After returning from a college orientation for my daughter this summer, the one big takeaway for me was the fact that I need to adjust to the changes getting ready to occur with her as she leaves the nest.
I can no longer be the one holding the reigns tightly in both hands. From the decision to pick her major to her choosing her classes, it must ultimately be her decision that she makes. On advice from people at orientation, they suggested to parents to try not to use the word “should.” They told us that this word has a connotation of duty or obligation. While I wanted to tell my daughter she should take math the first semester because it is fresh in her mind, or she should join some extracurricular group, I kept my mouth shut. There is a fine balance between a suggestion and an obligation. She will not learn to make her own decisions if I am constantly telling her what to do. One of the hardest things for a parent is letting your kids make their own decisions or lack of decisions. Many times a child doesn’t make any kind of decision and the opportunity just passes them by. This is ultimately a decision; a decision to not take the opportunity. This too, is a great learning tool.
As I think about the word “should” in my everyday conversation, I realize that I use it way more than I should:) I say,”You should get your hair cut, you should not drink coffee this late, you should drink more water”, and the list goes on and on. I’m going to make a more conscious effort to rephrase my conversations with her and get her input more.
I’m already learning to ask her what she wants and let her come to me when she needs help. I can tell since she graduated from high school that the relationship is shifting already. She is more independent and less reliant. I am learning to get used to the distance. She is pulling away, as she should. And while the notion of reigning her in seems like a good idea, the tether is very long and I’m confident she won’t strangle herself. If I wasn’t, she would not be going off to college.
I’m preparing myself the best I can for her first visit home too. The one where we tiptoe around each other until we finally find our groove; a new groove though: one where she is making her own decisions and including us in the details. One where she occupies the same room she used to but isn’t the same person who resided there a few months earlier. That is a weird concept to wrap my brain around. I know it will be a struggle but we will figure it out. What our relationship will be like and how exactly it will change is too hard to determine.
What I know for sure is time is running out quickly and I better make the adjustments fast.