of the world.
Buy yourself a “mom of” sweatshirt and let her go and be College Hailey! You will both be just fine!❤️
My daughter went to college about an hour away. It was great because she could come home as often as she wanted. One thing I was not prepared for – while I loved seeing her over holidays and random weekends when she’d come home, I missed her all over again each and every time she went back to school. It really never became any easier.
I work at a college and my firstborn just finished their first year on the other side of the country. From both sides, if you let them have their adventures, they’re going to learn LOTS, and not just academic stuff. Mistakes will be made, but that’s how we learn and grow. And from the college employee side, the most successful students are the not the ones with helicopter parents (we once had a work-study whose mom sat in the lobby during his shift. He did not last long). Good luck to both of you- H looks like they’re off to do great things!
I think it’s harder to be a parent of adult children than it is to parent a defiant 2 year old. You’ll learn to bite your tongue (a lot!) and only give advice when asked. You have to watch them make mistakes and figure things out. Hang in there, it does get easier.
You will be fine. They will be fine. You will worry anyway because that’s what parents do. Give them the freedom to make their own mistakes and the comfort of knowing you’ll always be there for them if they need a refuge or a base.
Because sometimes it will not be fine. Sometimes there will be troubles. But you have raised a capable adult and they are in a place where there are resources specifically designed to help when things are not fine. Let them figure it out, and be there if they need help.
I’ve been an advisor on a small college campus for seven years now, after having been adjunct faculty there for twenty, and I’ve sent two of my own children through college as well. It’s a journey.
From an advisor’s perspective, I will tell you to let them set the terms of engagement with you. Text now and then to remind them, because they’re in a new place with a lot of new opportunities (yay!) and things get lost, but let them handle as much of it as possible. Tell them to talk to their professors – they want to hear from them. They should make their advisor their best friend – we know what the rules are and what forms we need to fill out to get around them. Whatever they want to do, there’s a form for it. Statistically, they will change their major three times. This is growth.
From a parent’s perspective, the worst part was the drive home after dropping each of my kids off. But they found their friends, they solved their problems, and they ended up okay. Most college students do.
Probably best not to live in the same place as their sweetheart so they meet more people and make new friends. I have two in college now. They take the reigns and tell me when to pay bills. It’s so hard on our end – we spend 18 years revolving around them and in the blink of an eye they are gone and off on their own adventure while you are left behind and lonely. I keep adding dogs to the family – which probably isn’t the best solution 🤷♀️
I asked for a daily proof of life – whether Snapchat or text.
Good luck Momma! Leaving them at school and coming home without them is one of the hardest things!
Let Hailey tell you. She may not know until she’s there, and it may change. And it’s all good. And you’re still important – you tell her what you need. Congrats to all of you!!
Yay! She’s a Bobcat! I just got my degree (20 years later) from the same divine institution. Trust me, SanMo will them and take care of them well.
I call my college kids “baby adults” and they seem to need a lot still to figure out the logistics of living in this crazy world so you aren’t obsolete yet 🙂 For example, “mom, I got a reminder in the mail to pay property tax on my car but I already did that once…..” to which I had to break the disappointing news that the government wants it paid every single year.
Whatever you do, do not get them ALL the things on the suggested college list. So much is never used. Better for them to tell you if they’re missing something and you send it or they shop for themselves. Send them with the household favorite OTC meds for colds and tummy problems. After that, let them figure it out. Since you are close enough for them to come home on weekends, take the minimum at first and then bring/collect/or send the discovered things they need.
I love you guys so much and am making a million notes here.
My niece is getting ready to go away this year and she is SO unprepared. I gave her two books:
Almost Adulting: All You Need to Know to Get it Together (Sort Of) by Arden Rose
The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (Essential College Life Survival Guide and Graduation Gift for Students, Banned Book) By Harlen Cohen
Are they helpful books? I don’t know. I do know that I was not prepared for SWT (I’m so old) at the time I went, so my thought is – they can’t hurt!!
Don’t let them come home on the weekends for the first month, or they will miss important bonding moments and it’s so much harder to make friends. Call once a week and let them text you. Let them oversleep so they learn. Don’t buy a bunch of stuff, let them start and then tell you what they need (Also gives you an excuse the visit near the beginning). Let them keep their sweetie close, it may actually help them focus not wondering what they are doing. Send periodic care packages. They are awesome, they got this!
Congrats to you all!!! Set a time— we said 7:00pm Sundays and had them call us. Obviously they may need to text you a different time from week to week. It’s great if you can have them home for a good meal and laundry!! Oh the laundry! If you feel the need to interact more often. Text- they can pay attention or ignore you. As far as dorm stuff look at the housing website. Sometimes they won’t let you bring a mini fridge or a microwave. Get a bed in a bag and an extra set of sheets.(that way she can change her bed and wash sheets later. What she needs for the bathroom will depend on their housing. My daughter has her own bathroom— what a princess, my son needed a caddy to haul his shampoo, etc down the hall. They will live and learn to be self sufficient- part of the growing up process. Also prepare for this summer. All kids become butt heads the summer before college. ( I think it’s mother nature’s way of getting us to feel better about licking our little chicks out of the nest) it’s an adventure! There are football games, parent’s weekend and Thanksgiving that first term so you will see her. Just prepare for the laundry!!!!
I’m old, but perhaps you will still read this advice. Send her snail mail on a regular basis. There is something special and real about personal notes on paper. Text as your relationship allows, some days 5 will be acceptable some days none. Go in her room at your home and cry your eyes out when she is gone for as many weeks as needed. Congratulations to you all.
Speaking only as someone who went to college (I have no kids) – whatever you do, NEVER just show up at their dorm thinking they want your company! My parents did this once because I was sobbing how horrible everything was there but they didn’t know I was just in a mood. They showed up unannounced while I was high as a kite (not that I think Hailey would be so irresponsible – they seem like they have their shit together for the most part). I told them to go home, I’m FINE and slammed the door in their faces. Probably one of the only things I’ve ever done that I still have some regret over.
I went through all this last year with my daughter – I was in the same boat as you because I lived with my parents while I went to college. My daughter goes to a university 3 hours away, so it was a lot. Typically universities offer a packing list, but a google search will find you several mom blogs or university blogs with packing lists for college. I texted my daughter daily but only called about once a week. For myself, I read a lot (which I already do), started watching different shows by myself because my daughter and I are very close and it was hard not to have her at home.
I wouldn’t recommend that they stay in the same dorm building as their partner because they should meet new people too. That’s just what worked for us – every family is different – but my daughter had a wonderful first year at university. Wishing Hailey lots of luck!!
Congratulations! My “baby” just graduated college and has returned to the nest while looking for a job and figuring out next steps. You never stop being a worried parent. I’ve been a basket case for weeks now!!!!
The one thing I insisted on for all 4 years of college was a weekly “proof of life” video chat. Every Sunday at 8:30, we had a video call so that I could see his face and ask all the mom questions – “are you eating, showering, brushing your teeth, etc”. I think it you are the one footing the bill for college, it is perfectly reasonable to have some expectation of communication.
If it makes you feel any better, there were a few times where I threatened to drive the 3 hours to my son’s college and embarrass him in the middle of class if he didn’t respond to a text. Anxiety sucks, but they will be OK.
This has nothing too do with your post but I wanted to tell that inflammation is huge in battling depression. I’m find the reason for all my ailments – eye sight loss dramatically in a year, severe depression, arthritis, knee pain, etc. It is the one thing that all these major diseases have in common from Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, pain. I want to be cured not lied to
These doctors are not treating the problem
Love your books and blog
Thank you for all the support and laughs
I call mine a baby adult. We text frequently and she calls me when she is walking back to her dorm after work or to randomly FaceTime me to tell her roommates she is right about something.
Start small with dorm purchases and know that the amount will triple from move in day to move out day 😂.
My daughter just finished her freshman year at a huge state college that is about 30 minutes from home. In general it went terrible – but that is not what I want to share, lol. The one thing I did figure out was to ask her “how often should I check in? Call or text? How often should I visit?” And I asked again 2 months in. She originally told me to visit every other weekend and to text “whenever I felt like it” which was probably her big mistake because that was amended later to “try to limit the text messages to maybe once a day?” Anyway–only your kid knows how independent they are ready to be so ignore what the school tells you (“don’t hover just pay the bills”) or what your friends tell you (“I have a perfect teen and a perfect relationship and we share EVERYTHING”) and just go with what your kid tells you. Oh and BTW I think it’s way more like being dumped by your significant other of 18 years than it is being laid off. Except your ex is still allowed to ask for money and show up unannounced and expect to be fed and have a place to sleep–which you will happily accept because you are still totally in love with them–but if you say ” I want to see your face–I’m worried about you and I want to know that you are OK” then it’s like you are a creepy stalker of exes. I will add one more thing–thank you. My daughter suffers from depression and anxiety and has since around age 12. And if it weren’t for reading about your struggles, I would not have taken her struggles seriously enough to get help and she may not have even been around to dump me. So THANK YOU JENNY LAWSON!
Set up a Proof of Life text. Ours is “The Daily Doodle”. Send a pet picture once a day with no comment. They “love” the photo = they’re alive. Mine get 24 hours to love before they get another text asking for proof 🥰. Here’s the rub: them leaving is the goal of motherhood. Worst compensation plan ever.
My daughter went to college 3 hours away. I sent her post cards every week with a quote from a movie or tv show that we love and she would call me to see if she guessed the movie or show correctly. Then once a month I’d send a box of homemade cookies for her to share with her floor (nothing like mom’s cookies to help make new friends). She ended up quitting school for the Air Force but I continued to send letters (no post cards during basic training) and cookies for her to share at work. (I even got a happy Mother’s Day text from a friend she was in tech school with two years ago…just because he loved those cookies so much!)
Things I learned from my fledglings:
Let them make their own mistakes, but be there if they ask for help;
The last few weeks before they leave will feel very off – they need to distance themselves from you a bit emotionally and you will feel hurt until you realize this is just part of the process;
When they come home for weekends/breaks there will be laundry (and your grocery bill will rise exponentially);
You and Victor will find your rhythm and their return at the end of term will feel a bit like an invasion, until it doesn’t.
Enjoy the ride!
It’s important to have a medical and legal directive so you can act on their behalf should something happen. You don’t want to hear they are at Student Health Services hospital but no one will tell you what is going on because “they are an adult now.”
I had a friend who insisted her daughter text her everyday. I hear from my kid (currently a junior about 1 hr from home) once a week or so and back in my day, I spoke to my mom (on the phone after 11pm) once a week.
Unless you have a big ass truck expect it to take 2 or 3 trips to fully move in.
Make some plans right now for *you.* Dinner with friends, etc. Distract yourself.
Not every kid transitions smoothly into college. They sometimes come back home. Roll with it. They’ll do what is right for them and you’ll support them through it, just like now.
Remember, it’s Commencement, the start of The Next Big Thing. Enjoy your front row seat.
The most important thing to hang onto: your child is awesome and talented and … you got the job done! Now it’s hers. Not saying you’re done… just saying it’s a different job
No news is always good news where kids are concerned!
I also have a high school junior, so am finding this helpful too!
Congratulations to you, Jenny, and to Haley and Victor on this major milestone! Hooray!
Random but important things:
A folder with their birth certificate, social security card, insurance card, AAA card, contact information for parents/grandparents, medical release forms, a living will (medical directive). (As much as you’ll want to hold onto the BC and SS card they are an adult and there will be situations (like getting a job) where they may need them.)
Shower shoes and a drainable caddy for soap/shampoo/razors/etc.
Lots of extension cords and phone cords (I swear they eat them).
Knowledge of how to do laundry, make a doctor’s appointment, balance a checkbook, and what to do if they or a friend are in trouble.
Look at public transit options around the school. If they will not have a car, how do they plan on getting around.
Then you have to give them space and let them make mistakes. Agree on a “proof of life” text at least x times a week/month (but they will probably call/text more than that).
You and Victor have done an incredible job and raised a smart, talented, adventurous child and you have trust that you haven’t fucked them up too badly. 🙂
My “baby” is 33 years old now and just moved to Canada. Your daughter will be great because you are an awesome mom! I suggest texting first before you call.
You learn the hard way that they seem to call when they are at their lowest. So, you then stay up worrying, they then get over their crisis quickly and of course they then forget to call and tell you they are just fine. College is little bit like a mini course in life, a roller coaster. As a parent, you are along for the ride. Best to you and to Hailey!
My parents called on Sundays and didn’t let us come home until Fall Break, so we would integrate into college life. It did work really well for us. My dad wrote letters all the time. He would just start a letter one day and type some every day until he had 2 pages and then mailed it, so I got letters 2 to 3 times a week, which I thought was awesome. I think you can officially send memes anytime you want now.
I also have one graduating and though she’ll be at college 20 min away I told her that I would try to act like she’s far away to give her space BUT if she EVER needs me, whenever she needs me, I am there. I am having moments of crying and the calm, crying and then calm.
I am in the same position. My oldest is graduating and I don’t have a clue what to do. They are so different from me and from where I was at that point.
A friend of mine recently used the term “adultling” to refer to their young adult child. As a fellow parent of a graduating High School senior, I’m embracing that term for now.
Everything else you said totally hits home for me.
My twin babies just graduated from college 2 days ago. That day will be here for you before you know it and you’ll be wondering how time went so fast. The best advice I can give you is to get out of their way and let them figure it out. They will amaze you and you will love seeing them turn into a real, interesting and likeable adult that will go and make their part of this world a better place.
Send care packages. Don’t call them. They will call you if they need to. Rejoice – you gave them roots and wings and did a damn good job! Oh, and don’t cry until you are out of their sight, if possible. They’ll be great!!
Texas State is amazing and scary and everything all wrapped up in one. I have a son there and the best advice was to join a parents group for Texas State on facebook. This is great for two reasons. 1. Seasoned parents give advice for things like parents weekend and moving in and out of the dorms. 2. You get to see parents make lots of different choices. These span from “I keep hearing something about tuition.. what’s that?” to “I’ve hacked my son’s email and I see he’s not responding to his professors-who do I call about that?” and all are answered and supported and not overtly judged. That much. Just remember no matter what you do it’s right because we are just winging this parenting gig on any given day. Go Cats!
Congratulations, Hailey! I have a feeling you will both rock this — the ups AND the downs.
Let them call you. Let them go, let them fail. Be their safe space. My babies are so old I’ve no idea how college works. If she’s with the theatre people, she’s going to have a blast. Good luck to you both.
You will be a mess. But you will survive and they will thrive. My Old baby turned 20 yesterday. These two years of her being away I didn’t call much. I knew my kid had a lot going on. I did text her regularly which let her reply when she could And her first year I sent her a random card every week with like $5 or a Taco Bell Gift card stuck in it I used up the stack Of random cards I had accumulated when I would buy a card and then forget To mail it. So she got birthday
And Mother’s Day get well and Christmas and thank you cards all year. She said it made her laugh. She played a sport so I went to as
Many games as I could. But didn’t intrude. I randomly For no reason sent her stuff from Amazon. Like a cool girl power bracelet. Or 5 pounds of twizzlers. She has life 360 on her phone but I only look when I know she is driving home. Just to check her progress. And then they come
Home for The summer and a week later
You start checking the calendar
To see when they leave again. 🙄
I work in housing at UNT, and the best thing I see parents do for their new college students is let them handle their own business. I would recommend letting them go alone, but even when the parents come with them to our office as moral support, when the students take the lead on the questions and make the decisions, they’re so proud of themselves for successfully adulting. They get so excited. Seeing students realize they are capable of resolving some things and making life work better is one of the best parts of my job.
Pinterest is your best friend for how to pack for college. So many great ideas.
Attend parent orientation (or the equivalent of it at Texas State – Family and Guest Orientation?) if you want (I recommend a virtual option if available because it’s…a LOT) but wait at least a week afterward before you make any decisions or buy anything they try to sell you.
Pay close attention to the seemingly random list of what-not-to-bring on the housing supply list. The items are likely to be confiscated, and they might even be fined for having them.
I echo all the advice about care packages (the personal ones – not the overpriced club/association-sponsored ones).
HIPAA waiver, just in case.
I advise against the FERPA waiver. It sounds like a great idea – very convenient! – but it makes it way too tempting to call and nose around “just to see what’s going on.” Trust Hailey to tell you what’s going on with their grades, tuition, finances, etc.
Enjoy the summer!
Let them set the tone, knowing that it will change. “How often do you want me to check in?” “Do you want me to go form shopping with you, or give you $$ so you can get your own stuff?” This is the time when they need to develop their own agency – how to manage their time, money, social life without anyone to run interference. Let them know you’re there to support and they will always have a home with you, then step back snd let them fly.
I’d suggest separate dorms for Hailey and their sweetheart. College is a big transition, and a time to explore friendships, interests, and sometimes new relationships. If it’s meant to be, it will survive a walk to a different dormitory, and if not, it won’t be quite so awkward.
As for you – friends help there, too, especially if you have a community of empty-nester parents who can empathize. Travel, work, exercise, hobbies , volunteering, reconnecting with spouse/family/friends – it’s time for you and Victor to consider what you want the rest of your lives to look like and start laying that foundation one brick at a time. What’s important to him? To you? Are there baby steps you can take to move down that path?
It’s SO hard to let them go, but it’s worth that heartache when you see how they fly. Hugs to you. 💜
Let them fly free and have a scheduled weekly FaceTime or Zoom call and tell them they can call or text you both at anytime day or night.
Listen, ask non-invasive questions, let them find the answers, tell them you’ll only give suggestions if they ask for them, ask if they want your advice. The first year is the hardest, it gets better.
Send them a care package with stuff they loved at home.
Shower shoes, shower travel caddy, first aid kit, dorm fridge, extra socks and underwear, a sweatshirt or hoodie, a toolbox of basic dorm room repairs stuff, a mending sewing kit, flashlight or camping lantern and extra batteries with a power pack for charging their cellphone during a power outage. Uber or Lyft app (but tell them to make sure it’s the correct driver with confirmation on the vehicle before they get in) and anything else that they tell you they need, and can’t find.
Tell them to stick to going out in groups and not go out at night alone unless they have a campus escort, there’s safety in numbers or designated security escorts on campus. Tell them always to lock their doors and windows. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Send them actual letters with photos about interesting stuff going on back at home, so they don’t get homesick.
Let them make mistakes, that’s how they learn.
Everyone in the comments above has great suggestions.
Do something fun with Victor to keep your mind off of missing your old baby.
No tracking unless you have consent, and then don’t ask them about where they go or at what times, it’s only for their safety just in case. An Apple Watch or AirTag can help.
Tell them if they seem to be struggling with mental health issues, they should reach out to you for help, and you’ll help them find an off campus therapist, since most on campus provided mental health is like Human Resources at your job, they care more about protecting the corporation from liability than helping your old baby.
Get the HIPPA release form and Power Of Attourney form just in case there is a medical emergency.
Encourage them to have fun on Spring Break and to find a summer plan or occupation, and not to just come home and vegetate.
Take deep breaths, before you know it, they will be in phase two of fully adult, but they will always need their parents.
First, congratulations! I am a Texas State grad, my daughter graduated in 2012, and my son is a rising senior there who was a RA for the past 3 years. It is a terrific school – large enough to offer lots of opportunities, small enough that they won’t be a faceless number. As to advice – do not watch “Mama Mia” the week before they go unless you are prepared to sob through “Slipping Through My Fingers”. I second joining parents groups on Facebook, and make sure to check out the Parents and Family Association resources – join the Family Association! – https://www.parentandfamily.txst.edu/ . Get housing taken care of asap, and have them sign up for the first orientation they can so they don’t get stuck with all 8 a.m. classes, unless that’s how they roll. DO NOT LET THEM COME HOME FOR THE FIRST COUPLE OF WEEKS. Students who are constantly coming home don’t integrate into the community; those first few weeks when thousands of freshmen are looking to find their place offer lots of opportunities to connect. They should plan to get involved asap with a club, group, SOMETHING that will enable them to meet outside of classes. Send cool care packages – my son always liked food he could share. As to how to handle the heart ache – ugh. It’s bittersweet knowing that you’ve done your job if they are able to fly out on their own. I’m a teacher, and I often note that it and parenting are alike in that if you do your job, you end up not being needed . . . at least not the same way. Good luck!
First, Congratulations to H!
My daughter felt the same panic, “How do they all KNOW what they want to do already???” I, like you, reassured her that probably “they” don’t, and those who seem to, will likely change adjust major a few times. Hailey is not alone- and neither are you.
You are still the expert on your child— but where did the child go?? Your young adult is going to find her way, and so will you. Negotiate communication. Will a call be every Sunday? Every day? Will it be enough for your child to acknowledge your text with a “thumbs up?” Or an bi-weekly “proof of life” photo? I joined Be Real to get the glimpse of my girl regularly. It helped. A random treat to look forward to,
You wisely followed your passion to open your shop, A type of new baby/toddler perhaps, to help smooth out the tender parts of your heart. Your community is strong and supportive. Ready with ideas for adventures or for comfort. Whatever you need on your time. Its different for everyone.
-If there is a parent orientation ( on line or in person) attend. I found out about campus departments – so I didn’t ask my kid about them. I was also able to use that info to gently encourage her to use campus resources & advocate for herself.
-join the parent / family association or social media groups. There is a wealth of knowledge from other parents.
***the shops near campus will be gutted around move in day. Seriously even pillows & fans will be scarce at even walmart. If you can, buy bedding/ basics earlier ( need to fill the fridge? Snack box/ Shower caddy? A few days out order curbside pick up from Target/walmart/Grocery with your move in date as pick up. Trust me, you don’t want to go IN on move in day if you can help it.
For her: you don’t need all the stuff the dorm influencers say. Live in the room for a little bit and decide how you want to decorate and live. College “you” may develop different tastes than “freshly graduated you” amazon can deliver to college.
Basics: extra drawers ( rubbermaid wide& skinny), 3m hooks, small fan, foam mattress topper. Collapsible cube/bins for organization, Easy to store over summer.
If your room floor is not carpeted, a rug IS worth it. 4×6 is safe or a pretty runner for next to your bed. Check room dimensions.
Ikea Frakta Bags for move in. They hold a lot, have straps, and fold flat in the space under your bed for move out. Can be used as suitcases but store way better. ( works as checked bags for OOS students, too)
Join the Texas State parents group on FB and bring your sense of humor. Let your college student contact you; some prefer daily and others more like weekly. If it’s been a while and you need proof of life, send them a pic of a pet — it’s a guaranteed response. Buy only the very basics for the dorm room until you see what they actually need and have room for. Enjoy watching them fly!
Congratulations to Hailey! I discovered that the anticipation of my children leaving for college was far worse than the actual leaving itself. We asked our kids to check in once a day (text was fine), and that was a nice habit. A wise young adult told me to remember that when your college kids are happy, they’ll likely contact you less, so don’t despair when you don’t hear from Hailey as often as you’d like. Join the Texas State parents’ group on FB – they should have lots of inside info. Plan a getaway for you and your husband during Hailey’s first week of school so you don’t have to go right back to the empty house and finally, take a breath and congratulate yourself for raising such a fine young adult. Your job isn’t over, it’s just changing a bit. It will be ok!
As an experienced Mom who has gone through this—— first, always consult with them about how often to call, what the dorm decor should be, whether new roommates might be more interesting than current friends, etc. Second, the new mantra is Let Go. They will come back but let them fly first. Third, never stop telling them how proud you are, how sure you are that they can handle this, how much you love them but also tell them not to be afraid to fail or fall down because you are their biggest fan and always available but only if they ask for help.
Breathe. Chocolate helps, too
I made a colourful sign saying MAKE SMART DECISIONS when my son started college. He proudly displayed it in his dorm room. And then I cried all the way home. Jenny, it will eventually be ok.
Sent my oldest off last year. My advice would be that the separation is tough the first semester, but much like sleep training, let them tough it out until Christmas break. Second semester will be easier! Too many parents started calling and visiting too much and encouraging them come home every weekend the minute they felt sad. Just stick it out, they’ll be fine!!
I went to a college seven hundred miles from home at age 17. It was 1972, and there was one pay phone to serve the entire three floors of my dorm. Needless to say, excessive phone calls were not a problem! I called home-collect, of course- for birthdays, for airline pick-up times and the like.I was, in essence, on my own. I am now 68, and remember those years as some of the best I ever had. There was a bit of power struggle when I went home for Winter Break or summer and had to abide by house rules again🤪 You have raised Hailey to be well-rounded and sensible. I predict they will have the time of their life!
And you, you’ll get used to it after a couple of years 😆. My son went to college in our city, but my daughter went 300 miles away. She did not require, nor even want, advice or help from us- except a few $$$. I missed her, but still had my son at home. I think Mamas are resilient enough to withstand anything our little chicks can throw at us when they leave the nest. Best wishes to you, and to Hailey for the excitement still to come!
For the Dorm, just go to Target and buy everything. Start with the zip ties so you can keep all of your carts in one line. For hobbies start with Victor. A lot of divorces happen after kids leave the nest.
Congratulations! My daughter went to Texas State, too! Did Hailey get in the musical theater program? That’s awesome if they did! I think it’s great for kids to have dorm life for at least one year. Not gonna lie, it was hard to drop her off (she’s my last kid) but she did great and Hailey will too!
“I know that they’ll do well no matter what but it’s so hard to figure out what my new role is.”
You’re roll is the same that it has always been.
My babies are 38, and days away from 36, and they know that they can always come to Momma with anything, and that wherever I am, they will always have a home.
Just because they are over 18, doesn’t mean that your job as Momma is done.
It has just evolved.
I ran across this article recently. You may find it helpful. https://grownandflown.com/academic-advisor-helps-college-students/?utm_medium=socialflow&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR0sif5bj05tDypQbYBvJzKNwPuFRhsCtjKdKobB13tkPgJo4rgAyH9LY88
My daughter is freshly home from her freshman year at a college 625 miles away. It was a huge adjustment for us all!
-check out the Grown & Flown website ( not an ad!!) for the best packing and prep list ever! Stuff I wouldn’t have thought of like HIPAA releases, setting up an Uber account and entering in urgent care/ER numbers into both my and her phone.
-a doorstop is the most important thing to pack! She met so many kids on the hall because their door was open most of the time!
-ikea bags are magical.
– the VP of students told us in orientation that if your kid is not texting or calling, it’s because they’re fine and having fun.
-trust them to figure most of it out, but remind them you’re always there if they need you.
-get them into the habit of checking their email daily. Kids think email is totally outdated (!!) but it’s how ALL communication comes from college—just to them, not to you!
– remind them that it’s fucking HARD and give themselves some grace.
Been a minute, but…
Give them room to grow and make mistakes, let them set the communications, be there for backup if they need something. Care packages with a mix of necessary and ridiculous are nice. You’re close, so let them call the shots on visits…if they want to come home and do laundry on the weekends, fine, but don’t go and pick it up.
For you, celebrate this change in your life, consider the reduced responsibility, do you stuff, and maybe find a new bad taxidermy for consolation.
You have raised a bright, talented, sensitive human being. Let them be. They will make some mistakes; we all do. Being home on weekends will help them feel secure in their foundation, and living independently during the week will reinforce their confidence. Y’all will be fine. Better than fine. This is wonderful.
My son is 19, a sophomore in college all the way in New Zealand and I’m in Texas 😬 you can let them know you’ll be there when you they need you but step back, let them learn and live a little and step in with the advice when you’re asked. You got this!
My elder child just graduated college, and as we type, is driving halfway across the country to start their first job. My younger child is moving 2/3 away across the country for a summer internship in two weeks.
– Snapchat streaks. Especially with silly pet photos.
– Ask them to be honest with you if you’re communicating too much or too little. My kids don’t talk on the phone, so I only call if there’s an emergency, but we text relatively frequently. Sometimes several times a day, sometimes just a few times per week. And my younger one FaceTimes me to show me what they bought at Target or Trader Joes.
– Send care packages. Not the overpriced crappy ones the school will hawk to you, but small boxes with things you know they will enjoy. Favorite snacks, silly trinkets…a batch of homemade cookies to share with their dorm mates are always a hit.
– Let them make some mistakes, but be there to help them recover.
– HANG IN THERE! It will be an adjustment for everyone, but you’ll find what works for both of you.
I’m not a parent, neither have I ever lived in a dorm, but I moved out at 18 and the hardest part was waking up in a strange new place the first morning, and then after that, desperately missing the convenience of having someone else sort out dinner. That was pretty much it, though!
Parent of old babies and university professor/administrator here. Don’t be a helicopter (or –worse yet– “drone”) parent. It’s so hard to let go, but they won’t flourish unless you give them space. At the same time, remind them that your house is a welcoming place for landing with friends, laundry and to enjoy home cooking every once in a while and that it will always be their home. Send thoughtful care packages. Text occasionally, but don’t expect immediate responses. Bite your tongue when tempted to question or criticize choices. Continue to love unconditionally. Encourage them to find a solid mentor, explore as many interests as they can (both academically and in terms of clubs and activities). Say YES if they want to study abroad. As scary as it is, college is generally a much more accepting and supportive environment than high school, and it’s a fine place for our kiddos to come into their own. Know that you have raised them to be strong and brave and independent, so this is their time to shine and grow. Get ready to be prouder than you have ever been!
In my experience you’re (more) likely to get a response (eventually) if you text instead of call. And take or leave hobbies ;you’re gonna worry either way.
Congratulations to Hailey!
First off, you got this Mama. Encourage them to explore and try new things. Take classes they’re curious about without getting all wrapped up in what’s after college. Nothing learned is ever wasted. And when they find their groove, if they don’t text or call for a few days, it’s a good thing. Another step on the ladder of spreading their wings!
Let her make her unique awful awesome mistakes. They will become the stories she tells forever. Trust that you did your job. Get a brand new journal the day she leaves and start on your new chapter of life. I totally screwed it all up and it was all magical and messy and wonderful. I lived at home and commuted to college, changed my major 6 times. I got pregnant and dropped out. Gave birth to greatest miracle of my life. Went back to college, got two degrees, did great things with writing (Pulitzer finalist twice, NYT bestselling book now in 24 languages) and my daughter did it better. She went away to college and loved it all, did great work, then left paid job to raise 3 kids. We all have own twisty weird journey to take. It’s ALL an adventure….for both of you. Love. It. All.
Congratulations to Hailey!! This is a really bittersweet time for them, you, and Victor. It’s also a really great time for y’all to be having the conversations about frequency and type of communications. When our (only child) daughter went off to college, we agreed to once a week calls. For other people, once a day texts and once a week calls work. Others, carrier pigeons thrice a fortnight is adequate. Do what works for you and them.
PSA: there will be occasional calls from them when they are distraught and your inclination will be to hop in the car and go rescue them. Don’t do it. Usually, the moment they get off the phone with you, they will feel better. You will be a puddle, but they will be fine.
Caveat: if you are getting frequent (daily) distraught calls, that might be a different story that needs intervention.
From a parent whose child started university 100 miles away last year, I feel I can offer some words of “wisdom” on this. For the first couple of weeks we face-timed 2-3 times just to just to check all was OK, and of course it was. They were having the time of their life with their new found freedom, so very soon we were just messaging either other by text or on our family’s Discord server.
I’ve been following you since Hailey was a small child, and I think you have the kind of relationship where you will be texting each other daily anyway, so it won’t feel loss quite so deeply as previous generations when you had a phone call once a week if you were lucky.
But here’s a big tip. Get on BeReal. It’s an app where, at a random point during the day, you take a photo of whatever you are doing and post if for people on you BeReal netork to see, it’s not public unless you want it to be. Each day I get to see them and a moment of their new life (and they get to see a boring photo from me as well) and it’s amazing how much I look forward to getting that little snapshot each time.
I sent my daughter to college with a hammer and a screwdriver. She made lots of friends that first week!
Then my son went to college. I went to visit him during his sophomore year, and stayed in his friend’s empty room. In the morning I said I wanted to take a shower. He said, “Sorry, The Towel is dirty”. I wanted breakfast, but “the bowl is dirty and I don’t know where the spoon is”. I went straight from the airport to the department store and bought extra linens, inexpensive dishes, etc. And a shower curtain for the whole floor.
Funny how none of this came up during Freshman year.
I sent my kids pictures of our cats everyday with clever captions ( or at least captions that amused me) when they responded or just liked the picture I knew they were alive. They were also required to call once a week.
Don’t panic about supplies. Most colleges have an Amazon drop site, so just about anything can be delivered by the next day. Also check the school’s website for a list of dorm dos and don’ts. My grandson’s college has a rule against trees of any size in the dorms. Plants are okay but keep those bonsais outta there. I like to fantasize about what happened to cause that rule.
I’ve had 3 go away to college and it doesn’t get easier. A first I texted, messaged, or called nearly every day. I had to learn that what they needed as far as a parent gradually changed but they did still need me. Advice is what I gave most, easy, “Mom i don’t remember what color laundry can go with what?” to the difficult “Mom, I am having a panic attack and can’t speak… help me!” We were just there since ours were an hour drive away, to go pick them up at 2am when it was just an awful day and they needed to cuddle their cat for the night. It’s a big adjustment that they had to be in the lead. **My kids school had an online list of ‘what to bring’ suggestions. Go minimal until they realize how it works and what they actually want and need there. Random roommate selection was really hard for my kids with anxiety** Last but not least… breathe… they will do amazing things! (gotta brag: #1 BA in Linguistics, #2 BS in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, #3 BA in Drama and BA in Gender and Women’s Studies)
My oldest (first of 3) goes to college next year too, so I feel this! I wish I had good advice, but I can tell you that 1) you’re not alone and 2) the best thing you can do (I hope) is keep being the Mom you are. They will learn, through good and bad experiences, and come out better for it because they know you are always their foundation. Hugs Mama – you’ve got this, and so does your beautiful kid. 💜
My oldest baby is back for summer, and I love having her home for a little bit. My middle baby decided against college and we’re still helping her forge a path, but in the meantime she still lives with us. My youngest baby is halfway through high school and we’re not sure what her plans are. I feel like we’re easing our way into empty nest days with baby steps, which for me is helping. I think it would be harder to have one kid at home, and then they’re not. Sending lots of virtual hugs, because it’s got to be strange and difficult, even as it’s all actual good.
My grandmother gave my mother this advice: don’t ask a question if you aren’t ready to hear the answer. That probably goes in conjunction with no early morning calls!
Mine graduated last year, and his dad I spent so much time telling him how great college was, and how he was going to have so much fun, and he was going to make such great friends, etc.
And then, he didn’t…
It wasn’t a terrible year (though some terrible things happened that were outside of our control), but it certainly wasn’t the epic experience we promised. And because we’d shoved our narrative down his throat, he felt like was doing it wrong.
He wasn’t, obviously- we had just sold him a bill of goods colored by 20 years of nostalgia. We’d glossed over the hard parts, and the I don’t fit in parts, and the what am I doing here parts.
So, my advice is to let them find their way- good, bad, and ugly. You can give advice, but they might not take it and that’s okay, too. But you can’t do it for them (even when you really, really want to)
Oh- and the first time they get sick, instacart their favorite feel-better foods to the dorm. They’ll love it!
Remember that it’s not the end of the story — it’s a new chapter! Be confident that you’ve raised an incredible human. Let them lead! As for moms, I suggest learning something new so you have firsts to share, too!
The first two weeks are brutal. Crying, depression, brain fog. I let my son get in touch with me as I didn’t want to intrude on his ability to acclimate. He called me 3 days after he got there wondering if I even cared that he was gone! Lesson learned. I texted him every couple of days – even if he didn’t respond, it was comforting for him to hear from me. Communication, extra towels and toiletries and snacks.
I remember fondly that my mom would randomly send a card with cash in for coffee money… $5, $20, whatever! It was always a welcome surprise, especially as I also lived close enough to go home on weekends! 🙂
On the calls / texts my DD frequently sent me texts before college and it continued through college. If Hailey asks for a wake up call provide it, if they don’t need it let them handle it. Mine ended up with autoimmune issues and so had me as a back up alarm when her body rebelled. This is a season where you have to turn over the controls to Hailey on some of it. Are they okay with a daily proof of life text?
Favorite thing for moving IKEA Frakta storage bags with the zipper. You can stuff a lot in them and they are easy to pack. (We bought them off Amazon).
Don’t worry about forgetting anything… that’s what Amazon and delivery services are for they will survive without an extra long charging cord for a day or two.
I have survived sending my only off to college and watched her graduate. You can do this Mom!
“When your kid graduates it’s like being laid off from a job that you only just started to get good at” is the most perfect description ever.
My kid (college junior) & I trade Wordle answer blocks. Every day. I call it Proof of Life.
Thank you for this post! I have a Senior as well who will be going away to college (3.5 hours). He texts me now ‘what’s for dinner’ and that’s about it. He works and often is not home when the rest of the family eats. I look forward to reading through all of the fabulous advice your followers post.
First off, go Hailey! Congratulations!
Mine’s 30 now, and living in the US (I’m in the UK). My biggest take from the last 10+ years is let them make their mistakes, but let them know (I’m pretty sure that they already do) that you’re there if they need advice, a hug, whatever they want.
It’s really hard stepping back. Really hard. But as my son said when he hit 18, ‘You’ve fulfilled your biological imperative, Mum. Congratulations on winning!’. Which is kind of true, although I might not have put it that way, personally.
I still ‘chat’ with my son every day via WhatsApp. Sometimes we’re typing at the same time, most of the time we both shove things we find funny, or news items, or anything at all onto the screen, and the other will read it when they’re online. It works for us. We still actually speak to each other, sometimes a call, sometimes over Discord when we play games together, or stream stuff. He’s got his own life, and I’m adjacent, but I’m still there when he needs me, and it’s lovely watching him do far better at life than I did.
Will you have to damp down the anxiety and panic about whether they’re ok at any given time? Absolutely. When mine was Hailey’s age (although he was still at home at that point), he knew that sending me a quick text if he was staying over at a friend’s place, or was going to be back at 3am, was enough to stop me going into a full panic attack (didn’t stop the anxiety, what does?, but it did curb it). Again, it’s what worked for us. You. Victor and Hailey will find out what works for you.
When my son left for college (just a few hours away) I cried for weeks when anyone mentioned his name. It was somewhat of a weird grieving process. Give yourself grace and allow that to happen, whatever it is for you.
Do NOT subscribe to the campus security alerts. My youngest probably texted me 25 times the first week to tell me she was nowhere near whatever catastrophic event I had just received a text about.
When my daughter went to college, we went to the parents orientation. There they taught us to say wow that’s sad (or something similarly appropriate) what are you going to do about it. Because there are no rules and kids need to learn to be responsible for themselves. It must’ve worked because both my kids graduated from college And have good jobs. Good luck to you ,Hailey and Victor.
💯 with you on all points. My senior is graduating next week as well and they are headed to New York- the opposite side of the country from home. It’s where they want to be. They’re aiming to be on Broadway so I totally get it. But I agree it’s so hard to let go and be on the sidelines now when we’ve been there for years to pave the way for them.
We just have to remember:
They are capable and smart.
They will be fine.
We are adaptable and we believe in them.
We will be fine. ❤️
Send care packages. Cry when that are not looking. Be prepared to make mistakes and own them. Know that you will worry and definitely not understand a thing. Listen. Listen some more. Don’t take anything personally. Look forward to the day you realize they are your friend/child and it is all brand new. You got this.
I started new relationship routines when mine left home. I still send all of them a goodnight text every night. Either a kissy face emoji or the made up word ‘beh!’ ( it’s a text kiss). Some reply every night, some reply whenever, randomly. I send memes, cartoons, memories. I let all of them gps stalk me. Some of them let me stalk them in return.
For some, this next step was straight forward, for others, lots of side trips and back tracking. I tell each of them I love them no matter what, that mistakes and side trips and back tracking are just part of life.
Oh, Jenny. Welcome to the land of the empty nest. Having been there and done that–my kids all went way out of state, and so did I–I can weigh in on a few of your questions.
Do I call every day? No. No. And again, no. Once a week oughta do it. Texting in moderation, however, is another story.
Do I let them call when they want? Yes, of course. 24/7 if need be. You are their oxygen, remember?
Do I call them in the morning to make sure they didn’t forget to set their alarm or do I let them oversleep and be tormented with dreams of missing classes for the rest of their lives? No and yes: the latter will happen whether you wake them up or not.
You’ve totally got this.
Get a medical power of attorney so you can be notified and make decisions if something terrible happens (hopefully never needed but good piece of mind). I did mine for my daughter through this site (who’s name is awesome for us worriers) which made it easy:
Good luck it all works out. This is everything we work so hard as parents to be able to have them achieve. Such an exciting time.
I stepped back, and didn’t inundate him with calls or texts. After a couple of weeks, he said, “Mom, it’s okay if you call or text me. Everyone else’s parents do.” The sure fire way to actually get a response to a text is to send pictures of their pets. 😉 Best advice I got was to not look/go into their room for a few weeks after they leave. In my case, when I finally opened the door, I was so pissed off at the absolute train wreck of a mess he left behind, it was just as well for him he was several states away, LOL.
I was terrified when the first went to college, and I expected to be filled with sadness, missing him. I did miss him. But the truth was, it was time for him to leave the nest. I have never been so proud of a person in my life. It was like watching a butterfly emerge, and that was something he did on his own. Ultimately, how could I be sad when this amazing young man was sending me photos of the Corpus Christi sunrise from his dorm room.
I hope you soak up the joy that will begin to emerge. xoxo
Let your baby make some mistakes but know that there’s an army of staff and student-workers who are all trained specifically to help freshmen make useful mistakes and not harmful ones. My school recommended, and I agree, that parents not visit until family weekend about a month in…. my father slipped my mother’s leash and snuck up for our opening event but otherwise they both behaved. Harass your baby via messenger and let them hold the reins more on calls.
And know that the wait staff at whatever restaurant is closest to campus is probably very used to putting crying parents back together on move-in day.
Helpful things? Shower shoes, loft the bed in the dorm if possible, snacks, Amazon gift card for forgotten items, your most treasured stuffed animal in a college sweater… make sure if there’s a roommate questionnaire that H folks or out themselves and completely honestly.
Text them the weird shit. It’s surprising how often it’ll hit them at a time they need it the most. Otherwise take your cues from them.
I’m pretty lucky that my kid humours me and uploads photos to an account she’s shared with me. I’m not naive and think that I see everything but I do get lots of shots of food (hooray she eats some veg) and cute shots of her and her smiling friends. It keeps this mama happy. Well, the A+ gpa helps too!
My kid loves the surprises like the Uber-eats credits and nail salon gift cards I send her way. Another good thing to send is toilet paper and tissues – the quilted good stuff!
I still haven’t figured out how to keep myself busy though…
Send care packages, text, ask what they need. Send random money. My oldest went away for his freshman year in August of 2020. I check in often. He does too. It’s going to be GREAT!!
They will probably call you a lot more then you had thought
Also….bit of sneaky mom advice..if you pay for their I phone usage like I do…..have them agree to share the app called 360 ( I think it’s called). You can both keep track of each other’s location at any time. It’s come in very handy with my 21 yr old son
💜. It’s really important nowadays
Actually it’s called. Life 360
No calling at all, on repeat, no calling at all. They have to spread their wings. Send money, funny goodies and snacks. And answer their texts.
I’m right there with you. Jess will be 4 hours away. Sharing an off campus apartment with 3 strangers. I know this is what she is supposed to be doing, it’s the next step and she’ll be fine, but I am FUCKING TERRIFIED.
Oh Jenny…hugs! Feel what you feel! I felt so strong about not being a helicopter parent, I told each of my baby adults (the term we used in our family!) that I would *try* not to initiate calls and texts unless it was an emergency. My daughter is graduating from Grad school in a couple of weeks and she calls me on her way home from work almost every day! Let Hailey take the lead. And don’t take whatever they choose personally!! They are growing and learning how to navigate life!
Love to you.
I tried to just be a good safety net. “Go, try big things. If you fall it will be okay. I’ll help you bounce back up.” Everyone fails at something eventually and it can feel like a collapsing. An end. But resilience is easier when you have a good place to land. Somewhere with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and smart women who want you to find your way.
Let Hailey take the lead with texts or calls. If their communication style is essentially nonexistent, occasionally send a light and encouraging text. Or a silly fun text.
I had one (now approaching age 30) who called me pretty much every day his first year as he walked to his next class (so, a very short call) to share all of the exciting things that were happening, and one (now 27) who texted rarely, but got into deep conversations with me when he needed. They followed the communication styles they had when they were growing up at home. Both are happy, healthy, and living marvelous adult lives. [Now, the almost-30-year-old calls me most Fridays as he drives home from work. Both “kids” text whenever they are moved, as do I—almost exclusively about silly fun.]
You did your parental heavy-lifting—congrats! Now it’s time for Hailey to start to emerge on their own, while you admire their growing independence. Also, provide a sounding board—just listen and let them process while they’re talking to you. If they ask for your opinion, maybe ask a thoughtful question first to give them space to keep exploring how they feel about the situation (vs. you taking control of the situation).
You (collectively) will be fine—you’ve got this! Congratulations!!!!!
They need independence and care packages – fortunately, you won’t have to mail them if Hailey comes home for the weekend. It will be fine. You will all figure it out. Before you decide what to get for a dorm…consult with a roommate to find out what they’re bringing.
I was 1000 miles away from my family and I called once a week. I might have texted more often, had that been available. You’ll figure that out too, once your responses are delayed due to studying or socializing.
I have no advice from a parental point of view, but I do have advice from a (now very old) baby’s perspective:
– Let them come to you for support when they need it. My parents did that and it was such a comfort to be allowed to figure out when I needed help and when I felt comfortable trying and falling on my face when needed
– Send care packages if/when you can. Snacks are awesome, but whatever you think they would love, send it. 🙂
– Reassure yourself that everything will be okay, because it will! Enjoy watching them fly! I’m sure you’ll be a great support. 🙂
I worked in college student affairs for 25 years and have had this conversation with a bazillion parents. Honestly, the best thing you can do in trust in all you’ve taught them and let them go do their thing…while keeping the door open for when they want to walk back through it. Challenge them to continue to grow and support them along the way, especially in those moments when they just need your hugs because the exam/day//relationship/project/whatever went sideways.
There are a ton of people on campus who provide students support (especially outside the classroom, which TSU calls Student Life: https://www.txst.edu/student-life.html ). They will help with Hailey’s development, alongside the faculty, and become the supports they need on the day-to-day stuff of campus life. This is literally their full time job and they know what they’re doing…ask questions as you have them yet understand that the staff will encourage Hailey to be the first person they interact with. Your role shifts into becoming being knowledgeable of Hailey’s needs and maybe what services could support them so you can verbally nudge Hailey in the right direction. Then they can do their own work of navigating those resources (like an emerging adult needs to do) as needed…rather than walking them to the right place, holding their hand tight like you did when they were a little kid. That’s probably the hardest part of this process for most parents, but also evidence of all the excellent parenting you’ve been doing all these years as you watch them fly out of the nest!
I encourage you to attend any and all parent/family orientation events that are offered, which may or may not be at the same time that Hailey goes to new student orientation. But get used to the university addressing Hailey first and you second on most things. Hailey is their student; you are legally only allowed to have access to information if Hailey grants that permission to you (info like grades, for example).
As for how often you talk, I suggest making it less often rather than more often. Hailey’s job now is to integrate into their independent life on campus and constant contact with home starts to interfere with that process. Yes, there will be bumps along the way. Guaranteed! That’s why your door is always open. Make a plan with them for how often you’re going to talk yet leave it open for more frequent contact for those bad days.
I have faith that Hailey will do great. So will you. Yes, tears will be shed. On both sides. And there will also be many smiles and hugs and great pride in all they will accomplish in the coming years. Trust in that.
p.s. we’re FB friends so feel free to reach out if you want to talk more 🙂
– listen more than you talk.
– ask if they want advice before giving any.
– maybe don’t give advice even if they say they want it.
– texting is awesome to keep in touch, as long as there’s no pressure to return or engage.
– there’s a big difference between helpful and helpy. the last one is bad.
Congratulations to both you and Hailey!! And *hugs offered*!!
Their college should send a suggested packing list.
They’ll want to coordinate with their dormmate on room stuff if they can – mini fridge? Microwave? Rugs? Curtains? Stereo? (Is this still a thing? Am I old? 😅) Laptop/computer.
Look for college mattress sheets/bedding.
My college did a poster fair shortly after arrival each year. Poster putty is great.
Shower shoes will be helpful.
My mom and I got into a great email routine with each other when I was in undergrad. Maybe you and Hailey will find your groove in your own way — whatever it is, you’ll get there. 💞
It’s likely that there is a Class of 2027 parent group on FB. It can be a blessing or a curse. I know my kids got sick of hearing “I saw in the parent group…” Grown and Flown Parents is another FB group with tons of info. Don’t send anything not currently used at home. (Look at what is going to school and remove half). Julie, mom to a ‘23 Aggie grad and Class of 2026 Aggie.
I was in your shoes a year ago, and I’m happy to report that my daughter just wrapped up her 1st year at Texas State and everything went great! It’s definitely time to take a step back and let them take the reins! Don’t go overboard buying stuff for the dorm… my daughter was pretty minimalist with the things she brought for move in, yet she still brought things home that she didn’t end up needing almost every visit home. We did both install the Life360 app just to ease my mind… but I promised her that I wouldn’t track her every move, which I did do the first month or so (LOL), but after that I just checked periodically… especially on nights that I knew she was working and driving back to her dorm late. Hang in there Mama… they will do great, and a year from now, you’ll be feeling so much better about everything… watching your child grow into the adult you’ve been preparing them for their whole life! xo
YES YES YES. “In my mind, a degree is basically just a way to show your first employer that you have the ability to finish a long-term project while making terrible mistakes and new friends.”
My boyfriend and I sent each other “survival letters.” This was a letter in the mail filled with random things to make you smile, a cartoon, an art card, a puzzle, a message, a joke, but the thing was, you couldn’t open it when you got it. You have to wait until you’re having a really really bad day and you need something to get your mind off of it. Sometimes we saved them for a week, sometimes we saved them for a few months , but it was great knowing it was there for that time when you really need it. I’m sure modern variations of these from a parent to a kid could be put together, but the key thing was to not open it when it arrived.
Allow her to call you for help, or just to chat.You call her NO MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK!
That is all.
Don’t forget a wastebasket and some bags for it.
Oh my goodness. My oldest is also headed to Texas State this fall. All I see when I look at him are his baby pictures. Stay strong. Also, he’s plugged into some group where the kids going to TSU next fall can meet online beforehand because we live in the future.
“They need…Wide Open Spaces…Room to Make Their Big Mistakes”
Your role at this point is to Listen First, Ask Before Offering Input, Send Lots of Money….and Then More…and Be A Life Coach Kind of Person Upon Request.
Also, to do tons of laundry when they come home, text but don’t call, send care packages on Amazon with laundry detergent and toiletries and Smart Water and snacks and sinus meds, etc., and to tell them 1000000 times, “you are going to be amazing” and try to believe it.
Hi, I work for a University and there is always a list for dorm move in. I found this for you: https://www.reslife.txst.edu/move-in-out.html
Good luck Hailey!
Another University staffer here. I second what has already been said about letting them learn how to function as an adult. The kids will need to learn how to do things themselves, and sometimes that means make mistakes and how to learn from them. And – I cannot stress this enough – know it’s ok to ask for help. Sometimes you have to go through a couple of people before you get an answer (Big 10 university here with record enrollment so lots and lots of students and staff), but there should be an answer/help available for most situations. Sometimes the answer is no, and learning that is a process too.
I’m two years into this journey and here is my advice:
1. Do not join the parents-of-TSU-students group on Facebook. I imagine there is one. There’s one for every college.
2. When you do break down and join it, do not read any of the posts, or you will sell the bookstore and make it your life’s sole mission to locate and strangle the mother who keeps complaining that the cafeteria runs out of scrambled eggs before her darling can drag himself to breakfast.
3. When you do strangle her, call me and I’ll hit everyone here up and we’ll crowdfund your bail. We got you.
hey, congratulations Hailey!
Accept that you will NEVER stop worrying. And remind yourself that you raised a capable and responsible person who will eventually learn from their mistakes,
Weekly phone calls.
Make sure they know how to do laundry.
Send food baskets just because. I recommend Zingermans in Ann Arbor.
Send photos of the pets on the regular.
Be prepared for the emotional break down mid to late October. They will call you sobbing and your heart will break.
Treat yourself to lots of ice cream.
Congrats to Hailey, and congrats to you and Victor for raising a great person! I can’t say that everything will be fine, but what I can say is that you gave them as many of the tools that you could. It’s up to them to do what they can with them!
Be there, let them call when they need to, say no when you need to, and just love them. Mistakes will be made, but regardless, it’s their life. They have to live it. ❤️
On a side note, here in Canada, a college is a college and university is a university. I always find it interesting that in the US, the term seems interchangeable! (I work at a college!)
You are affirming that my choice to only have cats was the right one, so thank you for that.
I went far far away to college. I wish someone had told my mom “She will be OK on her own. She will say silly things and she may do some silly things, but she’s a smart kid and she will figure things out” Apparently my mother worried a LOT about me and I did not find out until much later. I wish I could’ve spared her that because I was having a lot of fun and still passing all my classes just fine.
So my advice to you is: check in with Hailey semi-frequently, probably less often than you want to. They will let you know if they need more than that. And if they sound like they are making silly decisions (not to be confused with harmful ones) don’t stress too much about that either. You have raised them well, and they are very capable.
Don’t panic if their grades aren’t great in the first semester. Moving up from high school to college is a huge adjustment and can be really, really difficult for a lot of students. They may need a whole semester just to figure out how to go to college. This could be especially traumatic for you and them if they were an excellent student in high school. Failing a class does not make them a failure. They can always retake it! (Also, I recommend not taking statistics at 8 AM.)
They have always been their own person. They always will. How lucky we have been for them to share it with us. You are now breaking up. For me personally, it was an awful time. I JUST got used to this. :- ) I want one more moment. They were never “OURS” from the start. It’s your birthday too. Happy “Birthday too Mama and Daddy”
A lot of dorms are now set up like apartments. Each apartment has their own kitchen and bathroom which is shared with 6 or so students. If this is the case for Hailey – do they know how to shop for groceries, how to use coupons, how to cook Top Ramen, how to scour a frying pan? Can they sort laundry? Do they know how to change sheets? Scrub a bathtub, mop a floor? Do they know how to make an appointment at the health center, can they remember to take medication?
I worked at a popular college here in Southern California and there were many incoming students who had no idea how to do any of the above. Knowing how to take care of themselves gives them the confidence they need to succeed while they are away from mom and dad.
Best wishes for a successful freshman year to our internet niece, Hailey!!
My favorite food blogger Melskitchencafe has a Free Printable Packet for anyone learning to cook on their own. Highly recommend! Congratulations Hailey!
College kids will be in touch when they are upset. They will resolve whatever it is but you will continue to worry.
I comment as a former Freshman Comp professor of many years. Recently, I had an “outside of academia” work function. Some parents of high schoolers sitting at my table asked me, “What is the one bit of advice you would give parents of college kids or about-to-be college kids?” My answer (which I confess was not popular) was “LET. THEM. FAIL.” Nothing could possibly teach them more than having to figure it out…figure out how to make the right decision as well as how to deal with the consequences of the wrong one. I am not at all advocating for abandonment, but guidance without influence through “their” decisions.
Gotta let her stumble her way through it… I envision you creating an entire haunted town to keep yourself busy. But if you want to learn to crochet, I’m here for you.
They will figure everything out! I agree with others that you’ve got to let them fail in order to learn. We heard little from our daughter early in her freshman year. They feel very independent! We installed Life 360 so we could see where she was. I told her it was either that or I’d be calling her every night, and if she didn’t answer I’d be driving 3 hours to look her up in person. 😂. It was disconcerting to look at her location at 3 am and see she was wandering around/partying in a big metropolitan city, but at least we had her last known location. In the morning I could check that she was back in her dorm. She’s almost 29 now and living on her own in a big city. We still use the app and now she texts me when she gets home after being out. You never get over worrying ❤️
There’s already a wealth of great advice in your comments. I will just add: try to be kind to yourself as you + Victor make your way through this transition. There are so many ways to feel! Elation, grief, worry, pride, excitement, overwhelm, irritation, and an explosion of love. It’s all there in various proportions. Yes, this time is about celebrating them and you will! But it’s also about you and this huge milestone you’ve reached. I feel like there should be some sort of ritual or ceremony for us, too, you know? HUGE congratulations to you and Hailey.
We, too, have a daughter graduating this month and I echo all of your wonderings. This was a nice advice piece her college counselor shared yesterday. Love a good metaphor for coping!😊
They are perfectly prepared and situated because of all you have already taught them. Honest injun. We tend to worry like mad because that’s what moms do, think of worse case scenarios and then run with it. But here’s the thing. Hayley is fully capable. And here’s the other thing. In my experience, the waiting to move them into their dorm is the worst. All of these last ever milestones get us in the heart, but when you move them into their dorm and see how happy they are, your heart will soar with a different sort of lightness. Promise.
When I went through parent orientation at my son’s school, they advised us that our kids would call us when they were low or had a problem, but then would not follow up to let us know that everything had worked out. It was so true! So my advice is that when they’ve called you with a problem, assume everything worked out fine unless you hear otherwise.
There are Facebook groups for this. Paying for College 101 which turns into “How do I get them to their dorm and deal with this empty hole in my life” each year. There are Facebook groups for parents of kids in just about each college. Look for those. It’s different for different folk. My kid didn’t want to shop for any dorm things and was going to a school across the country. They reluctantly allowed a few things like twin xl sheets but no mattress topper (don’t let them convince you you need one unless your kid agrees, mine went 4 years without). Some parents shove everything into a vehicle and drive it and kid to school/dorm. We had to fly and used Southwests 2 pieces of checked luggage, packing 3.75 pieces with the kids stuff. The college had a job to Bed Bath and Beyond (that’s over but they’ll go somewhere…Target?) to pick up things you forgot or wisely waited until you were there to buy. We called/facetimed once a week and were mildly chided for it. Haven’t needed to wake child up since they finished middle school. We could only have kid back for Winter break and Summer. They did other things during other breaks including Thanksgiving with the family of friends. We got to be at home the last 18 months of college for the Pandemic. I recommend skipping that. Graduation on the couch, a bit of time living here post college until they decided with their partner where they were willing to live and work and found jobs a couple of states away. We zoom every so often as needed and visited once for Thanksgiving. Just to give you a future look. It can be hard or not but we all seem to survive.
The single best piece of advice I got was “don’t ask them what they did on the weekend. You don’t want to know.” LOL! But how exciting for your family!
College Prof here: be the ear they need just as always and encourage them to reach out and find their people and mentors on campus! Having your tribe is such a huge factor to success. Relax in knowing there will be folks on campus that love your kiddo almost as much as you do but they do have to get a chance to get to know them.
My daughter just finished freshman year at college 2.5 hours from home. Her school told the parents to encourage them to stay on campus for the first month. Meaning don’t come home. That first month is so crucial to making connections and friends, figuring out how to manage their life and schedule. We opted for a weekly FaceTime but that quickly became texting and then quick FaceTimes when she had a question or needed something quickly. The college gives you a packing list for the dorm. But be prepared to go shopping on move in day to get things you forgot or didn’t realize you’d need. Good luck!
Care packages were always fun to send to my daughter when she was at college. Halloween, BDay, Finals Week. I did not buy pre-packaged ones — though those exist. I made them up w/ treats, snacks, small utilitarian gifts and kooky finds from Goodwill and the Dollar Store. My daughter liked them and so did her roommates. (I sent each of them Valentine’s Day gifts in case there was no significant other on the horizon at that time in their lives.) The first semester goes by pretty quickly, believe it or not! You can catch up at Thanksgiving and Xmas and smooth out the rough edges.
I’m in San Marcos! (But I was born and raised in San Antonio and still commute there for work) My oldest went straight into the work force but my second oldest just graduated college. She went off during the first year of Covid and I sent her with lots of snacks and a ridiculous amount of body wash, lady items, and medication (Benadryl, Tylenol, cortisone, sunscreen, the list goes on) In the end she figured things out at the dorm and became more and more confident and independent. She still needs me, but our relationship has evolved and I’m kind of glad I was forced to let her live and make decisions without me there to possibly advise her to be more cautious or offer my opinions. She went camping in Arizona this past spring break with friends which even she admits is crazy as we never even slept out back lol. Basically you’ve done great, your kiddo feels lots of love and support from y’all so this will be a scary but super fun and exciting chapter!!!
I love this. It echoes everything I’ve been fretting over, too. My old baby isn’t quite old enough yet that I can provide you any wisdom, but please know you’re not the only parent out there with these thoughts and feels.
The best advice I can give:
1. Send tools. A hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, the basics. I can’t tell you how many new friends I made in college simply because my parents sent tools.
2. If the beds are twin XL, get a double sized blanket. Extra cuddly blanket inches make a difference. (I still do this in my adult life. Queen bed +king sized comforter= bliss!)
3. Buy a small box of Corelle dishes, silverware, a Pyrex measuring cup. Bulletproof things that will mean they’re not eating soup out of a frisbee and can make some basics with magic and a microwave.
4. Mail them a letter that will arrive before they check their box for the first time. It helps to soothe the homesick and is a tangible I love you that will matter.
Before they leave, agree once a week that you guys will get together and talk on the phone. Now they may end up being a kid who comes home every other weekend to do laundry, and that’s great, but also set up that weekly phone call. It really helped me a lot when I knew that Sunday night I was going to talk to Mom no matter what.
Make them a fun care package as soon as you get home from dropping them off. They’ll probably need stuff from home that they forget anyway! Give yourself grace and time to be sad, it’s hard to let them go but it is SO cool to see them grow and change (and still need you!). 💜
We don’t call them “old baby” now. The preferred term is “young adult” I think? Maybe ask them. They are way cooler than I am, so they will know.
I had to remind myself often this year that my first year student was always calling about the bad stuff/hard stuff, but not calling about the good stuff/fun stuff. Good stuff was happening, but I wasn’t hearing about most of it.
It’s so much easier with cell phones to stay in touch. My daughter went to Texas A&M about 4 hours from home. She set me up on Snapchat so we could send quick pictures of things we would see during the day, I could send her pictures of her dog and horses.I sent cards and small surprise things but the one thing that seemed to help is I texted her good night every night. Sometimes she answered with a good night back sometimes it led to a call or longer chat if she needed it. Good luck to all of you !
Dorms are AWESOME for making hardcore friends for life and encouraging them to come home on the weekends to eat and do laundry.
You built a bookstore that’s the perfect backdrop for a Hallmark movie romance so theres no way they dont come back home constantly to recharge.
When I was in college my mom would call once a week on Sundays, when long distance rates were cheaper and read Dave Barry to me (two things that no longer exist. Long distance charges and Dave Barry’s weekly column.) She read them to every Sunday over breakfast when I was at home so it made me feel not so far away. We were 8+ hours apart. It is a fond memory that I look back on often. So I say continue a tradition if you can even if it has to change a little. Also, mail or a welcome basket waiting for them when they move in (once you have gone) is a great touch. Call as much as they want and write an email every time you want to call. That way they can know you are thinking of them and deal with it when they have the time.
Separate dorm from the honey. Same campus is close enough to comfort and help but gives space to breath and grow.
My oldest went to college 4 hours away without a car. We dropped her off in August and didn’t see her until Thanksgiving when she came home on a bus. She called once a week on Sunday afternoons. I would get all the calls about the bomb threats disturbing her class time, how much she hated her roommate and for advice about which slutty costume she should wear to the Halloween party. My mom would get calls about how much she enjoyed her classes and wss so happy to be going to college. My mom and I would combine our notes to get a real sense of how it was going. She ended up loving her college town and got her masters degree. She still lives there with her fiance and 2 kids. She is happy!
Child #2 went to school 2 hours away with no car. He came home every weekend on the bus. He flunked out his first semester because he didn’t understand that he actually had to go to class every day. He is now married with 3 kids and make great money driving for UPS. He is happy!
Child #3 went to community college and I had to drive her and pick her up every day because she didn’t have a drivers licence. She got a certificate to be a preschool teacher but is now a stay at home mom with 2 kids. She is happy!
Child #4 got a partial scholarship to play a sport at a school 3 hours away. It would still have cost us over $12000 a year. She wasn’t a good student in high school so we made a deal. She would go to community college for a year and prove she can be a student and then she could go away for school. They would defer her acceptance. She went to community college and decided that she hated being a student. She got a certificate to be a vet tech.. She is a waitress and makes enough money to keep herself happy. She also likes to travel. She has spent time in. Europe, California, Florida and is planning on moving to Washington state this summer. She is happy!
4 kids with completely different stories but all with happy endings.. But that’s because every kid is different and you will know what your kid needs from you. You have been doing it this long and have been very successful so far! Trust your child and trust yourself! And its ok to cry at every dropoff. You got this!
My advice now is the same as my advice to new parents. Ignore all the advice….you and Hailey have a good relationship and you will figure out what works best for the 2 of you. It will not necessarily be what worked for the people commenting above me, or what worked for me and my now adult kids. Hailey will need to make their own mistakes. They might need to talk through some decisions with you, but might just do what they want anyways. I have a friend who gave me a nugget of wisdom. “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders”. Hailey’s got this. You’ve got this. Good luck to you both!
Check if the dorm room has a mini fridge ..if not that’s a good thing to have. Shower caddy, flip flops for the shower. My son is just graduating from university this year so it’s all pretty fresh. He couldn’t wait to get an apt with his friends so the dorm only lasted one year. Most of the kids we know did that as well. It’s all about texting now but that’s good just to touch base. I was so proud, sad, excited, teary eyed. Hailey will find her way and so will you.
My oldest graduated from Texas State last week! They had a great time there and I was so glad they were close enough to come home on the weekends. Do yourself a favor and make dates with them to see the plays- they are amazing! My son heads out this fall to UT Arlington and I will have the empty nest. I haven’t figured that part out just yet. We’ve got this!
It’s the greatest test of your Faith in Yourself and all the seconds of parenting you’ve lived So Far! – – that lead to these Moments . . . And Your Faith in, and that You Must Trust in Hailey, the child you’ve poured all your, and Victor’s, love and wisdom and values into . . . up to now . . .
It’s “too soon”.
But that’s life – You need to be Strong as an example for Hailey. You still need to be Her Mom, but now, it’s gonna be, when She DECIDES, at the Pace She decides, that she Needs You.
Be forewarned beloved dear Jenny, fellow Mother, this IS the beginning of Ultimately Devotedly Adoring your child/ren, – – – so they can separate and learn to survive . . . withOUT you.
If you can truly minimize your own needs, subjugate them to hers [or parenting, his], very much more often than your own missing Them …
WHAT A GREAT PARENT YOU ARE!!!
Look, you don’t have to agree with me – but I’m so very proud of raising two caring, loving, communicative, affectionate, Independent, self-supporting beautiful kids – now 38 and 40. As a single parent; and believe me, I am / was So connected right thru my heartstrings with my daughter and son.
I raised them to be capable. Full of choices. And if we weren’t closely emotionally attached, still, my life’s Best Work would have been for nought.
Be Brave, dear Jenny. Trust in Everything you’ve done Before. Trust in wonderfully raised Hailey. One Hour at a time.
And, empty nester, Stay busy! Stay POSITIVE!
All WILL Be Well 💕☀️🥰
So, when my first daughter went to college (an 8 hour drive away), I sent her a postcard about two weeks into her freshman year. She called me to thank me and told me how homesick she was and what my card meant to her. Jokingly, she said, “Um, can you just send me a postcard every day until I graduate? Lol” I said yes. It has been an absolute labor of love for me. Postcards are SO EASY. It’s not a big time commitment. Sometimes they’re just from the cat. “Meow Meow. love, Waffles” She told me she likes hearing what’s happening at home. Occasionally her dad or sister write cards. Sometimes I’d give addressed, stamped cards to friends so they could drop her a card. Sometimes she would ask me to send a card to a friend or to her roomie if they were having a bad week. When the boyfriend (now fiancé) entered the scene, he’d get one every once in a while. She’s 26 now, graduated with her masters last weekend, and I still send a few cards every week. When her little sister went to college, she said, “You better write to me too!!” Like I said, it’s a labor of love (with very little actual labor). It’s been as much of a gift to me as it is to them. I eventually got cute recipe card boxes for the girls to put their cards in. They were ending up in shoeboxes and paper bags. They send me cards sometimes, too, so I have my own little box now. According to them, neither girl has felt smothered by this— only loved.
Someone else in the comments said to text pics of the pets. That’s the other way to check in but not hover. Nobody hates unsolicited pictures of the pets!
You will be ok. They will be ok. Go buy some postcards and a big roll of stamps. You will be SO glad you did.❤️
PS, pro tip: only write about the day on which you’re actually writing the card. You don’t want : Monday: I’m going to lunch with Aunt Sissy tomorrow. Tuesday: I went to lunch with Aunt Sissy today . Wednesday: yesterday Aunt Sissy and I went to lunch. You’ll lose track of it all if you don’t only write about THAT day.
I sent my baby off to college 23 years ago. He was my 3rd to send off, so I knew what to expect. Your heart will hurt for awhile, but by thanksgiving you all will have adjusted. Keep this in mind…you’re entire job of parenting was to get them to this point, where they can leave the nest and be independent. Everything you taught them was to prepare for this time. There are parents out there who would give anything for their child to leave for college, and be independent. Celebrate that your child is ready and able to move out, in search of their future.
“Do I call every day?” no
“Do I let them call when they want?” yes
That’s it, in a nutshell. Just be there when things fall apart.
I just finished my freshman year of college in the town that is also where I grew up! Shoutouts to growing up in a college town 🙂 Here’s the main advice I’ve got:
– What you need for a dorm: way less than you think, don’t stress. Worst case, Hailey realizes they need something after move in and they can just purchase it when they need it. (Exception: shower shoes and other things that everyone under the sun decides to buy during move-in week specifically. Every store will go out of stock even though move-in week is a recurring event.)
– Hailey should NOT live in the same building as their sweetheart if at all possible. Have you heard the word dormcest? Yeah…
– Snacks snacks snacks snacks have snacks
– You might be tempted to install Life360 or similar; your mileage will vary on this one. I know some people whose parents have their location, others who don’t. I have the location of most of my classmates on Life360 (my program is small so we’re tight) plus my best friend and roommate (two separate people), and that’s enough for me. I don’t personally like my parents having my location, and I know in a true emergency they know how to contact my best friend.
– Honestly, beyond that, I know Hailey (and you!) will be able to figure it out. Sending love and calm vibes!
My advice is to not have a pandemic start over spring break of their freshman year. Failing that, trust that you have raised a good human who loves their parents and will continue to share the important stuff with you.
Oh, and the Target app is awesome for them to get snacks, necessities, whatever. I set a limit that they need to check with me before they go over and it has been fantastic.
I have sons, who didn’t like talking on the phone.. We insisted they phone us once a week Tell them that uni is way tougher than high school Many kids who were stars in high school struggle But it’s all a learning experience Have fun don’t sweat three small stuff, all 3 of you Expect a difficult winter break All of a sudden they have to tell you when they’re leaving & when they’ll be back. It’s an adjustment for students and parents They will learn about life as well as what they’re studying. Such as if you don’t empty the trash can in the room it will smell.
Hailey’s got this. You’ve raised a great person, give them the freedom to fly. I will say, knowing they are so close to home, the one thing I would encourage is that they stay at school more than they come home. It can be hard, but weekends are when the bonding happens. Hang in there Jenny!!
Discuss with Hailey when you should call – I would insist on calling once a week for my own sanity. But they are allowed to call as often as desired.
Hiding a baby monitor?- Def overkill. Once a ‘child’ is that age, you have to let go more than that.
This is the Big Test of motherhood, especially when you have one child. No one else at home to focus your attention on, so you are completely focused on Hailey leaving. You know they’ll be all right, but you aren’t sure you will be.
Texting will save you. You can text every day, even more than once a day, and it feels like checking in with them not checking up on them. So, do the texting. Call occasionally, and just make sure they know they can call you a million times a day, and you will always answer the phone, no matter what you’re doing. And then…let go. Not entirely, but they will mostly want autonomy & freedom. Focus on your book store, your writing, your hubby (poor guy is in for it now!), your blog, your social media, your fans. All the things you do anyway, only now you can go hard with no guilt that you should be at home or at a school event or whatever. Most important, make sure Hailey knows she can call you whenever for whatever, and you will always be there. Freedom with a safe place to land. It’s the best gift you can give her. Good luck, Mama Bear! Hugs! Xoxo
One thing I wish I had done that a friend did, and both she and her kids loved, write and seal notes for several occasions to be opened when needed. For example, the ‘Open if you are stressing about a midterm you could have studied more for…” or “Open when missing mom…”, or “Open when needing a hug…” I’m sure your “opens” will be more amusing, but you get the idea. Best of luck to Hailey and the empty-nesters!
Wish I could help, but my own “old baby” is about to turn 10 and I don’t even know how to deal with that. Let me know what you find out, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably do it wrong anyway. Congrats to Hailey. I’m sure they’ll do great things!
It’s time to let them make mistakes all on their own. The hope is that you either raised them well enough to not make too many mistakes, or they will reach out to you if they need help. Either way, give it at least a semester, or until something really goes wrong, to see how their grades do when they have free rein and then adjust from there.
Buy the fancy fridge with a little freezer in it for their dorm room, and make sure you leave behind cleaning supplies! Buy cleaning wipes to make sure they don’t have to find paper towels to clean. Anything to make life easier!
Don’t worry too much about buying it all now, college towns will have a dorm room section in target and even grocery stores during move in time. The one thing I’d make sure you get early is bedding so they don’t have the same bedding as the rest of the dorm who went to target and chose 1/10 patterns 🙂
You’re an awesome person who raised an awesome kid. Trust them!
Hailey is sensible and smart, like my child who will be a senior this year.
You have one job left. To be there, available, anytime. OK Two jobs. To let them KNOW beyond doubt that you are there, available, anytime.
College is a great place for them to make mistakes. Even big ones. It has sort of a safety net in place. Rent is paid, food is paid. (Do eat in the cafeteria freshman year). They just need to learn to navigate the small world they find themselves in , learn to deal with all kinds of people, learn what they need to do to thrive. You cannot do that for them or make it easier.
Set up one day a week for a phone call. That is all the calls you get to make. Make it a facetime or other video call so that you can see they are ok. Of course THEY can call anytime.
Text. Text. Text. Not advice. But Text is not intrusive to most of this generation, Text a funny thing that you saw on instagram or that happened at the grocery store. Continue to share the moments that you have been sharing. Text a thought. Text a photo of that plant that would never grow but decided all of a sudden to shoot up. Text a photo of dinner. Text a heart.
That’s my advice for surviving the physical absence of that amazing child/friend/person that has filled so much space in your home. It keeps that space in your heart feeling full. (‘Without completely driving them insane).
They are gonna be brill 💕 I have two 30-something’s who both went to college and lived in dorms. They just need to know you’re there and picking up the phone if they need you which prob won’t happen as often as you’d like – you may just take up painting 💐 for me it’s always been good to let them text/call me because otherwise I get upset worried anxious if they don’t pick up on the first ring and they’ll be too busy to do that 😉
Well, mine went off to Africa instead of using her university scholarship. you wanna talk about anxiety? No NOT a mission, just wanted to volunteer at a big game preserve. She ended up staying for a few years and many anxiety inducing incidents. But she came back a strong, confident young woman and she and I are going trekking in Uganda in August. I saw the comment about crying in the grocery store when realizing I wouldn’t be buying her favorite foods anymore. Did that, still kinda do but it all worked out. We are closer than ever now and she loves to come for dinner. I have two other young adults and still weep once in a while. Totally normal.
I am a parent of a new baby, but when my mom dropped me off at college 15 years ago, she made my bed. Clean, new sheets, a fun quilt, a couple extra throw pillows. She did it every year she moved me into college and even when I moved into my first apartment. This small thing (especially since I rarely made my bed after that!) was just enough to feel settled and to feel loved.
First congrats to all! What I did was ask my kids what how they wanted to communicate, and we set up weekly chats at first. As they got more involved in their new experience we adjusted. Let them figure out how to get to class on time, etc. A friend of mine had alarms all day to remind her daughter it was time to get up, get to class etc., and was pretty upset when her child said “Mom, STOP, I’ve got this. They will make mistakes their whole lives just as we all do. Learning from the mistakes and not repeating them is what helps them grow.
Here is my very small piece of advice, but something that I learned from my sister when I was a college freshman, have carried with me through every move I have made in the following decades (including the year I lived in 5 different states), and have shared with many friends who have universally thanked me for it: the first thing Hailey needs to do in their dorm room is make their bed. They will be running around, making new friends, etc etc, and will absolutely crash with exhaustion that night. That freshly made bed will be a godsend.
Not a parent but I went away to school; encourage them not to come home for a visit during the first month or two. Those first few days when literally everyone is anxious & doesn’t know what they’re doing & who they are are the critical time for meeting new people & forming the friendships that will get them through the next few years. If you miss that window it’s so much harder to make connections.
Listen more than you talk, let your ‘kid’ become an adult; that’s what these years are for. When I went to college my mind was blown learning about how many different versions of ‘normal’ there were in the world. When my nieces/nephews went off to college I would remind them that this is the time to look at the way they were raised and start thinking about what they will carry with them into their future lives and what doesn’t fit with their vision of themselves. It’s not a rejection of your parenting; it’s a refining & redefinition of it.
As for being in the same dorm with a significant other; first it may depend on their majors; if they are vastly different the school may locate them in housing more geographically close to their expected classrooms. If that’s not an issue I’d ask; what kind of relationship do they have? When they’re together does the outside world cease to exist? If so – a separation that allows/forces them to get to know roommates, floor-mates & classmates could be valuable. If they are a couple that shares a vibrant friend-group then being in the same dorm could be a good thing.
I’ve always said that you do at least 1/2 your learning at college OUTSIDE the classroom. The first time you come home from a party at 2 am and no one is waiting for you to ask where you’ve been or what you’re doing? Figuring out how to deal with issues, problems, deadlines, money on your own… it’s all an integral part of the ‘education’. College/university is adult life – with training wheels. You have to give your kid the room to figure it out, to make mistakes, learn from them and thrive. But also know you’re still there and able to give them support where they need it.
Appreciating all this info and advice for when kiddos go off to college as my daughter will be headed that way after next year. I can’t imagine her going off on her own and me not being there to be sure she’s okay, but I know it’s best. Hang in there and trust your gut – Hailey will do fine! She’s exceptional and off to do wonderful things, I can just tell!!
Our big babies are in other states now. We text on a family chat whenever we we feel like it, and they do the same. (We also have a separate “Grandma” chat to keep my mom in the loop and also give a place where they can talk about activities, send photos and memes, etc.). You definitely need to let them make mistakes but let them know you are there to listen whenever they need it. Because they are further away, we have a family FaceTime call once a week where we check in. They can have a real conversation but also just sit back and let everyone else talk if that’s how they are feeling. Security but no pressure. I also have a rule that if I reach out with more than three unanswered texts, they need to respond so I know they aren’t dead, then I leave them alone and give them some space. It seems to work.
You and Victor have done your job well, now is when you get to see all that love, sleepless nights, encouragement, worry and hard work walk into the world and begin their own journey with a tool box you helped them fill.
Now, to be totally real. I found this a much harder stage of parenthood than when they were little and I could actually do things to help or have more connection to what was going on in their lives. But this is all part of the process…and yes, it is hard, but just the continuation of all your stories, not an ending,
How about “my grown up baby” for a term? She sure is pretty, just like her mama! Does she have your sense of humor? (I did notice your use of they/them, but that is plural, and autocorrect and I couldn’t deal since I am speaking of one person.)
2 of my 3 have gone and done the college thing and are safely on the other side!
My advice (2 things):
1. They need less than you think for their dorm room. Much less.
2. Do what you want in terms of communication. With my son it ended up being a weekly call. With my daughter, daily texts. It’s what works best for each one. You will figure it out (trial and error).
Just be there. Whenever. When the phone rings at 1 a.m. When they pop in unexpectedly on a weekend. Make the time to listen as needed and keep the lines open. My youngest went off to basic military training a month after high school graduation; he was gone 6 months, and I cried for more than a month. living for the rare Sunday phone calls they were allowed. I wasn’t ready for that distance and lack of ability to communicate. But it gets easier with time, and I started doing volunteer work in addition to my fulltime job — just to keep my mind occupied. 10 years later, both my kids live in other parts of the country, but they still call and text a lot with things only mom or dad can help with. Be there. And try not to let them see you cry — it unnerves them!
My daughter initiated with me a program on her phone that let me see where she was. This was because she was commuting into the city for school and there had been rioting.
Maybe a daily text from her saying Hi I’m OK don’t drive over here and make a fool out of yourself and me.
I called my mom pretty regularly when I was at school.
Congrats to Hailey! Words with Friends and Wordle were a good way to keep tabs on my college student son without the deafening roar of my helicopter blades. He graduated yesterday. Time sure does fly.
My nephew is finishing up his first year at UNT in Denton soon (maybe this week? IDK) but it was nerve wracking for my SIL and I’m sure it will be with you and Hailey as well.
But you raised a smart, competent kiddo who I’m sure will be just fine with whatever bullshit college throws at them.
HOORAY HAILEY! YOU DID IT! Good job!
We established a group family chat so the one going away could let everyone know cool things that were happening. But I always still texted my babies individually every couple of days to get a sense of where their heads were at. Also, care packages are fun for them… and for me to put together.
I try to celebrate my college-age children’s new journeys. I also require that they have Life 360 active on their phones as long as we are paying the phone bills. This app has been helpful in finding out where my kids have been when they have needed help. You’ve got this!
I’ve got one in grad school (she dormed for undergrad) and one at home finishing her first year of college. Be prepared for tears – yours and theirs. When they vent, validate feelings, as opposed to problem solving – unless they DIRECTLY ask for your opinion on something. “Ugh that seems so frustrating!” or “That sounds like a tough situation”. Be ready for o’dark thirty texts when they’re feeling homesick or lonely or overwhelmed to cheerlead. Allow them the freedom and grace to change their mind – on anything, even staying at school – but unless it’s a flat out physical or mental emergency, encourage thoughtfulness as opposed to impulsiveness. “Can we reevaluate at end of the semester and see how it’s going?” or “what if you give it a week?” It’s hard mama, but you’ll get through it – and oh boy, seeing your baby (old or otherwise) start really adulting? Nothing’s better!
Much good advice above. I would add (even though it has already been said) let Hailey set the tone. If she calls you everyday, consider yourself blessed. If not, call her at least once a week, twice at the most. Care packages from home with cookies, microwave popcorn, other goodies (new underwear?) are always welcome. Mine are both in their 30s now — how did that happen?
As many have said, let them reach out to you more than you contact them. However, to satisfy my own need for frequent proof-of-life checks, I often (almost daily?) send a funny animal video or my Wordle score to my college student. If he likes it (he always does), I know he’s alive.
One thing I do for my college kids is text an old photo of them every Thursday for Throwback Thursday. They love it. My oldest is graduating and told me he’d love it if I continued.
My oldest is 20, moved in to freshman dorm in Aug. 2020 in the midst of Covid. My youngest (18) is leaving for college in Aug., 2023.
Plan ahead: set a contact schedule so everyone knows what to expect. Text communication is best for their generation BUT we told both our kids we require at lease ONE weekly facetime at day/time of their choosing. We left a tracker on each kid’s phone and told them we were not interested in stalking their location but wanted to have a way to locate them if they’re not responding appropriately and there’s cause for any concern.
100% agree with prior comment about sending a basic medication/first aid box! Decongestants, allergy meds, cold/flu meds, pain relievers. Maybe with instructions if you feel it necessary based on what you’re including.
You will worry but keep the communication light. Let small things slide. Tell them to send pictures of their lives! It’s such an exciting time for them; it feels diferent for us but this painful growth away from us is exactly what they’re supposed to do to become healthy and independent adults.
I work at a college and these are ideas based on my own experiences and watching my students.
1. Do not do everything (classes, activities, etc) or live with friends you already knew from high school. Best way to make new friends and grow your circle is to be in situations where you meet others. It is also the best way to keep the old friends. Then when you do get together with the old friends, you can introduce each other to the new friends and create an even bigger circle.
2. The first year can be hard and a lot of students consider transferring. Give yourself two years. It is always easier the 2nd year to get involved in the campus and start to make it feel like home. If you get involved in clubs or activities it helps a lot.
3. If you need a job during college, student jobs on campus are great. They are flexible around class schedules and usually have days off when campus is closed for the holidays. Plus it gives you a way to get to know your campus and the staff who can support you better.
4. It is good to try a variety of classes when taking your GenEd requirements. You never know what class is going to spark a passion that you never thought about before. (If you are still finishing GenEds in your senior year check to make sure they have not updated the options since you last looked. They might not have told you about a great option that was added.) In the long run, the important part is getting a degree, knowing how to interview and showing that you have an education.
5. Make sure to include an internship before you graduate college. They are the best way to network, gain experience and set yourself up for a job when you finish.
6. You never want to pass up a free meal.
7. Have fun, have fun, and have fun!
I went to college 12 miles from my parents’ house. I went home 2x during the first term, (and then at semester break, of course). No cell phones, of course, and no phones in the dorm rooms, either. We spoke once a week.
It was bliss.
It’s where I learned to take care of myself
Let Hailey set the parameters. Please don’t cling. This is their time to start building their own life. They will call if they need you. And they will also call when they don’t, because you’re Mom, and Hailey loves you.
Has Hailey read this post? That’s your starting point for getting the answers you need. College can in no way be like it was when I started 45 years ago. Cell phones didn’t exist, phone calls cost money one way or another, roommates might be just whoever you got and had to deal with. You and Victor have raised them as best you can. I can’t image that they’ll have any problems. Just settle the issue of when contacting them can best be done. Write it down if that helps. Review the list after they have been gone a month, then a semester, and so forth. Victor will help you as best he can. Breathe. Hugs to you and Hailey and Victor.
Let Hailey lead. Don’t call unless asked my oldest, who I am not positive actually lived with us her senior year, suddenly developed the need to be at home and sit in my lap every weekend. For awhile. Hailey might not call for a week. That’s okay. It’s their first chance to truly lead their own life. It’s why we raise them—so they can be the captain of their own life.
First, be sad. Then, be happy.
this is cool thing
My oldest is a year out of college, my youngest has just one year left. This letting go is so hard, but it leads to the beautiful thing of getting to know your kid as an adult.
We try to have weekly phone calls and text through the week. I’ve learned that the best thing with my kids is to find some totally non-school, unimportant, fully fun thing to text about – for example, with my daughter, we swap links to great cat videos, while my husband and son keep a running text convo on British soccer. That holds the line of communication open without pressuring them. They will sort out for themselves when they need advice and when they’d rather sort things out on their own. And in both cases, we’ve found that being in the driver’s seat about sharing has lead to them more interested in being open with us about the kinds of things they used to be all “can’t you just leave it alone” about in high school.
When I was getting ready to go to college (literally half a lifetime ago now), my Mom said “God designed it so that teenagers can’t wait to leave home to go to college and parents can’t wait for them to leave”.
That was certainly my experience. That said, leaving to go live at college three and a half hours away was the best thing to happen to my relationship with my parents. My family is weird (isn’t every family?) and email is our preferred communication medium, so we emailed back and forth quite regularly. I would send long rambling updates about my college journey, and they would send me equally long updates about things at home, how my younger brother was doing, etc.
About a year after my brother graduated and my parents became empty nesters, I noticed that the updates on their end were getting less frequent and more terse. This was a good thing…my parents were discovering who they were apart from being parents and were exploring that part of their lives more. I was happy for them, and not feeling like if I didn’t send at least one long update a week they’d start wondering if I had perished.
I’m sure you and Hailey will also find a natural communication rhythm and both will have to adapt during this period of life transition as both of you figure out who you are in this space.
(Also, for the record, I stayed at the same college and in the same major / minor combination my whole collegiate career, while my brother changed colleges, majors, and even countries multiple times. Both of us now have great jobs, families, and lives, so there is clearly no one right answer.)
Follow their lead. As a parent of two who just graduated from college and grad school, I was unprepared for the grief I felt when they left for college. Just a heads up. Take care of yourself.
Have Hailey live in a dorm NOT with the sweetheart. It will be good to have the sweetheart’s place to go to if they don’t have the greatest of roommates/suitemates, or need time away from their roommate/suitemates. I went to a college where my best friend from high school then decided to attend. We lived in different dorms and her dorm was so much better than mine in terms of socializing because I could always leave when I had enough, go when I needed to, and I still have a great relationship with my roommate from college. Also, if the sweetheart thing doesn’t work out, they won’t have to run into the sweetheart and it might make it an easier transition to another relationship, or just friendship between them.
Send a first aid kit as a care package with cold remedies/bandaids/pepto/tums/neosporin/ace bandage/tylenol or other fever reducer/pedialyte powder/gauze/medical tape/etc. so if they are feeling lousy they won’t have to run to the campus health center in the middle of the night. Also helpful is a pack of birthday cards with stamps so she can send them to grandma, dad, godmother, grandad, etc. while she is there, and double the hygiene products so she doesn’t have to go to the store at the last minute.
For yourself, try to focus on your successful mother title. Your child is healthy, beautiful, and accepting the growth challenge of college. You are spot on about what college is for, BTW.
My daughters are on their own and we bought them a set of bells for each door and window too. Just in case, they will have just enough warning to grab their butcher knives and baseball bats after they dial 911.
1. A gentle reminder for them to wash their sheets is very helpful that first semester!
2. They will get a headcold first semester (it seems they all do) so pack whatever OTC meds work for them. And bandaids and tissues.
3. Send a care package after a month out so with snacks and cards and anything that will put a smile on their face. Not one of those premade ones that you can get online. Make it special: Draw a picture. Write a note from the cat. Anything silly and personal!
My oldest just graduated University (headed to grad school) and my youngest is finishing her first year. I let them sort most things out for themselves and if they are having a tough time, I use the sentence, “What does help look like from me?” Usually, it’s just to listen.
For connection, I am a watercolor artist so to stay connected, with my first (and now my second) I paint them a postcard each week. I put a favorite quote on the back and a couple of sentences and mail it off. They put their favorites up in their room and have a physical reminder that I am thinking of them. I wrote a blog post detailing ideas for parents to do something similar https://bluemangroveart.com/blogs/news/keeping-connected-when-they-head-to-college-how-to-send-care-without-the-package
My youngest did a video project about how the postcards made her feel for one of her classes and I bawled. I think the struggle for parents is wanting them to know you love them without smothering them. I think postcards are perfect as they can be quirky and don’t need a lot of writing and kids love to get that mail notification. I am sure you could find some fun postcards to send.
My kiddo just finished her freshman year and even though she goes to a very large university here in town, we did the “real college experience” and she lived in a dorm.
I texted her when I really needed to know something. She texted me when she really needed something. It’s jarring at first, but when you see them doing soooo well….it makes you feel good.
Not every kid is going to do soooo well. I actually joined a parents group that secretly helped kids who were far from home and didn’t have parents nearby. For example, dropping off care packages to sick kids. We held a Thanksgiving dinner for students who could travel home. Even just giving parents reassurance that this is a nice town and every kid is your kid and to lean on parents is welcomed.
Life360. I simply could not live without it. But, I REALLY try not to look at it. Knowing your child is heading back to the dorm at 2am while you watch their every step is probably not healthy. Or, watching your child not leave their dorm room except for class. That can be scary too. Encourage them to join all of the clubs they can and want. They WILL find their people. I promise.
I am loving the comments here!! My daughter and her fiancé are moving 3 hours away in a couple of months, so they can get out of the city and go to their preferred college. They both have been living with us for several years. I am SO WORRIED, but don’t let it show. So I’m in the same boat as you, and these comments help a ton. We can do this, Jenny!!!
My older kids all came to me as teenagers from orphanages in other countries, so we started with this far away type relationship, then had years together, then moved apart again. I’m also a college professor and I have my oldest “with me since conception” baby heading out this fall to a university about 2 hours away. So I’m all over the map here.
I can say the idea of them being far away from me doesn’t phase me much because we’ve survived it in large and small doses over the years. For my kids with solid attachment, a pet photo or a funny reel gets exchanged a few times each day and that’s enough at first. A text chat will happen naturally every week or two. It fades down to every few days sometimes, but that’s normal. My job: Safe place to land, source of occasional cards or care packages saying “I thought of you when I saw this”, no pressure invite reminder for every major holiday or meal, advice only when asked (and that’s usually “you should go see your ta/prof about that” or “you should look into this program and see if it’s a good fit” or vs actual directives)
For my less attached kids we needed daily text chats and daily video chats at precise times or they felt abandoned.
Care packages and treats added felt safety. So many exchanged reels and song recommendations and online gaming meetups. It was more work than when they were here, honestly, and told me they were scared. I was glad to see it drop down over time.
For a kid that left angry for a few months, it was an agreed upon and simple “❤️ goodnight, I love you” each night until they were ready for more again. But they needed that daily assurance that I was there and remembered them and loved them even as they struggled to figure out what was next in many big ways.
You’ll find the groove, but take a confident dismissal as a job well done and a kid well prepared.
On a silly idea note: We recently won a gift certificate to Panera for free bagels for a year which allows one monthly pick up of 13 bagels and two smears. We gave it to the kid heading off to college thinking that she can treat her study groups to bagels once a month and earn her way into some great study groups or just feed her fellow theater friends.
Put Narcan in their first aid kit, and show them how to use it. Take this class together, and consider getting them a Stop the Bleed kit. (I just took the class yesterday with my 21 year old, at his request, because he lives & works on a college campus. Someone can bleed out in under five minutes, and EMS might take six minutes to get to them. It can save lives.) http://www.stopthebleed.org and if someone balks at these things, here’s the mantra: “It’s not that I don’t trust *you*; it’s that I don’t trust the rest of the world.”
I don’t have a kiddo in college (yet) but I teach them. And they need community and connection more than anything else. As an English prof, I’ll also put in a good word for the English department if someone is looking for a supportive place to learn about the world. I don’t know that department specifically, but, in college (as opposed to high school, where students are relentlessly tested) it often is a subject where students can learn to think critically and compassionately among supportive peers. They will do more than write essays–project-based learning is growing in popularity. (And, yes: English is highly employable, too, despite bleak pop culture renderings.) So when changing “minors a million times” 🙂 give English a try!
I adore all the great stories and advice here—and would add as a mom in NYC whose oldest takes the subway (with a transfer) to and from middle school daily… you do NOT need to be GPS tracking your kids (any of you!) I promise.
And as a person who went to college from Alaska to New Hampshire, but who had local-ish grandparents, encourage Hailey to invite non-local friends home for short school breaks. I would round up various friends from home at other east-coast schools and kids too far from home to travel and bring them to my grandparents’ for Thanksgiving and it was a blast.
This is one of the breaks your heart a little bit ones: remember not to take their life lessons away from them.
I’m a little late to this party. So much advice that I can’t sit and read all of it. If you see this and it’s not already mentioned, when move in day arrives, take stuff with you to get them stated for living on their own. Such as, laundry supplies, simple snacks, case of bottled water, shower caddy filled with all of their bathroom essentials for showering and basic hygiene stuff. A couple of good bath towels and wash cloths ,new puff if they use them. If it gets cold there (not sure about all of Texas’ weather) take a few long sleeved items, hoodies, maybe a jacket. They likely won’t be home until a break happens.You can FaceTime once a week or 2. Ask them if they want a visit. I went every semester for a weekend with my enby. Encouraging them to get out and find some groups they might enjoy. Keeping social with others is just as important as the classes they will take.
I started grieving months before my oldest actually left for college, and one thing I did to feel better was to prepare a stack of postcards with her new address (printed labels) and stamps. I put them by the front door and after she left, every day or two I’d grab a card and write a quick note. She loved getting them and it gave me a concrete thing I could do to deal with My Feelings.
This is kid-dependent; my younger kid could not have cared less about getting mail and in fact when she came home that first summer we got a stack of forwarded postcards she had never gotten out of the mailbox. :/
My other tip is to start a Snapchat streak. You get daily proof of life, they get pics of Mom or Dad or the pets, and it occasionally turns into a fun conversation.
Definitely do not call in the morning! I hadn’t been at college even 2 weeks when my roommate and I had to ask my mom to stop calling at 8am. Not before noon was the rule since then!
When I went away to school, my dad sent me a postcard every week. Nothing major – just the usual updates about life back home. Those postcards became the hit of my dorm, with everyone looking forward to the next card arriving. Even now with email and texting, finding something in your mailbox is fun. I treasure those postcards from my dad.
Postal mail is fun, especially now that it’s so rare. Sending them the occasional postcard is a great low-key way to check in without pressure. You could give them postcards and stamps to respond back if you’d like that.
A nice idea for their care package is to put a blanket, pillow, or maybe a stuffy they’ve always loved that will provide comfort from home. In case of emergency items, plus food and maybe some books. Put it all in a laundry basket that they’ll take with them to university to use.
They will do great, and you will be fine.
Lots of love from Auntie in Israel
Lots of space. Let them know you are there for support. Send an occasional funny/meme/cat picture text. The emoji response will be proof of life. Care packages or a gift card to a favorite restaurant.
Don’t get Life 360. They need space. I’ve read your books. Did you want your parents knowing where you were at every moment? No. But don’t try to think about what you did too much; our kids are smarter than we were. You need space. You need to cut the cord. Tracking them daily will only making you obsessive and stalky. It’s no longer your business to know where they are at every moment.
It’s very weird at first. You have spent 18 years with a part of your brain always thinking about them. Where are they? Will they be home for dinner? Did they hydrate? And now you won’t know. You’ll walk by the bedroom door and your heart will flip a little. It gets better. Find new hobbies. Go out with other adults- a concert, comedy show, dinner. I highly recommend taking a nice, quasi-local vacation when they leave. Don’t go back home to an empty house. Go to the beach or a spa or a cool town.
Hang in there!!!
I’m like a year younger than you but one of the best things I took to college and that my mom and I still do for every new college student in our lives is a small tool kit in a one of those clear plastic shoe boxes. Everyone LOVES you when you have a tape measure, screwdriver with multiple bits, mini hammer, picture hanging stuff, scissors, bendy LED light, small selection of nails/screws, roll of duct tape and/or masking tape, cable ties/velcro ties and maybe a small bungee cord.
These are the best bags for moving in: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/frakta-storage-bag-for-cart-blue-90149148/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=surfaces&utm_campaign=shopping_feed&utm_content=free_google_shopping_clicks_Home_organisation
When you don’t know what else to say, ask, “How can I help?” and really listen.
College admin here. Lots of great advice. Only thing I’d add is decide before they go what things you want them to tell you about eg “if you get a grade of this or lower, you need to tell us so we can step in with some support and help you.” That way you’re all on the same page before they leave and nothing’s happened so you’re not responding to anything specific or being reactive.
Texting makes it all so different. Calling when I was in college was expensive and not always easy. They will text a lot at first, then sporadically, then eventually you will be yell-texting at them, PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE YOU ARE ALIVE K THX BAI. Their schedule will be basically nocturnal except for classes, so their texts will hit at 11:07 pm or some other godforsaken hour. Just never expect to talk to them.
Whenever I wanted to contact my kids at college, I thought twice about texting, asked myself did it really need to be said? This is a time for them to find themselves, they don’t need constant communication. When I was in college, long distance was expensive and home was 4 hours away. I became my own person. With my kids I mostly wait to hear from them, although if I’m really missing them I will ask for a call. One welcomes a lot of communication and is always asking for advice, the other wants to be totally independent and makes choices that could have benefited from some worldly advice. You’ll both figure it out, you’ve done great so far, this is no different!
I work at a college and was briefly part of a program for incoming students. The piece of advice I heard/loved was that when it comes school questions they might ask, your response should be “I don’t know, why don’t you ask someone.”
Learning how to be an adult is as important as learning from classes. The more you let them figure out on their own, the better off they’ll be in the long run!
Hi #23 Lynne, Mine is 23 and same. It’s hard. We have some really fun times, too, but as a single parent of a probable non-launcher…very, very hard. I’ve been thinking for years now it would be great to have a community where parents with kiddos like ours could live in proximity and be a village for each other. Wish that existed. Or assisted living communities where families could live. Something like that.
Pretty sure after watching her senior performance, she is going to be fine, but I think a call from home once a week would be appreciated and ‘care packages’ in the mail of anything also would be great. I moved overseas and my mom and I would talk once a week for hours (well, may one hour) and also had email (it started being common then). I was a lousy letter writer (I can write…just can’t seem to put a stamp on the envelope and put it in a mail box.) so email became a great solution. And due to the time difference, my mother was often home and up when I was out of school and/or up. I can’t wait to see what you do send her…it will probably be weird and wacky and she’ll laugh herself sick because it will be so you.
Oh boy. My baby went to DePaul. We live in a Chicago suburb so it’s not that far at all. Try as I might, to convince home he could commute, he wanted the dorm experience. I cried a lot, usually all the way home every time I dropped him off, (all four years but it got easier, by the 4th year I could make it most of the way with only tears for the first couple minutes. I think I even managed to get home a couple times without a tear shed) but not at the beginning. Then it was saying goodbye to him. It’s terrible. But you’ll manage. Call when you need to. Visit when you need to, but probably not unannounced. Get them on a meal plan so you at least believe they’re eating. I never thought of a baby monitor, but in hindsight it probably would have been a very bad idea. Too far away to stop imminent danger, and you probably don’t really want to know everything. You need to trust you’ve done your job well (and I’m sure you have) and give them some space.
You’ll figure out what they need, and modify. And your tears will turn to be caused by how proud you are of them. Not from your heart aching!
Let them do whatever they want or think- absolutely be there WHEN THEY ASK, but you NEED to wait UNTIL they ask. They will likely fail and screw some things up- that is EXACTLY what should happen. Growing up doesn’t happen by perfection, it happens by mistakes. I work in higher ed and it’s so often discussed that students are not doing enough for themselves to leave truly prepared (although, since one parent called to inquire about her child’s degree taking too long to arrive and was in total shock that the former student should contact us themselves on a lunch break- their ONLY time off work during our business hours- some still use a wide safety net beyond graduation). You are a resource, but so are many, many other people on campus- RAs, professors, tutoring offices…they need to learn to find these.
Let them make the mistakes and deal with the consequences. It’s part of growing up.
It was only as an adult that I reflected that maybe it was not exactly typical that I left for college and really did not think about my family again until it was time to go home for Thanksgiving. Of course, I had lived abroad for a year in high school and talked to my mother maybe three times that year, my father not at all. I would not call us a close family, although I love my parents and still talk to them every three months or so. At the time, I didn’t know there was any other way. Now, I find it a little sad.
See if the school has a Facebook group for parents. If it does, it is a super useful way to get info and ask questions about issues/problems without having to ask your kid.
Hang in there, it’s a tough transition! 💜
Send her messages with the ‘assistance’ of Rory or one of your other taxidermy beings. If the beings can manage to hold paper or something.
An occasional snail mail, a text, email or some other touch of love.
Two things: one, as someone has probably said already, give her room. If she decides to change her major, or add or take away something, that’s up to her. She’ll know very soon if she has the right courses, or too many, or wants to stretch a bit and take one more.
Two, not sure if this is even a thing any longer, in the days of visa cards and phones, but if it is, the best gift you can give her is quarters. I talked to someone a few years ago and he said his best college christmas present was $100 in quarters from his Dad…
TwoA: she’s gonna make mistakes. lots of mistakes. That’s how you learn. You’ll hopefully never hear about most of them, nor do you need to. I look back at my Freshman year of college, and I marvel at the utter stupidity of things I did, and survived, sometimes by inches. some of them I didn’t even tell ME about. =)
Frankly I think you’re a marvelous mom to her, she’s a funny, bright, gifted person.
Buy less, seriously practically the bare minimum, and give them an Amazon gift card so that they can buy things as they realize they need them.
Make decisions about how much access to their healthcare information you are going to be allowed to have and if they want you to be able to talk to the insurance company on their behalf and get that paperwork filled out now so that you have time to correct it if there’s a problem. (We did NOT do this with our daughter, and she decided that she wanted me to speak for her later. The form was mailed to our house, and I mailed it up to her to fill out and return to insurance in an envelope that I had addressed and stamped for her. She found the packet, unopened, when we packed her up last week.)
For you, have a project to start NOW. You have a lot of irons in the fire already, but if you’ve got anything else in your head that you want to do when you have a minute, start planning. It will help distract you.
Finally, breathe and remember that the goal for 18 years has been to have your child ready to take their first steps into adulthood and independence.Celebrate that.
You’re doing your daughter no favors by referring to her as “they,” etc. Personally, I’m bisexual. That’s a real thing: One might be attracted to both sexes. But to deny that one was born either a biological male or female? And then to refer to a singular person in the plural as “they”? That’s a false left-wing 2020s trend that you and your husband, as rational people, shouldn’t be encouraging. As for Texas State: Your daughter had well-to-do parents—this was the best college that she could get into?
When my second child went away to school, she went AWAY. We live in NH, and she went to OH, 20 hours away.
She asked me if it was ok for her to go. I said that of course I’d miss her, but what an adventure she would have! We talked weekly and FaceTimed when I went shopping for shoes so we’d have a common time together.
Remember to tell her that drinking is fine, but getting drunk isn’t. (Also, she’s underage, but this is reality.)
Send funny or thoughtful gifts regularly and don’t forget a care package at midterms and finals.
You will be fine, mama. More importantly, they will be fine. Hold on lightly.