About the author. Dr. Widick is a graduate of the University of Missouri and the UMKC School of Dentistry. Having just sent her first child, Abbey, off to Texas Christian University, she offers the following words for others sending a child off to school … or having a friend or family member who is doing so. Dr. Widick lives in Lee’s Summit, MO with husband Darrin and younger daughter Allie.
***DISCLAIMER – I haven’t written a paper for a grade in nearly three decades. I am not the professional writer in our family, although I did write this myself. I don’t mean to offend anyone whose child goes off to college closer to home; I am just explaining my reasoning in coping with this change for me. Forgive me for threatening to give the finger to two total strangers – I didn’t follow through with it though. And, finally, this was supposed to be advice for my friends who have yet to send a child off to college, but it turned into more of a written purge of my emotions.
“Don’t Read It”
Don’t read the mushy stuff. It’s on Facebook and people talk about it all the time. It starts fairly early during senior year, and it will sneak up on you. And next thing you know, you’ve read some of it and are crying. It doesn’t help — it just makes you cry on days when you can’t afford red, swollen eyes and ruined make-up. You are going to take family photos, love them with all their flaws, and savor every last moment without these reminders.
I have apologized to Allie for what must have felt like a shrine to Abbey around our house for the past six months. I really and truly love them 100% equally. It’s just that all the end-of-senior-year-stuff, prom, graduation party, graduation, shopping for dorm room, shopping for college clothes .. is time-consuming and seemed to never end. I told Allie frequently that I will do all of this for her, too, in three years. It still must have been hard for her. So my advice is to recognize this to the other siblings and hope they can accept it until it’s their turn for the shrine.
Waterproof mascara may help, but using it every day is rather inconvenient. Maybe my better-trained-in-make-up-friends could have taught me more. I would have bought it. What’s another $20? (That concept has applied to way too many expenditures the last 90 days). Those unexpected tears creep up on you at the weirdest times…during a pedicure (true story) when you hear Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” on the salon sound system. Or when you are in the car with her and she grabs your hand when one of your mutual favorite songs comes on the radio. Or when you are at church the last Sunday before she leaves and know she won’t sit next to you the following Sunday.
“A Break Up”
It feels kind of like a break up with a boyfriend, I guess. I know we aren’t breaking up our “mother-daughter relationship,” it’s just changing our normal. And change is hard for me. Very hard. How can you love your kid so much it hurts? Is that how it’s supposed to be? I missed so many of these memos on parenthood.
And, of course, there is that darn distance between us now. I don’t know the cure for this. But NEVER tell another friend, “Oh, you would miss them just as much if they were closer.” No. No, really I wouldn’t. We all know that’s not the case. Do the math. Greater distance equals greater travel time … to go see them, for them to come home, to take them something they need, to take them out to dinner, or just knowing if you wanted to get to them for any reason, it will be harder. Not impossible, but definitely harder. And harder means you will see them less frequently. Simple as that.
It’s hard work growing a baby. Exhausting, actually. Even harder work parenting that child. But, letting her go is the hardest step I’ve taken yet. This is heartbreaking … like when you make her cry herself to sleep at age 9 months and it takes 3+ hours, only to sneak back in and check on her to find that her leg is hanging out between (approved) crib slats. It’s pain like the first few times you leave her at daycare or the church nursery and she looks at you and cries fiercely, begging you to come back and get her. It’s pain worse than childbirth without an epidural (which I did twice but not by choice). It’s pain when someone tells you it’s not that bad. Yes. Yes, it is. And don’t tell me it would hurt the same even if she went to MU. No. No, it wouldn’t. It’s that distance thing.
Watch this space for Part 2 – Move-In Day