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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

August already and the days continue to slip away until we reach our new normal.

As I prepare to go to my 30th reunion, I am easily reminded of that last summer before I left home for the first time: working, going on dates, hanging out with friends, rarely being home with my family, and getting very little sleep. There was a frantic feeling of “now or never” with my current friends and an underlying concern that maybe I’d made the wrong decision about my future, especially as friends left for closer colleges, classes began for my friends still in high school, and I languished in limbo.

Why had I chosen to go so far away? To be alone where I knew no one? How would it be having to stay away from my family home for two and a half months, no matter whether or not things were going well?

In a lot of ways, I didn’t consider failure as an option. My choice just had to work. I didn’t have a fallback plan.

It helps that I chose to attend a small school where almost everyone had to make new friends. Even if some of them could go home or might know one or two other kids from high school, most people stayed on campus on the weekends.

But the truth is, there wasn’t a lot of time to be alone—there was too much happening. I remember it as one of the most natural and rewarding transitions of my life.

I don’t know how I figured out when to do my laundry or how much studying to do or how to balance social life with academic life or how to notice when maybe I’d burned the candle at both ends too often. I know I panicked at times, but then I dug in and did what needed to be done. Mostly it worked out and I had a great time. My parents were too far away to rescue me very much. We kids at college helped each other through our crises, although I’m sure I don’t know all the stories of those who somehow didn’t make the transition well.

Christiana and I went shopping on Sunday for things such as sheets, towels, and laundry supplies. We had to laugh because we saw a lot of moms and daughters out shopping, but no sons with their moms. I figure most of the guys are happy to have their moms pick up a couple towels and sheets—dark, of course—and they really don’t care about the rest. Yes, Jackson and I had picked out towels earlier, but softness was the major factor for him—he was perfectly happy with the colors I pointed out that would make his laundry life easier.

So my kids are where I was thirty years ago—and, just like then, sometimes things get a little tense at home. Our family and their friendships are changing, yet the kids have no idea what will happen in their futures. None of us does, really.

It seems to me more people worry these days about college not going well for their kids. Maybe it’s the money, but maybe it’s also the current climate around this transition. The word on the streets is this generation of parents doesn’t know how to let go. Gone are the days when long distance phone calls cost so much that families only talked once a week or less. Heck, I went to Spain for three months and only talked to my parents once for less than five minutes.

Today’s Denver Post has an article on college readiness for students, along with an article on readiness for parents. Apparently, one of the reasons colleges host orientation for parents (made our reservations yesterday) these days is to teach us how to parent from a distance without hindering them from growing by allowing our kids to learn some of those outside classroom lessons on their own. We’re not supposed to burn up the wires (do you think kids today know what that term means?) with multiple text messages, online communications, and phone calls trying to solve their problems. We’re to practice saying something like, “What do you think you will do about that?”

Someone suggested to Christiana that she was being unfair to her parents by going so far away to school. Heck, it’s in the same state—I went 1,000 miles away and could not return until the end of each quarter. Honestly, it’s a whole lot easier to take ownership for your problems and enjoy the social aspects of college when you can’t come home easily.

I’m going to miss my kids like crazy but I know it will be easier for all of us to adjust to our new roles by having some space to force us into the next steps. I think they’re going to have a great time—and so are we, even if it will be a little uncomfortable getting to that point.

Just as when I was pregnant, everyone wants to remind us our lives are going to change. Well, duh! And, as much as I get that, I remember that you can’t really “get” such a big change until you’re living it. But enough with the negative warnings to us: “Your house is going to be so quiet.” What do you want us to do? Put on mourning clothes and say our lives are over?

And stop telling the kids they won’t be able to handle it or pointing out all the areas where they might fail. If the initial experience doesn’t work out well enough, they’ll work through it. In this life there are do-overs and new beginnings—that’s part of learning, too.

Despite the bumps, the kids will be alright and so will we.

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