That Summer Before College


High school and graduation are over, and now the push is on to get your child ready for college. I know many of you can’t wait for them to leave. That’s because it has been one heck of a year. A sampling: Your child argued with you over nothing; they freaked out about SATs and getting into college; you were in constant flood watch for the tears; they talked back to you, or worse, they snuck out with friends. In general, they made your life miserable. That’s nature’s way of preparing you for them leaving. And it works: You don’t want them to go, but you have had enough.

Getting them ready starts with making sure they have the practical things they will need: a computer, the right clothes, the necessities of day-to-day living. Most likely, their college will send a list of what they can and cannot bring. Be sure to check it. Will they need a refrigerator? Can they bring a microwave? It’s generally a good idea not to wait until the last minute to stock up on toiletries, cleaning supplies and bedding. Stocking up is easy if they are not traveling far. My oldest daughter, Paige, stayed on the East Coast, so we did stock up early and often. My younger daughter, Grace, went to California, so that took a lot of strategic planning. We ordered the bedding and a few other things that the school offered in a package. and it was waiting for us when we got there. After seeing her room, we were able to make a list and go to Target.

Although our children want to spend the summer seeing friends and hanging out, it’s very important to spend quality time with family. Grace and I did a lot of day trips. It allowed us time to talk about some important issues that she needed to hear from me. Some of my most important discussions centered on her personal safety. I explained that she cannot be so absorbed in her cellphone that she loses track of her surroundings or makes herself vulnerable by not paying attention. I hammered home about this. Of course, she got tired of hearing it, but I do think it sank in. We talked about drinking and how friends will try to get her to go along with them on this. I explained that fake IDs are a bad idea. I told her that things that were done when I was in college (and not by me) could land a kid in jail these days.

We talked about date rape and sex. Sex is a subject she hates to discuss with me and generally doesn’t. But we talked anyway, about sex and about condoms. I talked about being careful about the company she keeps. Being with the wrong people at the wrong time can get her into trouble. Most of this stuff I knew I didn’t need to worry about, because she generally stays out of trouble and is, in fact, afraid to get into trouble. But we still needed to have the conversations.

I also was pretty confident with Grace being so far away because we had family friends nearby her college. They have been a blessing. If you have friends or family near the school your child will attend, reach out to them and make sure they have your child’s contact information.

Once you drop them off and figure out the room, do not linger. They are eager to move on and to feel their independence. My husband had a hard time ripping off the bandage and leaving when we took Paige to school. He lingered and lingered. I think it’s what fathers do with their daughters. I think it’s what mothers do with their sons. Don’t get me wrong, I had tears, but I knew it had to be done. I remember when my parents dropped me off at college. I could not wait for them to leave. Thankfully, they didn’t linger.

Lucky for parents in this century, there is texting, email, FaceTime and Skype. You will have many opportunities to stay in touch.

It’s a new chapter and an exciting one for all. Cheer on your child. Send care packages. Find something to do with yourself. That’s what I found hardest — adjusting to the fewer demands of parenting. But I loved not getting up and making breakfast and lunch and driving them around the world.
Speaking of which, it’s a brand-new world out there. Go get it.

Lisa Robinson is a news anchor for WBAL-TV.

This post originally appeared in Baltimore’s Child.
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