We dropped our two oldest daughters off at college today. For Ali, it is her sophomore year. For Morgan, she is starting her freshman year. Whoever told me this would get easier – lied! At least that is how it feels right now.
I've been a big proponent of stages of parenting – simplified this way:
- Discipline phase – ages 0-5
- Training phase – ages 5-13
- Coaching phase – ages 13-21
- Friendship phase – ages 21-
To put it in coaching terms:
- Discipline phase – helping them become "coachable" – teaching the basics
- Training phase – practice – on the field of life with them training what to do and what not to do
- Coaching phase – game time – you are on the sidelines huddling up between plays, calling time-outs when needed and giving instruction from the sidelines
- Friendship phase – player consultant – consult as desired and requested by the player
We are toward the end of the coaching phase for two of our three daughters. Dropping a child off at college is the biggest transition we've ever faced. The first one (last year) was excruciatingly painful. This second one was just as painful – although I knew what to expect and better anticipated how hard it would be.
Why is it so hard? I would guess it is a combination of some of these factors:
- Issue of control: Instead of daily face-to-face contact, it will be primarily texting with some phone and Facetime contact.
- Issue of routine: Change is hard for me. For 18 years, we've seen our daughter almost every day of her life (except for youth trips or trips we've gone on). We won't see her for weeks at a time now. And it will never be the same again.
- Issue of relationship: We will miss her smile, her laugh, and her caring personality. We feel like we are losing a part of ourselves. And in a real sense, we are.
But I know this is a necessary transition. One she is ready for. And one Ali was ready for last year. Staying at home for college would have been great too. But I think the transition toward the friendship phase of parenting would be harder for us, as parents. Even when they are home, I constantly remind myself of what phase they are in (so I don't annoy them by treating them like they are in high school – or worse, by treating them like they are in Jr High). Going away to college is a good and helpful transitional step, it seems to me.
But – WOW – it's hard! I'm sure the pain will decrease over the next few days, and I'm very thankful that it is a painful transition. I know some parents are "ready" to send off a child, and children who are "ready" to get out of the house. In that way, I'm thankful for the pain and tears. The pain and crying have come and gone in waves over the last few weeks, and will continue for a couple more until I begin anticipating fall break.