Change Continued. Go Figure.
At NNU, the Freshman Orientation experience was a three-day process for the parents and a four-day event for the kids. These days were filled with student/parent meetings, departmental receptions, technology meetings for the kids, department head meetings for the adults, special family meal gatherings, a presidential scholarship recognition gathering and worship.
One of the most memorable things that was spoken at the Freshman Orientation weekend was something the president said. His caution went something like this, “Listen to your children’s voices as they call home. Listen for any difference in their tone. Do you remember back when they were children and how you could tell the difference between the cry over a scraped knee versus the cry of a broken bone? Listen to your children as they call home. Listen for the difference in their voice. When the cry sounds more like a broken bone, that’s when we want you to call us and fill us in on what’s going on so we can help.” The message: some change isn’t for the best.
We found a lot of comfort in that. It also became a helpful tool for us sooner than we expected.
But First…Let the Games Begin!
Week one was tough. We were sad. We cried a lot. It was a long week. Pain. Full. Change.
Our daughter came home on Friday, and that was SO good! But sleep and homework took over most of the weekend. When she had to leave on Sunday, we knew we wouldn’t see her for two weeks. This made for a very painful goodbye. For me it was like having a new scab skinned right off again. The pain was worse than before. I cried more and was able to function less. I didn’t want to go out in public. I didn’t care about anything. I had no creativity within me, only pain. This made my job of Preparing for Rain nearly impossible.
How do you inspire others to chase their dreams when you don’t even care about your own?
I am sharing this with you because I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I’ve been told by two different professionals that letting your children go away to college is a difficult time for any parents.
And for parents of only children it is especially difficult when their child goes to college. This is our change.
Whether you have one or more children, this is a very major transition in your life, and you need to be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel your feelings so that you can get through them and get to the other side.
You need to do it for you. You need to do it for your child. They need to know you will be able to move forward as they strive to move forward. They need to know that you’re going to be OK. Doing so frees them up to go on their journey and helps them to be brave as they take on their own adventures and challenges.
So we struggled through weeks two and three. Struggled. We had some tough lows but by the end of the third week our spirits improved as we anticipated our baby coming home for her birthday, which happily for us happened to be on Friday. Yeah! It was a delightful time together celebrating. We had a good weekend, in spite of lots of homework again. But we squeezed in a party with friends Saturday night.
Once Sunday came, so did my tears.
It was still difficult to let her go again.
I couldn’t stop the tears. But I assured her not to worry about the tears. They just meant that I miss her but that I am also excited for her and am looking forward to hearing more stories. More stories about her changes. She understood.
It’s been an emotional roller coaster, for sure.
To Post or Not To Post
I haven’t posted much on Facebook about the experience for two reasons:
- I don’t want our daughter to feel bad. This is what is supposed to be happening. It’s time for her to fly.
- People, in general, are uncomfortable with sadness and often say thoughtless things to try to wish it away.
However, my sadness cannot be wished away. Nor should it be. People in pain need to be allowed to experience their feelings. It is when we stuff our feelings that we get stuck we don’t have a chance to work through our feelings and get on the other side and move forward.
Change is moving forward.
I already know that allowing my child to fly is the way it is supposed to be. I get that. I want that for her. And yes, I know she is only 30 minutes away. But when it comes right down to it, having her 30 minutes or 30 hours away doesn’t make her empty bedroom any less empty. It doesn’t make the cats stop staring at us, confused, or keep the dog from waiting at the garage door for her to walk in.
Recipe For Change: Two Ears One Mouth
I encourage you to remember the next time you are interacting with someone else’s sadness, to slow down, turn on your ears, turn off your mouth and just be there for them.
If you are experiencing your own sadness, it is okay to feel it. That is how you get through it. That is the path change takes. Acknowledge it. Communicate it. Write it out. Talk about it. Sing about it. You have got to work it through. Give yourself the time necessary to get on the other side.
During week four it became clear to us that our daughter’s voice had changed from the scraped knee to the broken bone.
A very difficult roommate situation was becoming emotionally unhealthy and was taking much too long to resolve.
Hearing her struggle was painful, especially when verbal abuse became part of the dynamic. It was hard not to get too caught up in the situation, remembering my own experiences of being verbally abused by peers as a teen. It pushed some of my buttons. Hard. It was hard to be objective.
She went through the required channels to communicate the problem to the right people, but unfortunately what happens behind closed doors can be hard to explain or prove. When things were taking too long, we finally got involved and talked to people higher up the food change to help expedite a resolution. The roommate moved to another room. It worked.
Getting to visit our daughter at the school a couple days later brought a lot of comfort to my soul. Seeing her body was no longer covered in a severe stress rash was a great relief.
I shared with Jessica that she will become a much stronger, more independent person because of this experience. I have encouraged her to reach out and get to know some of the girls in her engineering program. These girls are completely separate from the girls in her dorm wing. Separating herself from being part of the “wing amoeba” that her freshman wing has developed into will help her mature, stretch and grow.
Becoming comfortable being independent is an important part of maturing. One of the most significant changes we make. Teens often become part of a large group “amoeba” to feel safe. But it ends up keeping them from stretching and growing.
A bit of ugh for everyone.
Ultimately this time of change involves a mixture of sadness and being uncomfortable for all members of our family. It is just experienced differently.
Students do their best to get used to a whole new everything, all on their own. Driving in a new town, keeping track of their own time, laundry, responsibilities…and supplies of snacks. In a way, they get introduced to themselves for the first time. Big changes!
Parents struggle to get used to the silence. Their teenager’s energy is vibrating off someone else’s walls. No longer experiencing the joyful highs and the down-in-the-dumps lows alongside their kids. They have to accept reports, hearing about some things long after the fact. And Empty Nesters get to know each other all over again. Change!
Getting comfortable with sadness can be a really helpful tool for your future. Also acknowledging discomfort and speaking it out loud takes away some of its power and helps you keep moving forward.
Change happens. When have you had to deal with big change in your life? How did you get through it?
Add to the conversation. We’ll be glad you did.