We have all heard the saying “The days are long, but the years are short” time and time again. I certainly know that to be true as we are in a transitional time in our family with our oldest daughter having just gone off to college. I remember when I was about eight months pregnant with her, Mickey and I went to a baccalaureate service in the small town in Southeast Alabama where we lived when she was born. As we were filing out to leave, he looked at me and said “Blink and that’ll be Macey.” We both remember that as clearly as if it were yesterday. Mostly, because it feels like not much more than yesterday. Sure enough, we blinked and here we are. Eighteen years came and went quicker than I could have ever imagined possible. Somehow we went from wondering if that baby girl would EVER sleep through the night…to her become a big sister…to watching her go off to kindergarten with a backpack on that was almost as big as she was…to riding out the whirlwind of crazy known as middle school…and…WHOOSH…right through high school. All in a blink, just like he said. Eighteen amazing years that had their share of happiness, memory making, growth, tears, trials, and all kinds of love.
Last year was to have been Macey’s senior year of high school. It was a year that we had actually looked forward to for a few years because the girls would be in school together one last time with big sis as a senior and little sis as a freshman. Needless to say, the pandemic changed everything. Not only did the girls go virtual for school, but Macey decided to go ahead and wrap up high school in December. The girls’ high school is on the block schedule, which we love for a variety of reasons, and she really just need to get her last few required three credits (plus one elective so she had a full load) done in order to graduate. So, that’s what she did. She had a senior semester rather than a senior year. Naturally, we supported this for her because it was what she wanted and was a good option for her to have.
Macey did early application for college and started getting acceptance notifications in the fall. She made her decision, which was no shock to us, when she got the “big” acceptance notification in November. So, high school wrapped up in December and as of January she was basically in her “gap” between high school and college. I really don’t remember the exact timeline, but we got a postcard at some point for a 4-week summer program at her chosen university sometime earlier this year. This program would allow her to get on campus early living in her dorm with her roommate for the school year and would give her a service learning class AND an academic class with full credit for both in just four weeks. We LOVED this idea for her, so she applied to the program and got in. Not only that, but she wound up getting a scholarship that covered the program fees, plus housing and meals for this summer program. Glory hallelujah, y’all…I mean…really!!
Rather than having until August for us to get used to having a college kid, we are in the adjustment period now. Macey moved into her dorm just over a week ago, on a Friday. She had orientation and a welcome event for her summer program over that weekend and began classes on Monday. So, after essentially having her home with us a LOT since March 2020 and having a really packed beginning of summer, it was ready…set…GO and she was off to college. Just. Like. That. Seriously, this has been the fastest summer of my LIFE, but it sure has been good.
And, guess what else? Having her be off at college is good too. People ask us how we are adjusting and the truth is that it’s going well. But don’t you miss her? HECK YES!! Naturally, we miss her being home. But, more than that, we feel unbelievably grateful that she has this amazing opportunity to not only participate in this summer program, but to get to go to college. Macey deserves this! She has worked hard and is a really amazing human, not to mention a wonderful student, so she deserves this opportunity. Also, this is the next step in the next chapter of all of our lives. As parents, we raise them and love them well so that they can go out into the world and make their own way, creating their own good in the world. In order to do that, we have to let them fly.
So, as we let them fly, here are some encouragements for other parents in the same stage of life…
- It’s okay to feel all the emotions, it’s okay to cry when you need to, but it’s also okay to be okay. I think sometimes people expect us parents to fall apart when we drive away and leave our kids at the dorm. And, like I said, if you do – it’s okay. These are some big feelings and dealing with them in whatever way you need to is what everyone should do. But, remember, it’s also okay to be okay. We are truly fortunate to be at this next stage with our children. So, you adjust, I encourage you to remember that this is truly GOOD. This is what we raised them to do. It’ll be a little sad sometimes and we will miss them, but now is their chance to begin to make their own way. And the best way they can do that is with a strong support system cheering them on every step of the way.
- Remember that as they take flight, some will soar immediately, some will flounder a little bit and then soar, and some may need to come back to the nest for a time before they are truly ready. Not everyone advances in the same way and that’s okay too. We are here to be their guidance, their safe space and their launch pad. Some might need more of a nudge than others and some may just need a bit more time to be well and truly ready. I’m a big believer in not rushing these things. There’s something really good about just knowing when they are READY, whenever that is. If their flight pattern looks different, that’s okay – they will find their way.
- Prep for the dorm room EARLY. And, I think I’m a little “late” in posting this for the fall semester. Trust me, you don’t want to sleep on getting stuff purchased for the dorm room. And you do NOT want to count on the closest Target/Walmart/Bed Bath & Beyond to the college to have everything you need on move-in day. If you haven’t already started prepping, do yourself a favor and to that NOW. I listen to the Big Boo Cast and Melanie Shankle (AKA – Big Mama) shared this link for dorm essentials. That’s a LONG list, y’all, so do with it what you will. I also have a simpler list, so please let me know if you’d like me to share it, but here are a few things that I think are MUST HAVE items besides the basics like bedding.
- Heavy Duty Moving Bags – these things hold a TON of stuff and are strong! Highly recommend!
- Door stop – these are SUPER nice to have during move-in time. Also, they can be used to prop open the door to allow dorm-mates to drop by sometimes.
- Waterproof Backpack Cover – a backpack doesn’t always fit under the umbrella or a rain jacket. A cover is a NICE thing to have to keep books and electronics nice and dry on rainy school days.
- Bed Shelfie – this is nice to have on the side of the bunk bed so that students have a handy place for their phone, glasses, etc. at night.
- Hooks to hang backpacks and towels – I really like this one from Walmart because it fit well on the end of the bunk for the backpack.
- An air purifier is nice to have, in my opinion.
- Command hooks and strips are essential because they come down easily. One tip I was given and that we used is to put painters tape beneath the Command “anchors” because that helps it adhere easier AND won’t pull up paint.
- Keep in touch. This is going to require finding a balance because, honestly, you don’t want to blow up their phone all day. But, you also don’t want to go radio silent. Send a GIF text to say good night or wish them a happy day. Send a funny meme. Just send a “Hey, I love you” message. They need to know we are still there, but just with a little more of a boundary as they learn to navigate their own way through life.
- Care packages are GOLDEN! I mean, who doesn’t love getting mail or an Amazon package drop? Surprise your college kid with something fun every now and then…just because.
- When you visit, invite the roommate out too. Being a “broke college kid” is a reality for many students. Go the extra mile when you can and take the roommate out to eat. It’ll give you a chance to know the roommate better and will give them a free meal. Win/Win!
- Join FB college parent groups. This has been an incredible source of information for me and a great way to build community.
- Keep their room at home their own. This is just a personal opinion, but I am in favor of leaving their rooms just the way they want them. Clean, of course, no one wants a stinky/smelly room in their house. But, I just mean – let it still be their own room so that they have that comfort zone to come back to on breaks. Especially while they are dorm living. Dorm life is some close quarter living, so when they come home it’s nice to have their own space just the way they have always had it. So, at least that first year, let their room stay their own at home.
For those of us going through this stage right now – we are in this together! High five, y’all! We have all made it this far. We have been through having newborns through potty-training through school and activities and driving and ALLLLLLLLLL of everything that comes with raising kids. It hasn’t always been easy, let’s be honest, but it’s always been worth everything. I have said time and again that every new age and stage is my favorite and this is no exception. I’m only just over a week into this gig, but I am already embracing this new phase of life for all the good within it. I know how fortunate we are to be here and I don’t ever want to take that for granted. I intend to embrace this for every bit of good within it and be thankful every step of the way.
When I see this selfie that Macey graciously sent me on her first day of classes, I can’t be anything but HAPPY for her! This girl has made us so proud every step of the way and I know she will continue to do so. And I also know she can’t fully flourish if she thinks for one second that we are floundering at home. This is a journey for us all and we are blessed to be on it! This time in our lives got here unbelievably faster than I ever thought possible, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The world is before you, Macey…we love you, we trust you and we know you are going to do amazing things that God has planned for you! Go soar, girl!!
To the rest of you going to college…go get ’em! Go be game changers for the good because our world needs you!
Parents and families…we got this!
Best to all,
Tammy L McAninch says
Kelly, thank you for this! You not only share your soul with your readers but also your insight. I don’t know what I would have done without our talks. Please keep sharing, I love your blogs.