Night OperationsI have a child who is going off to college next year.  The first of my three to reach this point in life.  I am mindful of my role as a support system during this time, but also that I have a responsibility to be doling out opportunities for her to self manage and possibly make a few mistakes.

It seems that I am a jumble of emotions.  I am thrilled and excited for her as she embarks on a new chapter in life because I know that she is ready to take on the world.  In fact, I look forward to having a front row seat at the unveiling of her new adventure.

On the other hand, I will miss her terribly.  I love having her in the house, being able to give her a hug as she leaves in the morning, talking to her in the car as I drive her from activity to activity and laughing at her silly faces and intelligent humor.  “Go back to your crib!” I want to exclaim as I look at her towering over me and wearing my shoes.

Wasn’t it just last week that she learned that it wasn’t appropriate to clobber the girl sitting next to her EVEN if she took her toy?  Wasn’t it just a couple of days ago that we made her responsible for doing her own laundry?  Now she is confidently advocating for herself with distracted and overwhelmed teachers at school and making sure she gets to bed on time so she is not too tired in the morning.

I want to ask her; “Who are you and what have you done with my baby?”  But instead I marvel at her talents and gifts and know that somehow she has the tools that she will need to create a great life for herself.

So together, we prepare the “launch” into college.  I am not naïve enough to assume that from this point on, she will be on her own.  I have many friends who are still actively “launching” their college graduate.

However, this is a demarcation in our relationship.  We are in the no man’s land where our rights as parents and her rights as an adult begin to blur.  She still needs and wants us to be a part of important issues in her life, but if she has a soda for breakfast, I’m probably not going to say anything.

Plus, there is a part of me that feels like this is my last chance to jam some final pearls of wisdom into her head.  I feel like the door is closing and I hope we as parents, have given her enough.  At the same time, I know that at age 49, I still call my parents for their pearls of wisdom and I’m not stopping any time soon.

So here it is.  I realize that what we are sharing is a process of moving into a new kind of relationship.  The best way to move forward is to see it as the achievement it is…and celebrate.

Yes, it is sad to let go of the old, but if we do, we have a wonderful opportunity to gain something new.  So I am doing my part and trying not to tear up when she mentions her college application process.

She is doing her part and taking ownership of the next step in her life.  Together we are focusing on the future and looking forward in to the unknown with great hope and confidence that there is something wonderful out there.

Coach Me Quick Tips as you prepare the “launch” into college:

1.  Allow yourself to feel sad at times.  Underneath that sadness you may discover a wealth of happiness and excitement for your soon-to-launch baby.

2.  Remember, that things don’t really change overnight.  It is a process.  You both will have the opportunity to transition to more independence over time.

3.  Acknowledge that you have helped her reach this point in life and congratulate yourself for a job well done.


Photo credit:  Steve Jurvetson via Compfight