There was a plan…and then there was reality.
The plan: Wait until after the kid was settled into his freshman dorm to tell a sweet tale of conflicting emotions and misty reflection on the car ride to and from campus. The plan was to put a sentimental bow on the Send Son To College experience and fill this space with love and hope.
The reality: I feel like ripping up that bow, stomping it into oblivion, and hiding in a blanket fort before the van is even packed with dorm supplies.
Since December, when our teen son announced that he was “mentally checked out of high school” a full semester before he literally checked-out of high school, life at the House of Vollenweider has been…chaotic.
And no one in this house handled it well.
Like a lot of parents, I’ve shared the fun and funny moments. They really happened, but the whole story is hidden because I don’t share the not-so-pretty parts.
But that ends now.
For starters, my husband, Brian, and I didn’t come up with a plan on how to adjust to our son’s new, looming independence. We had the gift of time, we could see the consequences of mistakes (mostly because we had made the same ones) but we were using two different playbooks to respond when Luke made them, too.
One was titled, “Step Back, Waaay Back” and the other was, “Loud Life Lessons.” Then, when Luke looked like he was headed for a mistake, I would freak-out and Brian would be chill but the next time we reversed roles. Worse: we were slow to praise his good decisions or compliment his many summer accomplishments.
We didn’t keep our mouths shut when he tried on figurative hats that we thought didn’t work for him; we resisted giving up control — we thought we had raised him to be a certain type of man and when he made his own choices in opposition of that vision we tried to turn him back on our track.
We told too many “when I was your age” stories.
By his May graduation, the whole family started to act, well, weird. We were caricatures of ourselves. The ways that we normally dealt with stress were exaggerated and moods flipped like my dad’s pancakes on a Sunday morning: Fast and in large batches.
The kids squabbled more than they ever had but sincere declarations of missing Luke after he moved were just as prevalent as “I can’t wait for you to leave!”
“I love you so much!”
“I hate you!”
It’s been loud and extreme in this house for months; the lows -super low, the tender moments super loving and my Parental Failure Gauge was about to max out.
Then I Googled.
TEEN FAMILY BEHAVIOR BEFORE MOVING TO COLLEGE
A wave of relief washed over me as I clicked on one credible source after another all telling me essentially the same thing: We were normal.
It was all perfectly normal behavior. The fighting, the moods, the resistance, the control…normal, normal, normal and normal. Luke is moving to college, but our family is all adjusting to the change.
And the other amazing thing? Other families do have a sweet transitional experience, but it’s just as normal as the one we’re having.
In a few days, we’ll pack up the mini-van and move him to college. Six months after that we’ll do the same for his older sister who is transitioning from a community college to a sleep-away university in the spring. I have no plan for how it’s going to go. I can’t crystal ball the reality from here, but I know this next part of our family’s history will be gloriously, messily, normal.