I’m wondering what kind of college mom I’ll be. With my daughter just starting her first year at the University of Miami, I’ve had many mixed emotions. I’ve gotten through the initial separation with the expected anxiety, tears and joy. Walking alone in the airport for my return trip, I was feeling sorry for myself because I’ll miss my daughter every single day (her charm, spirit, companionship, fashion advice, chatter….). And, then I had an epiphany—this is not a sad time! Sure, it is bittersweet, but we are so fortunate that my daughter is where she should be right now. How lucky she is to have this amazing opportunity! And, how lucky am I to be able to witness this next chapter of her life.
So, now that I am home and she is away until Thanksgiving, I have a mission—to be her mildly doting, but not at all intrusive mom. I am completely confident that she will flourish in her new, independent environment AND will be thrilled to get a card or care package from me. After all, up until the end of junior year I made her school lunch and periodically included personal notes ( including “Hope your day is great,” “Good luck at your game today,” and simply, “I love you xoxo.”) We laughed about how she was fully capable of making her own lunch and would happily do so, but she did not hesitate to allow me the personal pleasure of this mommy task. She was thrilled when she’d get a note and show it off to her friends. It makes sense then that within 24 hours of being home, I sent off a package of things she couldn’t fit in her luggage, eager to include my first note. I kept it simple, saving a store-bought card for next week’s mail.
Where in all of this does my mom fit in? She was not exactly a role model in this situation. She was just not the doting type. Other moms of girls in my college dorm brought their daughters food, clothing, etc. My favorite story is of a mom who would leave a pizza pie on her daughter’s car just minutes before she knew her daughter would get there—leaving so she would not interfere at all. My mom had to be asked, but if I did request clothes or dinner, she would follow through. A few years ago, my sister and I discussed the different recollection we each have of our mom’s involvement. I insisted that my mom made college care packages—giving food and supplies when we returned to college after a vacation. My sister does not recall receiving anything at all. I think reality is somewhere in between. My mom did not initiate any package. But, if on my way out I asked, she would allow me to fill a bag with a variety of things from her cupboard—soup, crackers, laundry detergent. Perhaps subconsciously, I brought this bag to Rutgers feeling like my mom put it together and handed it to me. My distortion helped me feel like I fit in with my roommate whose mom gave her bags of good things.
As with any new event or monumental moment, I think of how much I wish my mom was here to share these times. I wish I could tell her about my care packages and notes. And, with these changes going on in my life, I wonder what other moms did for their college children back then. Did moms typically send care packages or even letters to their daughters (my peers) while they were away at college? What do you moms do now? Has our helicopter parenting habits led us to excessive involvement when our children go off to college? What is excessive and do we keep our involvement under control?