I arrived on Saturday, just in time to note that Austen had already been to WalMart and had come back to campus without his shopping bags. He purchased his supplies, paid for them, and then promptly walked out of the store without his items! Surely this was a sign that he needed Mom, right?
Nope. He just needed to pay attention. And maybe he was experiencing the type of brain-freeze that happens when a person's circuits are overloaded with a new town, new bank account, new campus, new dorm room, new church, and more, all basically overnight. As much as I may have wanted think otherwise, this wasn't a sign that I needed to put on my cape and boots and fly in to do my Wonder Mom routine.
That Sunday, I was looking forward to sitting in church with our son, but he was already working on a bus route (the bus ministry is in his blood), so he came to say his farewells just before Sunday school. When Austen said goodbye, I started swallowing hard again and again, trying to keep the eyeball-washing-machine from kicking in. Just as I thought I had things under control, Chancellor-Pastor Trieber walked up to me with a big friendly smile and asked, "Well Mrs. Taylor, how are you doing?"
An innocent question activated the eyeball-washing-machine, plus the spin cycle! Brother Trieber didn't get a chance to see this because his very alert wife took one look at my face and knew what was happening. Faster than the spin cycle, Mrs. Cindie Trieber whisked me into a side room and patted my shoulder as I did some more swallowing in an effort to "turn the water off." (Cindie, I owe you a Jamba Juice for that rescue mission.)
That was the first college student. The second student, Hillary, was easier although I still cried. Our third-born, Collin was sent off with this advice: Stick by your brother and sister and don't miss your connecting flight. And back away from the debit card with your hands in the air...
Going to college now is almost ceremonial, complete with mothers clumped in campus parking lots, hugging their children and parting with tears (usually tears only from Mom). Since I know what it's like, I hope that these tips will help those of you that are doing this for the first time. Please remember that these are only suggestions and observations:
Calling once a week is just right for some, and too much for others. Discuss how often you'll keep in touch, but leave the schedule up to them. In other words, when your student has time, they'll call or you can call, but remember that they're in college; not off at day camp. Let your college student breathe (and get their work done).
This step is not necessary with older students attending college later in life, but 18-year-olds can squander cash faster than you can read this sentence! Establish an agreement about acceptable debit card usage in advance, and you'll only have to make suggestions along the way. Money mismanagement is a common problem among college students, and if the parents aren't "richdadandmom.com," it pays to be proactive by teaching the financial basics and laying down the ground rules before Little Caesar's Pizza (men) or the Shoe Carnival (ladies) gets a month's worth of your child's tuition money.
There may be rules that are not favorites, assignments that test nerves, rude people, pilfering roommates, and cars that cough out a radiator, all within the first month! These events add to the learning process. I call it "Life Skills 102" (assuming that they learned "Life Skills 101" at home). Life is made up a combination of great days, not great days, and something in between. Ask your college student this classic question: "If you're not happy today, what day are you waiting for?" Encourage a pressing of the reset button, and discourage whining.
This is not the time to be slack in prayer, either. If you haven't already developed the habit of praying for your children daily, it's not too late to start! Parenting long-distance is a different kind of science, and we just aren't able to be as "hands-on" from miles away. This is actually a good thing, but it increases the need to pray for your child and for the unseen events of their day. Pray as if you were the only one calling their name before the Lord. This is vital. Each day has an unknown adventure included.
And now for some unnumbered observations:
- Each of our children had a different response to heading off to Bible college. This is normal.
- Our three children handled their finances three different ways. We kept the tightest eye on the biggest spender.
- We pointed out the obvious that an "A" costs the same as an "F."
- Birthday boxes are a big deal on many campuses. If you're going to send one, send enough to share with the roommates who will likely be watching the "opening ceremony."
- A periodic note with five or ten dollars tucked in was our idea of a love-tap from home. We always reminded our children in these notes that we were praying for them daily.
- Each of our children made mistakes in college. We advised them accordingly, but without making a federal case out of a life lesson. We remember our own college days...
- If your child wants you to fly or drive out for a visit, try to make it happen. One of my favorite trips was to fly out and visit our daughter for a weekend. She needed some "Mom time."
- If you haven't already started one, have a fund set aside in savings to "stop gaps." Finding a job during college may be challenging, so you may need to help your student now and then.
- If your child runs into problems with the college administration, do not automatically assume that it is the fault of the college. Wait until you've heard the whole matter, and even then, encourage your young person to handle matters wisely on their own (Prov. 16:20 and Prov. 18:13).
- Always remember this: College life is temporary (unless they join the staff after graduation)! Whatever goes on in this stage, it's just a few paragraphs in life.
"Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge." (Prov. 23:12)
NOTE: If you have "been here, done this," please add your helpful comments below. Mothers who are new at this will appreciate the feedback!