And you let her go...
"My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold..."
It’s that time of year when the days are starting to get a little shorter, the colors of spring and summer will start giving way to the bold colors of fall and the anticipation of schedules and a more regimented way of life is breathing down the neck of families everywhere. It is also the time where in the upcoming days ahead countless parents are going to experience loss. The loss of a child to adulthood, blankies traded for checkbooks and accountability, those final vestiges of dependency stripped way like a bandaid being ripped off a boo-boo. Because thousands of parents everywhere are saying good-bye to a child that is going off to college as an adult. And you let them go…
I’m in this boat. And, man, I’ll tell you what - I am struggling far more than what I anticipated. My oldest has been going to boarding school for the past four years and I’m ready, I’m prepared for her to go away and be independent. And I am
SO NOT READY for her to go away.
But I’ll let her go…
My grandmother used to tell my Mom all the time that we really are no different than animals. Yes, my children act like animals all the time but that’s not what I’m talking about. With animals, the mommy and the daddy teach their babies all they need to know to survive. They nurture them, care for them, show them the ropes about what they need to do to get by, thrive, make it in the real world. Momma and Papa give them all the tools for their tool box and then, when that time comes, bye-bye. See ya Junior. A little pat on the back side and move out. They let those babies go…
I knew I had to write my Lexi a letter, some sort of final what to do, how to do it, a guideline per se of things I need to know that she knows but I don’t know if she knows. My last and final way of saying if I forgot to tell you these things please just know these things. And maybe, just maybe, for those of you that are losing your children in the upcoming days ahead, you will find it helpful too.
Things to Remember - Dear Son/Daughter
I know you've heard the lectures, the tirades, my list of to-do's and what-not-to-do's. As you close one chapter and begin another, I offer you a few last words of advice, my wishes for you.
College is the ideal time to reinvent whom you want to be. Don’t be weighed down by your past mistakes, your past vision of yourself, what you thought you were or were supposed to be. Reinvent YOU! Let the you of years past shed like the skin of a snake and be that you that you always wanted to be but were too scared/insecure/unsure to be. Now is the time to start to figure that version of you out.
Be that man/woman you admire.
We all have those people in our life that we look at and think “I want to be like that.” Be that person. Embrace those qualities. The guy with confidence that walks into a room and can strike up a conversation with anyone. Be him. Get to know people. That girl that makes everyone around her feel better just because she is so nice and never has a bad word to say - be her. Whatever it is that you admire about another person, look up to in another man or woman - embrace those qualities and be that guy or girl.
Why not you?
There are going to be situations, experiences, interactions that are outside your comfort zone. And you’re going to think “Oh no - not me. I could never do that.” Change that thinking to “Why not me?” I’m NOT talking about the guy that can chug 10 beers in two minutes - not the time to say WHY NOT ME. I’m talking about those things that pique your interest but in another life you would think “I could never do that.” You can. And it starts by saying “Why not me?”
Call your parents.
I know - you’re busy. But make the time, take the time, don’t send a text but actually dial the numbers and have a phone conversation with your parents. Because they will be missing you and sometimes it takes just the sound of your voice, hearing you say that I’m okay to ease the worry. Find the time, write it in your planner, set the alarm on your phone and call your mom and dad.
Don't leave a friend behind.
Don’t do it. There will be countless times over the course of the next several months where this will cross your path and you have two choices - stay or go. Don’t leave a friend behind. There is safety in numbers and the world is not as safe as what Mr. Rogers will have you to believe. If the group of people you’re with doesn’t get that, then it may be time to reevaluate the group. But friends stick together. Period.
Dress for success.
This is a big one. Dress appropriately for school. I’m not talking shirt and tie, dress and heels. But don’t wear sweat pants and a hoodie and schlep a dirty body off to class. Presentation is key and if you want to be taken seriously, dress the part. Save weekend clothes for the weekend (short shorts are NOT classroom appropriate) and dress the part when you go to school. Besides - trust me when I tell you - that day you go to class looking like a slob - that’s the day that you’re going to run into the person/professor/classmate that you’ve been looking to impress. Happens every time.
Make rules for yourself and stick to them.
This is important. College is going to open up the door to things and experiences that are awesome and amazing and some things that aren’t so awesome and amazing although they may appear that way at first glance. Make rules before you go away to school and stick to them. If you want to be treated as a princess, then behave that way. Stick to your principles. You want to be looked upon as a gentleman? Then be that guy that holds open the door, that treats people with respect. But make your rules and live by them as best you can.
Know that you will fail.
You are going to fail. At a lot of things. And it will be hard. You may fail a paper, a class, a friend. And it will hurt and you will be upset and doubt yourself and rage against the world. And it’s okay. We all fail and it’s how you learn. It’s how you rise from the failure that defines whom you are - not the failure itself. And this leads me to number 9.
Every single day. Rise in the morning and tackle each day as a new day. Rise from your mistakes. Every single time. Rise to the challenge. Rise up and stand for something that is of value to you. Rise and stand up for someone else. Rise and use your voice. Four letters. Big meaning. Rise.
Wash your sheets.
Once every two weeks. Just do it. It’s gross not to. You’ll feel better. Clean sheets make a world of difference. Soap. Softener. Warm/cold cycle.
Know that your parents are there for you.
It should be a given that all kids know that but I’ve learned that all kids/adults don’t know that. Your parents are there for you. Doesn’t matter the time of day, the situation, what have you - mom and dad have your back. Go to them when you need to. Because sometimes just having them say “It will be okay” will get you over the hurdle.
Be accountable for yourself and to yourself. If you mess up - own it. If you make a commitment to do something/be somewhere - do it. Be accountable to whom you are and what you are and your actions. If you say it about someone - be prepared to be called to the carpet on it. If you call someone else out - be prepared to back it up. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Accountability is character defining and people will know right away if you have it and even quicker if you don’t.
When in doubt - call mom.
I don’t care how foolish the question may seem, if you’re in doubt ASK MOM. You may not always get the answer that you want but you will most likely get the honest answer.
Listen to your gut.
If something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. There is a difference between that feeling and the butterflies that we get when we are nervous or excited. If something inside you is fighting your judgement - wake up and listen. That’s your VALUES banging on the door, saying “Ummmm - NO! That’s not whom you are!” Listen to that voice, that gut feeling. Rarely does it steer you wrong.
Dare to be great. Again, this is a time in your life where you will have those aha moments, discover what you’re meant to become as an adult, figure out what makes you tick. Be brave and choose the path less traveled. Don’t box yourself in by old thoughts and old ways - break free and open up those wings. Soar!
Things to Remember - Dear Mom and Dad
With all of this advice to our new adults I do have some words of wisdom for us parents. Advice that I’m going to try to follow.
Just a little. For some of us this may be the first child leaving, it may be the last. And you are going to feel that loss. So reinvent yourself a little. The door is opening to a new version of yourself. Who can you be? What have you been putting off for years that now you have the time to do? Reinvent yourself and realize that you are now the parent of an adult child and oh the places you can now go!
Take some time for you.
This is so important. You have given and then given and then God knows given some more. Now is the time to take a little step back and give back to yourself. Do something for you. I don’t care if it’s making one less dinner a night at home, getting a massage once a month, making a weekly golf date with the guys. But do something for yourself. It’s time.
Don't call your children.
Ugh. I’m sorry but don’t call them. You have booted them from the nest and they are out there tearing up the world and grabbing it by the tail. Hard to do if Mom keeps calling every five minutes. I’m not saying cut off all communication but give them some space.
Being offended is NOT a good defense.
Don’t be offended if they don’t respond right away to a text or a phone call or an email. Don’t. Be. Offended. They are busy. Classes, sports, social activities. Figuring stuff out. They love you for sure. But this is an exciting time for them - let them have that time. Deep breaths, understanding, no offense taken.
When they do text, call, etc. - listen first. There is a lot going on in the lives of our new adults. And really, they don’t want our opinion on most of it. Listen first and foremost. If you want to start to establish that adult relationship with your children then you must treat them like adults. If they ask for your opinion, that’s one thing. But if they don’t - then don’t offer it.
Answer the phone.
If they call, drop what you’re doing if possible and take the call. I have learned that typically when my children actually use their finger to dial my number it’s for a reason. They need reassurance. They need to be told it’s going to be okay. They need a friendly voice. So if they call - answer. Be there.
Stop talking - Harley!
Create a signal that means a conversation is tabled. Lexi and I have one. We use the word ‘Harley’. If we are disagreeing via text or verbally and getting nowhere, one of us typically will throw the word out there and the conversation stops. It helps prevent things from being said that are of no value and will hurt feelings and gives us each the opportunity for a time out. It’s a valuable tool and has worked wonders for those times when we are butting heads.
Create a safe word.
Again - I think this is huge. We have a word that every member of the family knows and if they get in a situation where they need to get out of in a hurry all that needs to be done is that word is sent to Rob or I. A phone call is made to said person that there is a family emergency and they either need to be picked up or they need to come home immediately. Saves them for making a tough call in situations that they aren’t comfortable dealing with because the ‘family emergency’ makes that call for them.
Share your number.
Make sure someone in their inner circle has your phone number. We took care of this last week. One of Lexi’s friends has contact info for both Rob and I so that in the event there was a situation where Lexi could not contact us - someone that is close to her can. And Lexi has her parents contact info. Makes me feel a little bit better, a little more secure knowing that if we needed to be reached than we can be.
Failure is how they learn
Be prepared to see them fail - and be powerless to help. I dread this. No one wants to see their child hurt, be upset, feel ashamed. And the bottom line is that we’ve all been there, it is inevitable. It’s part of life. And it will happen to our children. And I will encourage my child to rise and try again.
It's not your battle.
Don’t fight their battles for them. This goes hand in hand with number 10. As easy as it is for us to cut through some of the red tape and come to their rescue, take the reins from them and get the job done faster and more efficiently then them, they don’t learn that way. As adults, they need to fight their own battles. We can guide them. And counsel them. But the arena is for them and them alone.
Allow them to self-advocate.
As adults, they need to self-advocate. I got myself into a situation this summer where college had the wrong email for Lexi. So, because we are such GREAT communicators (sarcasm, eye roll), I was of the understanding that everyone got their roommate assignment except for Lexi. And boy, Mama Bear was mad! I contacted this person and that person, blah blah blah, stuck my nose right in where I had no business doing so. Only to find out that it was just a general email about roommate selection. Misconstrued in the delivery to me by my daughter. And yep - I looked like a donkey. So now I advise her to figure it out. Love ya - but help yourself.
Send them notes, cards, packages.
This is a great way to give them a little bit of home. The notes and the cards and care packages - they love them and they matter. Send something to them periodically - it will make a difference.
Keep them informed of what's going on at home.
I struggle with this because my thought is her job is school and I don’t want her to worry about things going on at home. But that only makes her feel left out, disjointed from the rest of us. I do try to minimize the bad but keeping them informed of life back at home - do it.
Be their safe place.
I don’t care if they are 18 or 24. Sometimes all you need is a hug from mom or dad. A place to cry and just know that you are loved. Be a brat, have a meltdown, someone to tell you life is hard and that every little thing is going to be okay or not okay. But be their safe place, that feeling of home and love that is unlike any other.
Letting my Lex go…
She leaves on August 24 and like I said, I thought I would be so ready and the truth is I am and I am not. What I do want her to know is this…
Know that I am here for you night and day. No matter what. All you have to do is dial that number and I will be on the other end of that phone.
If you need me, I will move heaven and earth to get to you. No questions asked.
You are never alone. Not only do you have your Daddy and I behind you every step of the way but also your brothers. Do not ever forget the name on the back of your shirt.
Believe in yourself. You got where you are because you refused to believe the doubters and the naysayers. Continue to live your life that way and march to the beat of Lexi’s drum.
For the tenacious, no road is impossible. Be steadfast and resilient and choose to rise above. Great rewards come with great sacrifice.
Be silly, laugh, make good friends and so many memories. This should be the time of your life and open up your arms and embrace it.
Know that you take a piece of my heart with you when you go. I will never again be the mommy to a little girl. I am now the mom to a young woman. I will miss that little girl, mourn the loss of that time that I can never get back. And be forever grateful for each and every memory I made with you.
And always remember where you came from. And that at the end of the day, like your daddy says, it is a lifeboat of five. And that five - that is the foundation from which you build upon. It also means that no matter the burden there are four other shoulders that will help you carry it, take your share willingly when it gets to be just too much. You are and will always be #schumakerstrong.
We learn in life that nothing is forever. My nephew did everything right. My sister and her husband didn’t get to see him graduate but he did receive his diploma posthumously. They learned so much about whom he was and the impact he had on so many at college and were stripped of the opportunity to celebrate those accomplishments with him. And they had to let him go…
To all the college students that are heading out into this brave new world - go out and do yourselves proud! Be magnificent. Be grateful for each and every opportunity that comes your way. Make a difference. This is YOUR time. It is why as parents we let you go...
To all the parents - I get it. It’s nature at its worst and at its finest. It’s a happy scary time and oh how we are so excited and so scared for them all at once. They no longer belong to us.
And we let them go…
"And while you're out there getting where you're getting to
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this is my wish..."