Going away to school

College campus

Yesterday we took our youngest back to school after her spring break.  These trips are tough…it is at least a six hour round trip and it is still always sad to leave her there, even though we have done it so many times before. Our schedules this time made made it difficult to spend much time together, but it was nice to have her home for a spell. I like the idea of knowing where she is, and coming home from work at the end of the day to find her on the couch, with the dogs, watching television or studying. I will miss having her around – at least until she returns in a few weeks for the Easter weekend. I don’t even mind the laundry…much.

The trips to our children’s college campuses over the past 10 years have also been hard for me for another reason.  I never “went away” to school.  When I was in high school contemplating my future (if I really did think about it at all), college wasn’t really a big part of the picture.  My parents, especially my father, did not see a great urgency in college for women.  I remember him commenting that if I didn’t intend to be a teacher or a nurse then why bother? Most of their generation graduated, got jobs, had babies and lived in the same community for the rest of their lives.  It seemed like only the wealthier families sent their children away to college.

I attended a local community college, and while I lived in an apartment with a roommate the second year, I never had what I considered a “real” college experience.  No dorms or tree filled walkways, no sororities or fraternities, no meal plan.  It was about the time that my sister – who is seven years younger than I am – started thinking about college, that I realized I felt like I “missed” something. By that time I had already entered the world of marriage and family and mortgage – well past the resident student stage.  I strongly encouraged her to “go away” and she did, to a college a few hours away from home.  She indulged me a few times during her four years away, and invited me to stay with her in the dorm, but I always knew I was a fraud. I had left my babies at home with my husband so that I could go there and pretend to be a student.  We had a great time, but I wasn’t fooling anyone, especially myself.

When it was time for my own children to visit schools, I was extremely enthusiastic.  I thoroughly enjoyed touring the campuses and always asked a ton of questions.  I am sure that I embarrassed my girls on more than one occasion with my queries.  They each chose picturesque campuses with tree lined walkways and bell towers.  I was in heaven!

Shopping for their dorm rooms was such fun for me – picking out comforters and towels and trying to figure out everything that they would need was a so exciting! I imagined  exactly how things would be set up and daydreamed about what their lives would be like with their new friends in their new surroundings.dorm room

I know that I have romanticized the experience to the point that it has the makings of a sloppy co-ed novel, but I can’t help it.  I am very happy that my children have had this experience that I never had.  Even if it isn’t half as wonderful as I may have  imagined for them to live on a noisy hall with twenty other students, sharing messy bathrooms and eating food that is a far cry from the wonderful meals that were served on visiting days, I am glad that they have done just that.  Although these years have also included things like dealing with inconsiderate roommates and dormitory drama from time to time,  I hope that someday they will look back and remember their college days fondly. I know that they have all made life-long friends and it is my wish is that their experiences will help them to be a little better prepared to deal with the challenges of adulthood than I was.

I expect that their education will also include things like tolerance for others from different backgrounds, and the ability to compromise and get along with others.  It was also my intention for them to learn how to be independent and use good judgement. I know that this is the last chance for them to enjoy their friends and have the feeling of community that will fade so quickly when they become caught up in the hectic day-to-day of work and responsibility.

In the meantime, I will continue to live vicariously through my youngest daughter’s last year and a half.  Maybe I can even sneak in a weekend visit (staying a respectable distance away at the local Hampton Inn, of course) and not seem too lame. I am sure if I add a Wal-Mart run and take a few of her friends out for dinner then I will be welcome.  We only have a short time left!

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9 thoughts on “Going away to school

  1. I had a really similar experience. I commuted to college to save money, living at home right up until I got married. I was so happy for my kids when they had the dorm experience. My youngest is the same age as yours, and has now moved into an on-campus apartment, where he is learning to mop and vacuum, as well as cook! Next year he and his buddies hope to move to an apartment off campus. It lets them have those baby steps toward adulthood while having the time of their lives.
    Aren’t we lucky to be able to live it through them?!

  2. I was lucky enough to have the dorm experience when I went to college. I went 3-4 hours away from home–or a 8 hour bus trip. As a result I only went home for vacations. My parents had 2 kids in college at the time ( I had a sister 1 yr older) so I picked a state school–just in another state! i wish I could say I formed long lasting friendships and all that, but I’m not really in touch with anyone that I went to college with, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything–And I met my husband through mutual coolege friend, many years later!

  3. Also about your comment on my blog–if you go into layout ( I know mine is on Blogger & yours is wordpress, but there must be something similar) and add a gadget.

    1. I haven’t really played much with the widgets yet…I am looking at layouts and trying to decide what I like and what I don’t. I like reading the blogs that my favorite writers read, so as soon as I get some time I will take a look. Thanks! (Thanks as well for commenting on my post – it is interesting to hear about other people’s experiences with college. I am glad my life turned out the way it did, with Jim and the girls – I have always been somewhat jealous of my friends that lived in other areas, though)

  4. So enjoying this post, Cheri! My Jeff is coming home as I write this from his freshman year at college. He is talking about transferring which saddens me. We will have to see where we are at the end of the summer. But I connected with everything you said. Wish I had your gift for writing!

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Beth. I really enjoy writing, I just wish that I had more time to do it! I appreciate your kind words.
      I know what you mean about transferring, we were very sad when Kelsey t/f out of St Bonaventure, but it all worked out in the end. I loved all of the schools that my kids visited…I can’t imagine having to actually choose one for myself.
      Thanks for following the blog. I have a couple of posts “in the works”, I hope to publish them very soon!

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