Freshman Year Renovations

I awoke unreasonably early, too excited to sleep because my college Freshman was coming home for the holiday.

Finally, the dull ache of the empty nest met its relief as I scooped up my baby girl and soaked in every nuance of her precious being. 

I knew that I’d receive a different girl than the one I sent off in September. The changes are subtle – a new expression, a hairstyle, an attitude… I’m tempted to analyze everything, as if trying to back-fill the log of events that would explain the transformation.

She, too, is catching up. Driving through the center of our sleepy town, she notices a major renovation of a tiny building. Her mind is blown by ‘how much has happened in a short time.’

Like our town, Peach’s life is undergoing renovations. As project manager, she holds the right to design her existence, dig it up, and make a mess in the process. I simply need to obey the detour signs and perform occasional site checks to make sure she crosses the finish line. 

Detour

Peach is a yearling with barely one foot out the door. But the legal world considers her an adult at 18. She’s responsible for forms and processes that I can’t meddle in. Confronted with the daunting prospect of instant ‘adulting’ while indulging in first-time freedom is overwhelming and exhausting. She has burned the candle at both ends and is appropriately diminished. This week of respite is my chance to build her back up.

The first semester of college is no joke. Sickness, drama, responsibility, and excitement are repeatedly and randomly activated like the features of a pinball machine. 

Every phone call makes me tense, wondering if it will require crisis triage or celebration. In my experience, college-aged children don’t call Mom when all is status quo. Deep breaths and a quick prayer precede every tentative greeting. 

It’s hard to stay steady when a beloved young ‘un is inviting you for a ride on their roller coaster. Loving detachment is a trick I haven’t completely mastered. But there’s no shortage of opportunities to practice. 

A reminder to avoid proofreading Peach’s life comes easily when she offers a spontaneous expression of gratitude: “Thank you for loving me unconditionally.” She’s not unaware of the fact that one’s own chaos seeps into those who care about you, even with the healthiest of boundaries.

A parent has so many wishes for a child, none of which matter. Their lives are not our lives, even though we feel intimately intertwined. Even if we want the same things, we simply aren’t powerful enough to guarantee smooth sailing and desirable outcomes. Believing in our own inflated influence and importance leads to inevitable disappointment.

Our best bet during the remodeling phase is to wear a hard hat and proceed with caution.  One day, we’ll stand back and assess the new structure with awe, wondering how it all came together despite our fears and doubts.

Letter to University from Mom

collegeBoundDear University,

You are about to receive a gift. We call her Principessa and she is my daughter. To you, she is just a statistic – one set of criteria that met with approval for acceptance into your esteemed institution.

Principessa will be leaving all that she knows to join you several hundred miles from home. She will be on her own for the first time. I don’t expect you to parent her or to take over for me in my absence. But I do expect you to provide her with what she needs to survive and to thrive over the next several years.

I hope you fulfill the promises you made when you wooed her into your fold – a solid education that will lead to job prospects, a safe environment, and ample diversity and opportunities to stimulate her personal growth.

This seems like the least I can ask for my financial investment. Which, by the way, is significantly higher than many of her fellow classmates. For instance, the athlete with the coveted ‘full boat.’ Apparently his physical skills are more highly valued than my daughter’s passion and talent for nurturing children and her long-standing desire to become a teacher.

My husband and I will pay an inflated sticker price for the reward of our daughter’s college education. To say that I’m not bitter or worried about the ability to afford this would be a lie. But I’m willing to bury my negativity in exchange for her ultimate success and happiness.

University, you have no idea how special my daughter is to me. And I get the feeling that you probably don’t care – except for caring that she reflects well on your reputation. Don’t worry, she’ll do you proud, just as she has done for us all these years.

Principessa is one in 17,000 to you, but she is one of a kind to us, her family. Please be good to her. She deserves the best you have to offer.

Sincerely,

Mom of the college Freshman

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