It Is What It Is: And just like that, college is half over
She’s home. She’s finally home. After 8months, a crap ton of care packages, and more daily reminders than I care to admit to check her bank account balance, our oldest daughter is back under our roof. And that means one beautiful and long-awaited thing … I can finally sleep without my ringer on and my phone’s volume on max. (Eight months is a long time to be sleep-deprived.)
Just like that, the stage of life that has one of the biggest, most highly anticipated buildups and fear factors, that we spend so much time and effort preparing ourselves and our kids for, is half over. Like, bam, she’s a junior in college now and I really don’t know what the hell just happened.
I mean, we spend so much time and effort preparing our kids just to be ready to start thinking about college. Then even more time and energy guiding them through the actual process of looking for one. Then we invest our heart and soul and life savings in the school they ultimately choose. And then we emotionally prepare ourselves to send our kids off for another 4 years. But no one actually tells us that those 4 years of college will whiz by like dog years.
It’s just a little surreal right now, that’s all I’m saying. After all the acclimating and the stressed-out phone calls and the Find My iPhone searches to make sure she was still in one piece, my daughter and all her crap is scattered all over her room, as well as an abnormally large section of our basement. (Thankfully, that part of the basement has a door.)
And I think even she was a little taken aback by the reality that she’s a junior now. Because on the drive home from school, with the entire car jammed with halogen lamps, awkwardly large plastic storage bins, and more actual crap than I’ve accumulated over the course of my entire life, it hit her very suddenly and kind of powerfully that she was exactly at the halfway mark of her college career. And in that moment, I’m not sure if that knowledge was more sobering to her or to us.
That’s because, even though we’re sending our kids out into the world when they go off to college, we do it with the caveat that they’re coming back -- at least for most major holidays and summer vacation. They know it and we know it. So although we get emotional at the thought of them living away, they don’t actually leave for good when they go away to college. That happens later … four absurdly quick years later.
And although there’s a lot for everyone to come to terms with when our kids make the jump to college life, it’s not a permanent arrangement. There are still safety mechanisms in place -- like our kid’s bedroom at home remaining fully intact and their name still being on our health insurance plan -- that allows everyone to ease into the scary world of college slowly, without being too traumatized by the sudden change in, well, everything.
In most cases, our college kids know, at least subconsciously, that they’re not paying rent or utilities or big car payments or grocery bills as long as they’re in school. And on some level that’s got to be pretty reassuring because they’re still being taken care of even though the clock is most definitely ticking. Quickly.
But the reality does eventually hit them that they’re ultimately going to have to get their grown-up on and starting taking total care of themselves. That’s why I think this midpoint was an especially nostalgic and bizarre place to be, because it signifies that we’re past the halfway mark. It’s an unmistakable marker that we’ve/they’ve got only 2 years left to go, and those 2 years are going to fly by at least as fast as the first two did. And that before too long, we’ll be packing up the dorm room or the skanky apartment for the last time and they’ll be going off on their own for good.
For now, though, I’m going to secretly roll around in the piles of heavy duty garbage bags filled with all her stanky clothes and relish in the fact that we’ve got exactly 4 months to unpack, wash, and sort everything before we repack it all for the fall. I’m going to quietly celebrate the fact that my baby is tucked safely under her covers across the hall until September.
Because in only two short years, when she graduates from college and starts wearing her big-girl panties for real, out in the real world, I’m gonna be using that Find My iPhone app 24/7/365 and probably never sleep a full night ever again.
Til then, I prefer to think of it like, OMG, I can’t believe she still has two whole years to go! (There’s nothing like playing mind games with yourself to help keep you sane.)
-- Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at www.lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, BeingaMom.life, GrownandFlown.com and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots -- And How to Get Free available on Amazon.com and at select bookstores.