Let Go and Enjoy the Journey

By: Kathy Lara, proud Lumberjack parent to David (2016) and Allysia (2017)

From one parent to another, let me start by saying “You’ve got this!”

My journey started when my oldest decided to attend NAU in 2012 and continued when my youngest followed 2 years later. I recall waking up in the middle of the night wondering if I had taught them all the things they needed to know to leave home and handle college life.

As I began this journey with my youngest, I realized that it was going to be a completely different experience than the one I had with her older brother. She’s completely different and would need me in entirely different ways than he did.

My heart hurt every time I thought about Move-In day, but I knew that I needed to make it a positive experience that she would remember forever — not a day that she was sad because I was. She was preparing to start a brand new adventure and no matter how much my heart hurt, I was still full of excitement for her.

We chose NAU for many reasons. It was close enough to make the drive in one day, but far enough that she could not come home every weekend. Don’t get me wrong — I wanted nothing more than to spend weekends with her, but I also knew that she needed to have a college experience to remember, not one where she was driving home every weekend.

I encouraged her to meet new people, join clubs and groups, participate in activities and attend events. The school has so much to offer that there is no reason to ever be bored. In fact, the bigger problem would be deciding which events to attend.

I learned that as she was finding herself, so was I. I was learning to be the Mom of a college student.

I love the calls in the middle of the day and text messages saying “you’re never going to believe this.”

Of course I worry about her — but it’s different now. She’s making decisions on her own and calling to say “what do you think about this?”

She still needs support, but she’s learning to trust her own judgment and I’m excited to watch her grow into an amazing, confident young woman.

Five years later, I realize that as much as my children have changed and grown while attending NAU — so have I.

With my youngest on the verge of graduating in just a few months, I feel that I am ready to see her cross the stage and begin the next phase of her life. She has had amazing experiences, grown into an amazing young lady with a mind of her own and she’s ready to take on the world.

I’m frequently asked, “What would you tell new parents as they begin this journey?”

Well, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…

Buy the “stuff” if it makes YOU feel better

They don’t really need that much to live in the dorm, but of course we want to provide all the comforts of home, so we go overboard. We coordinate their dishes with their bedding and purchase things that they will probably never use. But it makes US feel better knowing that they have everything. So do it if it make you feel better.

Help them move into the dorm and set up, but then give them some space.

As stressful as move-in day may be, it’s a good idea to give them a little space too. Unload the car and even help make the bed, but then walk away for a bit.

Catch your breath and give them a chance to take it all in. Go grab a cup of coffee or make a trip to the store to get those last minute items to put in the mini refrigerator. Come back and let them show you what they’ve accomplished and introduce you to their new friends. Then, spend those last few hours enjoying time together, have dinner and prepare yourself for the trip home.

Make a plan to communicate

It’s a great idea to decide together when and how you will communicate. Will you call, Skype, Hangout or just send text messages? This is that time for you to check in and find out how things are going. Enjoy the frequent text messages in the beginning, but remember that if they slow down, it’s because they are busy with college life.

Encourage involvement

My daughter is all over campus with her internships for NAU Social Media

There is so much happening on campus. Encourage students to find something that interests them and get involved. It’s important to get to know the college community and become an active participant, enjoy the experience and create memories.

Send care packages 💌

Fill up boxes with necessities and nonsense and send them off. They will love it no matter what you put inside. Reminders of home and just how much they are loved are a great way to keep students going and to make YOU feel better too.

Listen and guide, DON’T do it for them

They will encounter things they have never had to deal with before. Be prepared to listen and guide them toward the resources available to solve their own problems. As much as you want to fix things, that’s the worst thing you can do.

Let them:

· Find & purchase their own textbooks

· Work out their roommate issues

· Speak to professors about classes/grades

It’s empowering for them to handle things for themselves. You will be amazed if you just give them the opportunity to show you.

Remember, this is their college experience NOT yours

It’s easy to forget that they are growing up and they can make decisions on their own, but it’s important to remember that this experience is theirs to create. They have four years to be a college student and so much to accomplish. They may make choices that you don’t agree with, but they are decisions that they need to make in order to grow into the person they are meant to be.

Most of all, enjoy the journey with them 💛💙

Express your excitement and disapproval when you have it. They are adults now, they can handle it. Soon they will be entering the working world, hopefully using that degree they spent so much time earning.

Encourage them to try new things, go places and have adventures.

Before you know it, you will be sitting in the Skydome watching them cross the stage at graduation and their college years will be memories for both of you.

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It’s always a great day to be a Lumberjack! Join the conversation and share your #NAU story.

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