College bound: a lesson in letting go

College bound: a lesson in letting go

There are thousands, if not millions, of books written about parenting ~ from emotionally-based strategies for raising happy, well-adjusted children to how to discipline with love; to breaking stereotypes like building sensitivity in boys and confidence in girls. But there isn’t one reference book written specifically for supporting your child’s innate, one-of-a-kind personality. Before birth, neurons are formed, connected and fused, creating each of us in a unique human form. In other words, we come into this world hard-wired to think, to act, to be a certain way.

If you reflect on yourself, you’ve probably carried any number of characteristics ~ outgoing, stubborn, sensitive, free-spirited ~ for as long as you can remember. Sure we learn how to conduct ourselves with the values our parents teach us but the core of who you are was shaped before you were even born.

So why then do we treat our children as molds of clay that we can shape and form into the person we think they should be? That we can prevent them from making the same mistakes we did? {insert frat party flashback!} Suppose kids are really blocks of wood and the best we can do is to soften and smooth out the edges? Accept them as they are. Encourage their strengths and not fret about weaknesses. Model good judgment and decision-making but give them latitude to find and express themselves.



I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as we prepared to send our second child off to college. Senior year was a tough one with our licensed-to-drive, cocky 18 year old who really pushed the boundaries of her behavior ~ and our patience ~ to unbearable limits of stress and conflict.

On so many occasions I’ve prayed, meditated and ruminated on how we parented over the years. Had we failed her? Did we course correct appropriately? Were we too lenient? And how much parenting remains post high school graduation? Had my mother’s curse “I hope you have a child just like you someday” come to fruition?

My heart has ached. My mind has raced to the point of emotional exhaustion.

Recently a university professor, in speaking to a crowd of freshman parents, stated that as parents the best we can do is provide roots of stability to keep our children grounded and the confidence to expand their wings to fly. The rooting I’ve got. It’s the flying that’s failing me.

In the end, this is the parenting test of letting go ~ moving from protector to supporter.

She will try and she will fail.

She will make mistakes, big and small.

She will build new relationships and she will be hurt.

There will be times when she feels lost or lonely.

She will need to find her own way. Not my way.

I have to learn to be okay with that.

There is no individual growth without obstacles.

Once she was fully unpacked and set up in her new home, her dorm room, I tried to stifle tears {unsuccessfully} as I told her that I would give her space as she transitioned to college life but I am never more than a phone call away.

Within an hour I received the first of many texts ~ some with photos and updates and some asking for my opinion or assistance. Exhale. Thankfully I’m not done yet. I’m just not in the drivers seat.

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