Guest Post by Julie Wolf, freelancer writer and parent
In late August, my daughter started her first year at a large urban university not far from home, and, since then, I’ve heard from her a handful of times. A couple of weeks ago, though—Thursday, September 12, 2019, not that I’m keeping track—she actually texted! But she didn’t text to say “I love you.” She wanted information. She had walked to CVS with some friends (new friends! Yay! She’s making friends!) so that they could get flu shots, and while she’d brought her insurance card, she wanted the first five digits of her Social Security Number. (She knew the last four.) “Just in case they need more information.”
This text filled me with glee, and not only because she‘d actually gotten in touch. (Sorry, parents, you’ll soon discover that my desperation isn’t uncommon. Despite having every means of communication literally at their fingertips, when left to their own devices, they don’t always use those devices to reach out to Mom and Dad.) I ran down the list of all the things this text proved I’d successfully taught her before she left home:
- She knew not to write her Social Security Number in a text.
- She knew to bring her insurance card to CVS.
- She knew to get a flu shot!
But wait. I’d never said anything about a flu shot. Ready for college without a doubt! Here it was, still officially summer, and she’d up and decided to go to CVS on her own, to get vaccinated far earlier than she would have if she were still at home. (Confession: I’m notoriously delinquent at scheduling flu shots for my kids, and they’ve been relegated to the late-winter flu shot wait list more times that I care to admit.) Could there be clearer evidence that she was a responsible young woman, taking charge of her own well-being, concerned for her own health and that of everyone in her dorm? She was most certainly becoming an adult. I took the opportunity to congratulate myself. You done good, Mom. (Pats self on back.)
Actually, Mom, she done good. This episode had little to do with me or my summer-before-college “Important Lessons for Independence.” The flu shot was her idea, not mine. What else did I miss? I taught her to do laundry and loaded her down with a package of pods that will last her all four years, minimum. I wanted her room to be homey, so I spent hours helping her select too many decorative pillows for a bed that’s too small to accommodate them all. I encouraged her to read her email Every. Single. Day, because there is certain to be something very important in it from Financial Aid or from a professor, with deadlines that I won’t be there to help keep track of. I told her to get involved in clubs but not to overcommit; to learn where the health services office is located in case she ever needs to talk to someone; to be nice to the university workers who have the thankless jobs of cleaning the bathrooms and preparing the food for thousands of students who tend to look past and through them, if they bother to look at them at all; to learn her professors’ office hours and sign up for them; to stop sleeping through her alarm; to call an escort from campus security to walk her home if she’s out alone at night; to be open to new ideas and activities but to also know how to say ”No”; to never drink out of a cup that a person hands her at a party; to stride boldly outside of her comfort zone and yet remain true to herself, simultaneously, that dizziest of balancing acts; and, of course, to call her mother weekly.
I received advice, too, from a very wise friend who told me: “Accept that everything is up to her now. She decides when and how to do what she feels needs to be done.”
My daughter hasn’t called weekly. I have no idea if she’s checking her email or going to office hours. But she did get a flu shot without my scheduling it for her. Anything else I missed, she’s going to have to figure it out on her own. And I know she will.
About the Author
Julie Wolf, the sole proprietor of Qwerty Editorial, is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Framingham, MA, with her husband and their three children: an eighth-grader, a high school sophomore, and a first-year college student. She can be reached through LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliewolf-editorial/.