As we embark on the college search with my oldest daughter, I heard some sage advice the other night.
Our high school hosted a panel of college admissions officers. During the conversation, one of the panelists talked about how the college search can be emotional. Emotional? Why, I thought. She followed her statement up by urging us to really look around and spend time on the campuses.
"Your child needs to feel comfortable. This is where he or she could live for the next four years. You need to feel comfortable. This is where you may be leaving your child for the next four years."
I think it was the word "leaving" that made me really connect with the "emotional" part, not in a warm, fuzzy, Hallmark way, but in a reality, this-is-it way. When we leave our children on a college campus, they are of the world.
Sure, they are still under our care and will come home again, but not really. They will be embarking on their adult journeys separate from their parents, one that will launch them in any number of directions. They will never really "come home" again.
I think the biggest emotion I have surrounding this upcoming moment is not sadness, but anxiety. Did I do enough to prepare her for the world? Will she be safe? Will she be able to handle the challenges that will come her way?
I sure hope so. In the whole scheme of life, 18 years seems like a relatively short time to give someone all the wisdom they will need to be successful in life.
I'm sure I am not the only parent with a high schooler looking at colleges who feels this way. I'm not sure there is anything we can really do to prepare ourselves for the moment we leave them.
But, as we do our search, I will take the panelist's advice. I will keep my eyes open. I will look around and I will pay attention so that I can feel as comfortable as possible in the leaving ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books, including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.