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This is What we Want for Her: A Few Parting Words for my College Freshman

In one week we will move my only child into her college freshman dorm room. We will unpack, joke, arrange, laugh, bicker and organize. We will make sure she is comfortable, fed and settled. Then we will hug goodbye, exchange “I love yous” and wave as we pull away, watching her get smaller and farther out of my reach. I will see my heart on the outside of my chest, standing there on the sidewalk.

Suddenly, the Breakdown Reaper appear in my rear-view mirror, uninvited, but completely expected.

I will fervently bargain and beg It to go away. It will linger, however, patiently waiting for me to give in. Buckling under the weight of the tears, my composure dam will break. My husband, her adoring dad, will quietly utter in a cracked voice with his own wet eyes the one phrase that will carry us both through: “This is what we want for her.” Sigh. I know. He’s right. 

This is exactly what we want for her. To spread those strong, ready wings and soar so high from the nest that -just for a few seconds- she can no longer see it. The clouds are cool and soft on her cheeks, the wind is at her tail, and the world belongs to her. This is our coups de grace. The hopeful, faithful beginning of releasing kind, thriving adult children into the wild.

Letting them go is the hardest, holiest work there is to be done. We want to raise strong, independent, contributing, thoughtful members of society who don’t live in our basement forever. Or jail.

As hard as this will be, I know it’s time for her to go, for both our sakes. She needs this, and I want it for her. But while I need to let her go, I’ll never stop being her mom. A few last notes:

These are the Best Years of Your Life

College is an incredible privilege. Squeeze every ounce of experience you can from it, from Freshman to the end- wring it dry. You are in a rare time warp, a bubble between new adulthood and impending reality. You have time to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life and opportunities here that will help you figure out what that is with a safety net. Don’t waste it and don’t take any of it for granted.

Roommate Etiquette

Don’t leave food out-it smells and well, bugs. And you need to make your bed and put your clothes away. It’s a shared space and you’re just getting to know each other. Look out for each other, and other freshman, too. Let each other know if you are coming home late. Share your stuff, but not makeup or underwear. Of course this is weird. I’m your mom. 

Safety First and The Talk

I know you know this, but I’m saying it again.

Use the Buddy System! At night, at a party, off campus, in any area you are unfamiliar with. Be vigilant all the time and who cares if you look weird for looking around. Get your keys out before you walk out of where you’re leaving and don’t dilly dally in the dark. Keep one hand on your panic alarm and the other on your “special spray.” You literally cannot be too careful.

Listen to me on this one: Your body=your rules, your regret, your control. What you do will stay with you and a part of you forever, and so will herpes. Don’t EVER do something just to please or appease someone else. You are completely in charge here.

Drinking, et al

Drinking-eh, it’s not worth it. I know you will experiment but be in a safe place with safe people if you do. Booze quickly lowers your inhibitions and your wherewithal. You are smart and savvy when you’re sober. Alcohol steals this from you. Don’t chug, don’t accept dares, don’t play drinking games with liquor. Don’t leave your drink out of your sight. Refer to the Buddy System rule. Freshman and crazy wild child are not synonyms. commons sense applies.

Home is ALWAYS Home

No matter where we are you can always come home. For a weekend, a semester, a vacation, a respite, a segue. Our roof is yours, our refrigerator is stocked and your bed is made.

Go do all the things. Be your biggest fan. Give your light to the world.

Juli Schafer

Juli is a non-fiction writer based in northern Virginia. She is a freelance contributor for the Television Academy and on her own time writes to encourage herself and other women that the best is always still ahead. She’s has courted and broken up with body issues, depression and emotional numbing, and is working on limited visitation with over-sensitivity, comparison and feeling ‘less than.’ After graduating from Penn State University, dreams of being a magazine writer-editor uprooted her to the Washington DC area, but stiff competition and some aforementioned demon-battling shifted those dreams to a reality in entrepreneurship. Fast forward several small businesses and a few decades later: she and her husband currently run a from-scratch restaurant and cupcake bakery, but she doesn’t bake or cook. Talk about a bloom-where-you’re-planted story. She has one child, Abby, 18, who lights up the world. She is on fire for the power of connection and freedom we get from sharing our stories, making peace with our quirks and REALly living.

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