If your grad seems “prickly” this summer…
…you’re not alone. When my eldest was heading off to college, I was new to it all and just didn’t understand but now with three having gone, I finally GET IT. My mindset for the first, my son Ryan, was this: “HOLD IT! Remember this is your last 'regular' summer with us. EVERYTHING IS SIGNIFICANT!” I infused all our regular events with this weird energy that made everything seem like a bigger deal than it was.
As a result, I got some “prickly” responses from my kids which sometimes hurt me, sometimes annoyed me and sometime just made me sad. (A similar phenomenon will happen when you drop them off, but I have 8 great tips for that as it gets closer.)
What I finally realized was even though the entire world is saying to our kids, “Wow, this is amazing, aren’t you so excited?,” they are feeling some genuine trepidation. They might not share those fears or concerns because they don't want us to worry.
My daughter put it perfectly a few weeks ago because she was heading off to a six-week summer session in Italy and was getting those same comments about being excited and being lucky. “Mom, how do I say I’m actually NOT excited, I’m actually really scared and I feel terrible because I know I’m really lucky to be going. If I say how I really feel, I seem ungrateful.”
It’s the classic Catch-22.
I ultimately learned to not personalize the behavior. I stopped labeling all our typical summer events as such a big deal. I essentially stopped giving any advice at all about how they “should” be spending their time in the summer.
I stopped inferring in any way that their life was about to change dramatically. I especially stopped reminding them in those subtle “mom ways” of how lucky they were and how appreciative they should be.
It’s not always easy when they make a face like you have the worst taste in the world as you hold up a ridiculously expensive comforter and say “How about this one?” I stopped suggesting anything in the stores, actually, unless I was asked, lol.
I also learned to stop voicing my own anxieties in those mom ways. “Boy oh boy, those tailgates have a lot of booze. I bet it can get crazy there so…” I stopped the advice and warnings because I realized they couldn’t HEAR them from me.
I realized they would figure it out and having gone through two orientations, I also realized that the school itself was going to point out the pitfalls and give the advice. They were far more likely to listen to someone else, not me, lol.
I finally settled on grabbing some food with them and during the meal asking, “Hey is there anything you want to talk about regarding college, things you are looking forward to or things you are worried about?”
I also gave one bit of mom-professor advice: “Remember it takes THREE months for the average person to get used to anything new – even if it’s a great thing – it’s still an adjustment."
I've found that three month rule to be particularly true with each of my kids, so I took their calls that first semester with a grain of salt and just encouraged them to give it some time before they made any permanent judgments about the school, their roommates, their major or their classes.
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