How to survive your kid’s last days before College

I’m fully ensnared in a “love-hate relationship” right now.  Most days, I could be confused with a character from an Italian Opera or a Shakespeare play,  recanting “Please don’t leave me!”  followed the next minute by “No, you must go!

You see, my son is leaving for College in just 3 days.  But I’m not sure either of us are gonna live till then.

nick's room

“Please don’t leave me!”

  • When he does what I asked.
  • When he humors me by allowing me to sort through that one last drawer.
  • When he bestows his love by writing sweet, insightful, gratitude-filled blog posts .   (Amazing!)
  • When he says he’s gonna miss us.
  • When he gives me a bear hug.
  • When he lets me rub his back to wake him up.

“You must go!”

  • When he calls you “condescending” as you’re making him pay for a new iPhone 6 after he broke his, as if the whole thing’s your fault.
  • When he leaves and simply says, “I’m going out.”  (gone are the days of details, names and places)
  • When he has a contradictory response for everything you say.  Everything.
  • When he says he’s “tired of you people.”
  • When he tells you he doesn’t want your help.

I’m quite versed in the “normal” 18 year old psyche.  But no matter how many times you’ve heard the tales, it’s different when it’s happening to YOU.

Wasn’t it just days ago (or has it been years?) he thought the sun rose and set with me?

So to maintain my perspective during Senior Year, the whole long summer and those eternal last few days before my oldest leaves for college, here’s what I’ve been telling myself:

1.  A Mother’s Love is unconditional.

When I started this gig, I knew it wouldn’t always be easy.  18 (seemingly short now) years ago, I found out just how deep the roots of my love are for my offspring.  But we mothers quickly realize our jobs are thankless, yet a few kudos will keep us going for a good, long while.

We also figure out in short order, tantrums are part of the deal.  Even when they change from rolling on the floor and slamming doors to the silent treatment from a pouting, sour-faced, smug looking 18 y/o at the iPhone store.

But in tantrum or triumph, we must love equally.

Win or Lose.  Anger or Praise.  A’s or F’s.  Star or Bench Rider.  Work or Play.  Respect or Disobedience.  Kind or Harsh.

So we press on, loving as we’ve first been loved.

Because we’re Moms.  And we love unconditionally.

2.  Savor every moment – the good, the bad and especially the ugly.

The sun is always brighter after the rain.  The victory is always sweeter after a loss.  The joy is always purer after the tears.

As it is with parenting.  We don’t get the good without the bad.  And to think otherwise would make us a fool.  There are so many times I want to take “credit” for my kids, but alas, those are the good times.  And then I’d have to take credit for their mistakes as well, and I sure don’t want to do that.

So, don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.  But also know that with prayer, repetition, discipline, love, boundaries, guidance, unending patience and more love, you will get through those 18 years and realize you had a part to play and you did all you could.

But don’t ever take full credit because that bet would have terrible odds in Vegas.   Those little people grow into big people and there’s a myriad of choices along the way. Some you can help to form and others you’re helpless to affect.

And One Day they’ll have their bags packed for College and you’ll realize you can’t get any of those days back.

So do your best not to wish them away.  Not one single one of them.  Because Motherhood is a gift.

And the good is all the better when we remember just how bad it can get. 

3.  Finish well. 

Whenever I want to throw my hands up, stop parenting, or lash out in frustration, I remind myself it’s only a bit more time, and how I finish matters.  All summer long, as he’s been spreading his wings, I have been silently dreaming of clipping them.

But when time is limited, you have a choice.

You can waste the days (or just over 62 hrs) you have left fighting the fight, or put down your gloves and wrap your arms around your opponent instead.

But we must not quit early.  We have to press on until the finish.  No matter how many times we have to bite our tongue along the way.

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a NLT

But it’s in the dichotomy of the love/hate, can’t wait/don’t go, you’re awful/I love you, we find the true nature of this whole beast.

It’s hard to let them go, but we know we must.

Question: What advice would you share for anyone sending kids off to college? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sarah Beckman inspires people from the stage and on the page. She is the bestselling author of Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which is filled with practical tools to love people well in the rough patches of life. Sarah speaks to audiences across the country on topics such as loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “How to survive your kid’s last days before College

  1. Hang in there Sarah – Sara and I always referred to this phase as the “mother bird syndrome”. Our son’s ready to fly away, asserting their independence, us wanting them to soar, however, wondering if we were ever really ready to let them go. We are hear to tell you that you all will survive! You and Craig have done a great job of raising a fine young man – Nick exhibits that every day. The days ahead are the first days of a new beginning, a new relationship with your son, new respect each of you will have for each other. Exciting times. Don’t get lost in the past or worry about the future….live in the present and celebrate God’s love for all of you, and the protective arms He surrounds all of you with. God’s peace to your entire family!

  2. Ok… So as this darling young man’s god mom, I don’t believe a word of the bad… only the good! Hahahaha…
    Hang in there you two, the reunions will look a lot different!
    Love you all so much, praying for this precious and difficult time.

  3. Hi Sarah—

    As I read your story, I swim with you in this colorful pool of emotions. I am about to send off my last one to college and my oldest to law school— it is a mix of panic and relief.

    There is nothing more important than our children knowing we are a safe emotional place for their roller-coaster-ride of massive change. Not reacting with the ‘should of,’ demands, or an expression of lacking confidence in them contributes to creating that safe place.

    I like to ‘tell the story.’

    When mine decide something different than what I have advised, I take a breather; then, at the right time I share the events as they possibly could play out based on these possible choices. That’s it— I leave it alone. Pray, trust yours to be wise (even tell them you trust them to make good decisions) and to listen to the Spirit. When they do come back to your advice say,”What a great idea!”

    I carefully pick my battles.

    Most bad decisions are not fatal. In fact, mistakes can be the best learning environment. If we don’t ostracize our young adults in the decision-making process, we can be there to support the clean up efforts at the end— always with love and reassurance. Everyone needs room to fail, to readjust, and to grow. Young men and women need to have consistent people, who never waver, who are there to laugh with them about it all.

    Lastly, it is important to forgive them.

    Forgive them for the hurtful words— the moments of disregard, forgetfulness, and even the lack of gratitude. I always seek to remember: we do all this for our children because Christ did so much more for us.

    • Nanette – AMAZING advice and perspective. So glad you took the time to post this – as so many people like me will need to hear it. I love your advice on leaving it alone. And then not saying “I told you so” if they choose that…but just what a great idea! No credit needed.
      sage sage advice. And thanks again! I will keep re-reading it I’m sure.