How to Say Good-bye to Your College Student

Here’s a blast from the past — the year my daughter moved from home to start her college days. It seems like yesterday.

 

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long 11-hour drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours, tears running down my cheeks. During the walk, I began to feel better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

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Fighting my inner helicopter

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I’m being tested in my parenting skills. My daughter is applying and interviewing for jobs and I’m having a tough time. My impulse is to go straight into helicopter mode, research jobs on indeed.com and other sites and tell her where to apply.

But, I’m holding myself back. This is her life. She’s an adult. I’m trying to stay tethered to my own life and projects without injecting myself into hers.

I think she should take a few classes in design, because she’s talented in that area. She lives in an area with a ton of new home building and interior designers. She could get a job as an assistant if she learned CAD (Computer-aided design) and took one basic design class. With her bachelor’s degree in Business, she could get a degree fairly easily in interior design if she finds she likes it.

I have bought this up and she doesn’t want to hear it.

She’s had several interviews and been called back for more. I’m a nervous nilly and I want to call to make sure she’s on her way with plenty of time to spare! In fact, I did call her an hour before her interview this morning.

I said, “Are you all ready for your interview?”

She answered, “What interview? Oh no! Do I have an interview?”

I was ready for my aortic event when she said, “Hehe. Got you.”

This is a serious tug and pull thing to my heartstrings I’m going through. How can I help without taking over? How do I give some relevant advice? Most of all, I want it to all work out.

I refuse to be one of those parents who go on job interviews with their child, or calls the company if she doesn’t get an offer. There are parents who actually do that. I’ve written about them here.

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I think parenting was easier when they were young.

Any thoughts on how not to helicopter your children when you think they could use your help?

Top Parenting Tip: Don’t help too much!

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I saw this tweet first thing this morning and it stuck with me all day. My kids are in their early 20s and if I had a do-over, I’d do less for them, not more. I love being a mom and my kids survived my over-parenting and have flourished. But I failed them over and over by doing too much along the way. When they are experiencing pain or a rough patch now, I look back and wish I hadn’t been such a helicopter or lawn mower parent and they’d have experienced more difficulties in their earlier years.

What drives parents to do everything for their kids? Here are six reasons why we do too much for our kids–taken from my own experience and observing other parents:

ONE
We want to shield our kids from pain and hurt.

TWO
We want our kids to have the brightest futures possible — and only we can guarantee that by our constant hovering and interference.

THREE
We’re afraid to let our kids fail. This is the exact opposite of what we need to do. Let them fail while they’re young, when the consequences aren’t so big.

FOUR
Peer pressure. We want to be a super parent, like those we see around us at school or in their sports.

FIVE
We do all the work around the house because their schedules are so busy. (Like ours aren’t?)

SIX
We make every decision for them, allowing them to miss the development of good decision-making skills as they grow.

rknatashapartyhats

What reasons do you see for parents doing too much for their kids?

 

 

When in doubt, throw it out!

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My daughter’s first-grade class. I cannot throw this out.

While my daughter was home for a few days after our summer vacation—before she returned to college out of state—she helped me organize our lives.

She got me started, which according to her is the “worst part.” I’m now ripping through stacks of papers and throwing things out without fear.

After she cleaned out our “junk drawer” and purchased a drawer organizer at Target, she focused on me. She’d pick up a piece of paper and ask, “Shred or recycle?” We did that for a couple hours and I sort of got the hang of it. Before, I was overwhelmed with making decisions on every little thing. It seemed like way too much work. I’ve broken through some barrier and can toss out old papers with the best of them.

 

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From the mouth of babes 🙂

I’m tackling the four-drawer metal file cabinet in my office which has tax returns and bank statements going back into the early 90s. It finally dawned on me that I don’t have to keep my returns pre-2010. Or bank statements, nor all the paperwork to close escrow on our first home—which was several decades ago—and no we don’t own the house anymore.

Why do we hold on to every important piece of paper—or the question is why do I? I have to say that on two instances, my large file cabinet has saved the day with much-needed slips of paper.

 

I’ll confess I’m having trouble throwing out my kids stories they wrote from Pre-K through middle school. Their paintings, Iowa tests and report cards will retain a place in the file cabinet. I don’t know why, but I’m not ready to let those things go—yet.

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A first-grade story by my son.  I think it’s a keeper.

 

When the project is done, I’ll feel 20 pounds lighter in spirit.

How do you keep yourself organized with the volume of paper in our lives? Do you keep all your kids art projects, papers and report cards, too?

He’s Going to Be Okay

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Sunset in Berkeley during our weekend visit.

 

My son officially finished his undergrad degree in August. It was a long haul and never as easy as I had imagined for him. I looked at college as some of the best years of my life. I imagined my son would love college, too. But it wasn’t all great. In fact, some of it was downright ugly. But, the good news is he made it. He officially has his undergrad degree.

Now what? We visited him in his new home in Norcal and I can say, although I think he’s way too far from home, it was a perfect weekend. The weather, the food, the girlfriend, the apartment—everything was perfect. I say that with pride and relief. After this weekend, I know my son is going to make it as an adult. As a mom, I’ve done my job. I’m proud and happy.

Is my job done? I’m not sure. Is a parent’s job ever done?

robert

When my son rode the “Snow White Pony” Thursday nights at Street Fair.

My son’s degree and career choices have been hotly debated between my husband and me. I have total confidence that my son will find his way, and I agree with my husband that he hasn’t made all the exact choices that we would have in his place. In the end, It’s his life and it’s up to him to live it—not us.

We can’t tell him what to do, what jobs or careers to follow. We can encourage and express our pride in what a great person he’s become. I am truly proud of my son.

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Father and son at Crissy Field during our perfect weekend.

 

Why is My Daughter So Annoyed With Me All the Time?

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

I understand how she feels. After all, I was once 19 years old. I remember it very clearly.

Everything my mom did, I found unbelievably annoying.

I’ll never forget sitting with her in the car, getting ready to shop at Bellevue Square. She had parked the car. She was fumbling through her purse, making sure she had what she needed. She reapplied her lipstick. Dug through her purse for her wallet to look through credit cards. Searched several times to check where she placed the keys.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

Would we never leave the car? Would I be stuck all day? I must have said something to her quite snippy, or flat out mean. A few tears rolled down her cheeks. Which made me more upset with her.

Isn’t it a sad feeling, transitioning from a mom who could do no wrong—from changing diapers, to cooking their favorite spaghetti, to taping treasured colorings on the fridge that were made just for you—to being the person of their abject disdain?

It’s a tough new role. Let me tell you.

But, having gone through these feelings myself, I understand. I’m visiting my mom this week in her assisted living center. I talked about it with her, what I’m going through now, and what I felt like when I was 19. Fortunately, she doesn’t remember me ever being a snarky 19-year-old.

For some reason, I’ve gained more patience throughout my life and that has been a blessing. I’ve also learned forgiveness.

19 years ago.

19 years ago.

Something else, I’ve learned through the years of parenting: this too shall pass.

It’s called independence and freedom. We want our children to grow and become separate human beings that can stand on their own. Sometimes they need to separate from us. A good time to do that is during their senior year of high school, or their freshman year of college. It’s a good thing. I keep telling myself that.

However, we also want to be treated with respect, and once again—someday—to be cherished.

A beach day with my daughter.

A beach day with my daughter.

I wrote more about separating from our kids and the experiences we go through when they leave for college here.

To Thine Own Self Be True — Or Facing the Sad Truth that Kids Grow Up

My baby girl's first Christmas photo.

My baby girl’s first Christmas photo made it on the cover of the monthly parenting magazine.

My daughter is coming home for Christmas break tomorrow. I’m excited and a little anxious. Her last final is today for her first semester of college out of state. I’ll admit that I stalk her on Facebook and Twitter. She doesn’t look like the same little girl who left for college in August. When I talk to her on the phone, she doesn’t sound the same, either.

I remember going to orientation with her last July at the University of Utah. There was one talk I especially liked, “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development.

Ellingson said that during the freshman year our kids learn to become themselves. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes. They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels.

You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!” Which makes me wonder — who has the ear cartilage piercings (and now my daughter asked about getting one!) Why does she tweet that she wants to dye her gorgeous red hair brown? Is this why she’s best friends with a couple teammates one week and then inseparable with a new one the following week?

Thanks to Ellison, I can see she’s quite normal. I may not like it. But, she’s trying out new things to find out who she is. It’s going to be my job to not make a big deal out of the little things. I can’t keep her my little girl forever.

My daughter and teammates at JOs a while back.

My daughter and teammates at 2006 Junior Olympics.

This is what I have to say about finding out who you are: “To thine own self be true.” Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you know is right. Be your own person. I’m afraid she’s working too hard to fit in. By being herself, she’ll fit in where she needs to be. 

I am standing back and watching my little girl grow and develop into an independent grown-up woman. It’s not easy.

You can read more about the highlights of Ellison’s talk here and I wrote more about “To thine own self be true” in Three Things to Tell Your Daughter on Graduation Night.

Sailing in Santa Barbara.

Sailing in Santa Barbara.