I took my second oldest daughter to college on Friday, August 21, 2020. The months leading up to her departure, I wasn’t totally sure she was ready to make the move to college. She kept assuring me she was. We made the two hour drive down, got her checked in, and then moved her in. Three hours later, she was settled and after a few tears we got in our cars and drove back home. It is so hard for me to believe she was off. Throughout her life I have worried that she was not quite ready for certain next steps. Perhaps it is because she is young for her grade, she is petite physically, and she is a sensitive young woman, I tended to worry more about her. With all that she has endured, she has shown that she is resilient, a fighter, and when she makes up her mind, she goes all in. (Maybe it’s the Taurus in her.) She handled the first week like a champ, her computer crashed and by herself she was able to get a new one. She is on her own, getting to her classes (via Zoom) and handling her course load. She is busy from the moment she wakes up until she goes to bed. Participating in sorority rush, meeting new people and trying new activities, amidst the new normal. I could not be more proud and humbled.
Less than 2 weeks away at school, she texted me on a Sunday night and said that her roommate and another friend were going to drive home for one night and then head back to school the next day. As soon as I read this I knew the answer was a hard no. In all the confusion and changes with COVID-19, and learning that they would be taking their classes online, I tried to convince her to stay home to take her classes. To that suggestion she was a hard no. She wanted the full college experience by living on campus. So when she said she wanted to come home for one night in the middle of the week I was not okay with it. My reasons are resolute. I feel as though she needs to be at school for at least 4 weeks before she comes back to her creature comforts. I do not want her driving unnecessarily up and back on a highway where there tend to be lots of accidents. And to be totally transparent, I did not want the disruption. We all are getting used to our new normal and none of us gets to escape on a whim.
My response was not one she welcomed. She explained to me that one of the perks of going to college so close was that she could come home whenever she wanted to. To which I responded, that is not a perk. Then I explained what I believe the perk of going to college so close is. If she were to get sick or there was an emergency we could get to her in two hours or less. She told me that ALL of her friends were coming home and that she was going to be all alone. She then proceeded to tell me that all her friends’ moms were so happy that their kids were coming home and “I was the only one who didn’t want to see her kid”. I love my kids more than anything in the world and spending time with them is my favorite past time. This wasn’t about me not wanting see her, this was about her finding the tools to figure out how to ‘be’ without her roommate and learn that it’s okay to miss your family and boyfriend. She told me she was 18 and could do what she wanted. To this I said if you come home pack all your things because you are not going back. She hung up on me! I gave her a few hours and then I called to check in. I asked her about other friends who I figured would not be going home and she told they were not. Although not happy with me, she was resolved in the decision that was made.
Saying “no” to my daughter, especially because she is so convincing, tugs at my heart. But I knew in my heart and gut this was a situation she could handle. Later, I was telling my girlfriend about the entire situation and she affirmed my decision, but then asked me, “isn’t it so hard to say no?” To this, I said yet again, NO. I believe this is me standing strong in my decision, which hopefully will show my daughter what strength looks like. Staying at school for at least 4 weeks will give her strength to persevere. She gets to own her fortitude by not coming home just because she wants to.
Here are a few things I learned from this scenario:
Perhaps I didn’t clearly set the boundaries for going to college in state, but it’s okay to pivot and implement on the spot.
I can stand strong in my decisions even if it it displeases my child.
We all make situations mean different things. We get decide what story we want to tell.