My husband and I just sent our second child off to college. We were familiar with the unsettling feelings of whether you gave them all the tools to be successful as they head out the door. With both kids, we tried to have the conversations about sexuality drinking and drugs, relationships, taking good care of your health, eating right, the importance of exercise for relieving stress, managing your money, taking appropriate precautions. These conversations never happened exactly as planned but I’m not sure perfection is necessary in these circumstances.
With our son, we had to coax him out of his room to have these conversations. We awkwardly requested time to talk which he now says felt like he was being summoned to the board room for an inquisition. Now he has a sense of humor about it all and has joked that these conversations prepared him for oral arguments in college classes because they provided early attempts to manage stressful situations. My husband and I found ourselves having to remind him that we were on the same team so clearly our messages had to be polished. We hoped to do better with our second child.
Our daughter kept herself SUPER busy during the months before heading off to school. I think this was her coping mechanism and we tried to create occasions where opportunities to talk would more naturally present themselves. On one occasion, I had planned for a long car trip to be the perfect setting but she clearly had other ideas. A disagreement over the type and volume of music during the drive zapped my ability to have a productive conversation. On another car trip, I decided not to let the opportunity slip by so I forced out what I wanted to say but it was not the exchange I had hoped for.
She is now off at college and we made it through the difficult separation process. We now have one final child at home with opportunities to have important conversations because we aren’t juggling so may schedules. The fact that this daughter has watched us send off the other two kids has made her wise beyond her years. We seem more able to find time to connect on important issues more easily. Granted, she still hasn’t reached the dreaded age where sass is a daily occurrence. We find that our dogs Blanche and Stella provide a calming influence and a new focal point. We added Stella into the family more recently and as a way of easing the blow for all.