When the thought of college looms brighter and brighter in a mother’s mind, the accompanying feelings can become scarier and scarier. It is not that we did not know this was coming; it is not that we have not taught him everything we knew and wanted him to know. It is just that–well—he is going to be alone, without your all-seeing eye aiming a stun gun onto his back should he decide that sin looks like more fun than self-control. It is that you will not know where he is at a particular hour, if he is studying like he is supposed to, or if he is even attending classes instead of standing around the corner of a building smoking crack with the bad crowd he connected with in Week Two.
It may sound harsh, but if you cannot respect your child now, you probably never will. What used to be a helpless babe is now a fully functioning adult, and though you may not be impressed with the decisions he has made thus far, he is now living in his world and has to make his own bed and lie in it without Mommy coming along to straighten the sheets and fluff up his pillow. Unfortunately, I am that mommy, but we will not get into that right now….
Yes, you have a right to worry. Your child—um, adult—can do anything he wants to do, whenever he wants to do it, and he will not run anything by you for approval anymore. Aaaargh! So now that you have fallen onto the carpet shag, gripping shreds of it with your teeth, stay there awhile and begin to breathe again. While you are there, answer some questions:
Does my child want to go to college?
Why does he want to go?
What does he see himself doing with his degree?
These questions will help you get the focus off college and back onto where it belongs—your child.
Love and Respect
Now that the carpet is nice and wet, here are a few more questions to ponder while your eyes slowly open and you track the popcorn on the ceiling.
Of what is it that you are afraid? What is the bottom line? The problem is, even if you want to send her to a tiny local college ten minutes from the house, this is really not your choice anymore. You can put your foot down if she wants to go to USC because you fondly know it as the University of Scared Caucasians, but you cannot control her decisions for the rest of her life. You might want to keep her at home taking online classes so that you know she is safe
Hopefully she loves and respects your opinion, but equally hopefully, her life is no longer run by your agenda for it. Your original plan was not to send a pushover into society. You wanted her to learn how to think for herself after gathering wisdom from trusted sources; you wanted her to learn self-control. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:27, [ESV]) If you make this life-changing choice for her, it is like breaking into her city and leaving her defenseless.
As a mom whom she trusts, you can sit down with her and outline your concerns, or you can point out all the positive aspects of different universities/colleges. Obvious points are: safety on campus, affordable housing, recognized faculties, sports opportunities, and available scholarships. Highlight her talents, gifts, and strengths. Explain why you think one college might be a better fit for her over another. Keep it positive instead of filled with fear.
The college your child picks might be the party college of the whole country, but she has probably picked it because of other things like the small classes, or perhaps she knows other friends planning on going there. It may turn out that the hunk of burning love she has had a crush on for the last three years is going there, but even that need not give you a minor coronary—it will be an excellent lesson for her to learn in making better decisions (that do not involve wannabe flames) in the future.
Panning for Gold
A friend’s daughter, Rachel, insisted that she was meant to go to New York and learn the fashion trade. She had prayed about it, believed that it was God leading her there, and told her mom she needed to let her go. Her mom did, and over the next few months Rachel went through many trials. She was alone, broke, and weary of trying to get low-end jobs; but God shone into her darkness and showed her hope and love. Now He really is in the center of her life. She had to see what life was like without Him to know how much she needed Him.
Apart from God, respect is the key ingredient in keeping marriages strong. It is the same in our relationships with our grown child—we must begin to respect him and treat him as an adult. It is really not the end of the world if he makes bad choices in his first year—the wrong college, the wrong degree, the wrong state. Most of the subjects are basic, and transfers are easy to make. He can never learn about how to function freely unless he is truly free. That is the one thing we love about God—we are truly free to make mistakes and learn from them, even through we may look back now and sigh. If we ask God where He was in the midst of our ineptitude, we can see His hand panning through our muck to find the gold.
Your child is not a disaster waiting to happen; he is a package of blessing waiting to shine in his campus community. By stepping back and showing your child you believe in him and his decision-making ability, you can help him forge a new season of life (while all the time keeping the phone charged and ready, just in case he might shock you and ask for more advice).
Sally Hanan – has written 3 posts on this site.
Sally Hanan is a native Irishwoman who left her homeland to settle in Texas thirteen years ago. Her two children have always been homeschooled, and she homeschools a neighbor’s two children also. Sally writes for various magazines and books, is a lay counselor/singer/youth event coordinator at her church, and owns a small business that manufactures educational phonic helps: www.eagermind.com.