Moving my eldest son to college last August was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done as a mom. And I don’t need experts to confirm that point. I thought a part of me was being ripped from my chest. I could barely walk those last few feet to the car as we prepared to say our final good byes and live three hours apart. My every fiber wanted to stay grounded beside him and never leave.
And I know I’m not alone. Other moms I’ve talked to all say that taking a child to college is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. I think it’s even harder for Latina moms, because we are so open with our emotions and not afraid to show love in public.
My son and I walked arm in arm to the car at the end of that day. We were practically holding each other up. We were both sobbing as my husband and two younger children stayed a respectful distance behind. (I can just imagine my youngest daughter rolling her eyes at such a spectacle.)
We both survived the day, and the year. And he returned this summer as the extraordinary man I always knew he would be.
My husband is unemployed and money is tight. My new man-son, however, has stepped up. He has applied diligently for financial aid and college assistance everywhere possible. And while his friends were backpacking through Europe or basking in the warmth of the Florida Keys, he worked teaching swim lessons and as a lifeguard the entire summer, barely having a day off per week.
I’m proud of him, and I’m proud of myself. We both grew up. Letting him go was the first step and boy, it was a doozy.
Read Related: 5 Rules for the College Student in Your Life
This weekend I will move him back to college. He’s transferring to a bigger state university that is only 90 minutes from us. But he’s not taking a car, so visits won’t be frequent. And while I do expect to shed some tears as I hug him goodbye at the University of Texas in Austin, I know in my heart I shall survive.
Apparently I did a few things wrong—really wrong—regarding our farewell. So to those other moms facing this prospect, here are some healthy tips for letting go of your baby:
- Don’t try to say everything you ever wanted that last moment. Be assured that the conversations you’ve had up to this point have prepared your adolescent for the morals, behavior and study skills you expect.
- Remember you are there to help them move—not live their new life for them. Allow them to register themselves, pick up keys, meet their roommates and decorate however they wish.
- Help them locate important spots, like a pharmacy, campus clinic, bookstore and grocery store. But allow them to scope out other sites alone.
- Follow their lead. Emotions can overwhelm some youth. If your son or daughter seems anxious for you to skedaddle, then do so. If he or she needs you to stay a while, adjust your schedule.
- Before you go, have your child’s assurances about a few steadfast rules: He promises to sit near the front of class and he’ll turn off cell phones during all lectures.
- Don’t allow him to take video games to college. That can cause him to cloister himself in his room alone for hours and miss valuable socializing that is part of the entire experience. Make him promise to get involved with extracurricular groups to meet others.
- If financially possible, don’t make your student hold a job. If tuition and room and fees cost $20,000 a year, then weigh the risks to that investment with an $8-per-hour job. Is it really worth it?
- During your farewell moment assure him you are a phone call away and will always support him. But once you leave, resist the urge to call or text. Allow him to embrace his new existence. He’ll contact you when ready. (Although after two weeks you are within your rights to call.)
Once home, resist the urge to turn her room into a shrine. Close the door and feel proud of the wonderful person you have set forth into the world. And maybe blog about it. Who knows, it might help someone else one day.