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Only Child Going to College in Sept '08

momofnewPmomofnewP Registered User Posts: 160 Junior Member
edited April 2008 in Parents Forum
I am the mother of an only child and it has just sunk in that he is REALLY leaving the nest in several months. I am happy for him and proud of him. I know he will be okay as he has a good head on his shoulders.

The questions: How does a parent of an only child cope with the absence? He has been my focus (yes I have a career etc. but he was still the priority) for almost eighteen years.

How involved should we be? How often should we visit? (He will be a few hours away by car.) How long should pass before we contact him if we don't hear from him?

Other than the obvious (pack clothes, computer, etc.), what do we need to do before he starts school? How do you pick a food plan?

Any other comments/words of wisdom will be appreciated.
Post edited by momofnewP on

Replies to: Only Child Going to College in Sept '08

  • SpringfieldMomSpringfieldMom Registered User Posts: 1,066 Senior Member
    While I am not the poster mom with respect to her only child going off to college (I am now coping with the job loss, my husband's disabled sister moving in with us which has caused marital problems), I can only say KEEP YOURSELF BUSY!!! Students, especially boys, tend not to check in often. I am lucky with a girl, she checks in almost every day. Most of the time she calls to complain about something, but often it is to inform me of something great that has happened.

    Please don't visit unless you're invited. I am lucky; I am only a few hours away, and now that I am unemployed, I am able to visit my D as often as she wants me to. But that's the clincher; I only visit if I'm invited. I've been to a concert (spectacular), lectures (all terrific), and a couple of parties (a little weird).

    Since you have a boy, I'd say he needs a minimal amount of "stuff." The less the better. Extraneous stuff that isn't used just takes up space in a miniscule dorm room. As for picking a meal plan, sit down with your son and try and figure out how much and when he'll be eating, then pick the plan that seems like the best fit. That's how I did it for my D, it worked out great. She ended up picking the same meal plan for next year.
  • notre dame ALnotre dame AL Registered User Posts: 1,674 Senior Member
    As the parent of an only child who went off to college in the Fall of '06, I can tell you that at first, it is quite an adjustment. I immersed myself in trying to take care of those "house projects" that had been put off for so long. Those "projects" being anything from cleaning out a closet to organizing a drawer, etc. I have tried new recipes (Ha!) as our only child is such a picky eater!! I reconnected with old friends. But, to cope, I have tried to live in small chunks of time. For example, our student is over 11 hours away. When we dropped him off, we knew that we would not see him again until Fall break which meant about 6 or 8 weeks. I tried not to think to far past that first Fall break! I can also tell you that since he flew home, it was extremely difficult that first break to put him back on the plane after a week of being home. (esp with airport security and no waits at the gate anymore) Try to find something to do on that day after they leave. We have kept in very close contact with our student--college campuses are a different world these days. However, we try to leave it up to him to call us esp with their workloads/schedules. But, we have never let more than 24 hours go by w/o some word from him, even if it is just a quick check-in! (Cell phones are such a wonderful invention) We did not and still don't visit that much-distance can be cost prohibitive. As far as food plans, etc., your college or uni can possibly help with that--and that itself may evolve over time as your student adjusts to college life. The first year is quite an adjustment period--for both students and parents. We have tried to be there to listen and encourage at any time. I guess as I said earlier, try not to think too far ahead in the beginning. I think that helped me more than anything. He is now finishing his second year-it is so hard to believe, but it is much easier now than that first semester of freshman year! He has matured so much, and I guess that we, as parents, have matured as well!!
  • geezermomgeezermom Registered User Posts: 1,355 Senior Member
    Oh, YES! This is right up my alley. I have been meaning to start an only child thread! The only problem, momofnewP, is that you and I are in the same boat, with our sons leaving for college. When there's only one child, every "first" is also a "last." There's no practice, and there are no "do-overs." You reach a milestone, and that's it. I feel so fortunate to have a solid relationship with my son that I know--from observing my friends who have only children--will be even richer as the years go by. Will I still get those quick, excited cellphone calls about something cool that just happened a minute ago? Maybe--or maybe they'll taper off. And I sure will miss him wandering into my home office after school to ask, "So, watcha doin'?"

    But I think the transition process--what to pack, how often to visit, etc.--is really no different than it is for other people, and there's a lot to learn on these boards. I am fortunate to have a sister who's sent three kids to college, so she is my main source of information about life-or-death things like how to order from your local Linens 'n' Things for pick up in another city. Right now, we're discussing how to make the technology purchases (new laptop, hard drive, camera tripod, etc.) in phases so there's not one big whopper expense later. My son is a good planner, and it's fun to work these things out.

    Then there's the most important thing: What we will do with ourselves. A longtime friend with one child gave me the best advice: Spend a couple of weeks mourning (and she means weeping at the drop of a hat), and then think about what is next in your own life. For example, I'm going to re-energize my consulting business and give some serious thought to where it's headed. And I will be taking over my son's bathroom so I don't have to share with my husband. And perhaps most important, my husband and I will enjoy each other's company. Here is a wonderful post from a thread on empty nests a few months ago:
    We actually talked about "reclaiming the couple." We agreed that with S in the home it was never really just about the couple and the two spouses. That renewed couple was exciting to think about and shape.

    We also focused on this from what it meant to our S. Raising a self sufficient and independent young adult isn't just a theory or merely a goal. You do it so that they can stand on their own and thrive. You do it because that gives them a great gift early on-- their own life to experience and mold. It cannot happen without them leaving and the parents letting go.

    I drove my S to college and he and I spent 2 days in a car together. We got to college and it was blissful agony to see him claim his space and start to establish his life without me. The drive back to my W was a process of feeling loss of the little boy and getting in touch with the excitement of being a couple again.

    The surprising by-product is that getting back the time I spent participating/spectating on S's EC's etc has allowed me to do a lot of "me" things again and THAT has enriched both me and the emerging reshaping couple.
  • UCLA Band MomUCLA Band Mom Registered User Posts: 1,180 Senior Member
    I have an only child, and I did not miss him too much when he went away to college. Maybe it is because he was no longer tossing laundry around, emptying the refrigerator in the middle of the night and hogging the computer every evening?

    Seriously, though, with a combination of email, instant messaging, and unlimited cellphone minutes, you can keep just as much in touch with your child as you did in high school. Send care packages to your child on holidays, and if possible attend football and basketball games and plan to meet them before or after the games.

    With regards to phoning, ask your child to let you know the best time to call so that you don't interfere with classes, meetings, study groups, etc. That way, they won't think of you as a helicopter parent.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 12,463 Senior Member
    Amen UCLA! The above top paragraph is every vacation now... It was a goal of mine to mother, not smother, my son as happened to an only child cousin of mine - I succeeded. It is tough when you only get one chance to enjoy each stage of parenting, and no way to make use of all the knowledge gained in the process. You can't spread your desire to know/be involved, etc. among two or more kids, and you know your son needs his space. Why do you think I'm here on CC? Use this forum to get your college related vicarious living done, and you will be listened to by others' kids when you give advice... Also use your computer (I finally got my own so I could have my settings and use it during prime time...) to look up all sorts of things- it is amazing what you can find out about the colleges from their websites. Satisfy your urge to know by looking things up- Google it- and you won't need to bug your son about as much.

    Try to remember life before kid. Restructure your daily life around the couple you are, even when your son returns for a weekend or even the summer and his room remains his he will become a visitor. You know you have succeeded when your son comes home for spring break his second year (ours was finally 18 last fall, during year two of college, who knows his technical standing by now- jr? sr?) and he speaks of returning home meaning his campus. Develop new routines that suit you two. Do not worry about maintaining a lifestyle for the sake of the example you set for your son- who cares if dinner is loosely structered in time and place- you are now 3 adults in the house when he is there. He has his away from you life and won't be traumatized by your life without him routines. It is refreshing to free yourself from all those things you did to be a good mother/maintain stability in routines...

    The rest of your questions are applicable to any first time sending a kid off to college. You want to take care of him yet you need to hand off responsibilites to him. Sometimes you need to make him listen when he doesn't want to know because he needs to learn how to manage for himself. On the other hand I see nothing wrong with doing what you can so he doesn't have to hassle with all the details, but I inform my son when I do something. Food plan- discuss with him- you may know his eating habits better than he does (he doesn't realize how much food he eats, he just does it), he may benefit from you telling him your proposal with room for his input. Most boys do not get into decor or items helpful in dealing with life away from home. I set up a basic medical kit- bandaids, tylenol, freezer ice packs... and laundry supplies, etc. Be sure to go over these with him in August, he may put them somewhere in his room and be totally unaware he has them (you learn this when he calls for something you know he took with him or you see it come home untouched in the spring). Do not do your shopping until summer- summer starts in late June. The best sales and availability are then. Find out what is/isn't provided/allowed in his dorm. Ask him what color he wants for bedding (offer him limited choices, too many are beyond most boys/men in my experience) then purchase the quality you prefer. Be prepared for the Penneys' catalog to be temporarily out of navy extra long sheets (what other color is there for boys?).

    Once he goes away base your communication on your current style (mine went to a GT summer camp a few years ago without a word to us for 3 straight weeks). E-mails are great for mom to tell son a lot he doesn't have time or patience for on the phone. My son made disparaging comments about mine over spring break, but said he has saved them all when I told him I deleted his/mine. Do not try to become a part of his college life- let him have a life of his own (remember to use your computer...). Care packages- ask him, mine isn't into them. I'm presenting the scenario of the independent son who distances himself from parents- the kid who walked all by himself to the kindergarten room as a 4 year old (I had the camera/camcorder ten feet behind). Do not worry if you do things differently than any of us do, you know your style.

    Can you tell by this long post that I don't have a lot to do? The other posters had a lot of good advice (they usually do). Learn to enjoy your life without feeling guilty about focusing on your needs, wants, pleasures... And realize your life will still be ruled by your son's for a few more years. You check his vacation schedule to arrange transportation and your own vacations, stock up on his favorites for his trips home, clean house before or after he's here... I better go do something useful.
  • UCLA Band MomUCLA Band Mom Registered User Posts: 1,180 Senior Member
    One thing that I have noticed is that if I call my son, he always seems to be in a hurry to get me off the phone, like he is right in the middle of something. If I wait for him to call me, he is always very talkative. So I often times email him and then wait for him to phone me back. He always calls back, but not always on the same day.

    I also make it a point to read the Student Newspaper every day. Most of them are available online. They are a great source of info, and will help you to keep up with what's new on campus. That will give you and your child more to talk about.
  • justhismomjusthismom Registered User Posts: 216 Junior Member
    Our only S started college last Sept. It is amazing how fast the time has gone by. He is only about an hour away but leaving him there that first day knowing that he knew no one was the hardest thing we did. The next day we went back up there for some of the parent activites and just hearing how excited he was and how many people he met in one night was a great relief. I think it was harder on my DH when S left for school. I never realized just how much stuff they did together or even something as simple as watching TV together. As mom I was more concerned with making sure he had everything he needed to live and survive up there so by the time the big move in day rolled around, I was exhausted. It worked out well for us since that next week we left for a much deserved vacation with 5 other couples. Our being out of the country gave our S the time he needed to adjust on his own and since I only called once, it gave him the space he needed.
    Our S only comes home when the dorm closes for holiday or breaks, even though he is only an hour away. We communicate via text or email. I text him when I know he is not in class and ask him to call me when he can if I have something to discuss with him. On occassion I will send him an email and fill him in on happenings from home. I do not expect him to answer and he rarely does.
    Let them have their own space and you will be amazed as to how much the share things with you.
    We hear from him every couple of days, sometimes I initate the contact, sometimes he does.
    As far as DH and I adjusting in the house without him? It is quiet and we are on a much more relaxed evening schedule. It is kind of nice to come home and not have to rush dinner along and run errands.
    I love it when S is home but after about a week, he is anxious to get back to school and his friends. It will be intersting to see how this summer plays out. Hopefully he will find a job that keeps him busy.
  • banditmagbanditmag Registered User Posts: 57 Junior Member
    Okay, my two cents, my only child left for college in fall of 2007. To make matters worse I was a single parent from the day she was born, it was just she and I. We were incredibly close and when she decided to go over 400 miles away for college it broke my heart, but I did not let that show. My entire life revolved around coaching her team, teaching Sunday School/confirmation/youth group, attending concerts etc.. She did not go far away to hurt me, she wanted to be different and attend a top LAC. She wanted to be the only kid from her high school (a very large one) at whatever college she chose. Was it hard, yes. Did I adjust? Yes. Do I still miss her? Yes. Do I hate paying an exorbitant amount of money for her to be so far away? Yes. My advice is to let them call you. I never call her unless invited. If there is something I absolutely have to tell her I text her. I suggest you think about the things you always wanted to do but did not have time for when your son was at home. I always wanted to volunteer. I found a great website that listed pretty much every volunteer opportunity in our area. I have been doing disaster relief for the Red Cross. It is exciting, fulfilling and has allowed me to meet great people. I am now on the roster to head out to National Disasters when they occur. The funny part is that my daughter gets upset if she is home and I get called out, I am only gone for a few hours. Funny how she can get mad at me but when she was out with friends the entire summer before she left for college it was okay. Ahh, kids are great.

    I also began volunteering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. It has been awesome. I stay connected with a young teen and am able to put all the great lessons I learned about college searches to great use. The best part is that a child that is not your own actually seems to value your advice instead of roll her eyes.

    My other project is planning my life after she graduates. I want out of the cold and to be near the beach. I am doing research on housing, jobs, cultural events etc. in several cities. Only 3 more years of winter, I get excited thinking about it.

    One last thing to remember even though our only child is gone. Softball and baseball teams still need coaches. Sunday schools still need teachers. Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops still need leaders. I have found is actually easier to volunteer when I am not constantly having to worry about how my d feels.

    It is hard but you will survive. You are not losing your son you are just entering a new stage. Sometimes I actually like walking in the door and not being hit with "what's for dinner?" immediately. I also take satisfaction that I did an okay job with her and that she will one day be a productive member of society.
  • mafoolmafool Registered User Posts: 6,453 Senior Member
    Our one and only left 8/2006.

    No ramping up for the empty nest; it's zero to sixty in a nanosecond.

    We did not have a contentious relationship; I was not happy to see him go.

    The most important thing to remember, IMO, is: this is what we have been raising them to do. To spread their wings, to become good, independent, contributing adults.

    I also discovered that I am too simple to be able to feel grateful and also feel sorry for myself. I loved being this boy's mother. I was so fortunate to have had the time with this child. I could grieve for the loss or I could focus on my gratitude. (not to say that I did not dissolve into sobs a couple of times after he left.) So, as we were getting ready to take him to school and when we dropped him off, I focused on how grateful and proud I was and how excited I was for what was ahead. A cliche? Probably, but it really did help.

    In the past years, we have adjusted. I am growing, too.

    My very best to you and all the others.
  • ejr1ejr1 Registered User Posts: 1,128 Senior Member
    I, too, saw my only go off in 05. Now, she is overseas doing Study Abroad, and won't be back until August. First, go with for the move-in. It helped to be able to visualize where your child is. Also, take pride in what the student is doing. I found myself wishing I could have done the same things. I found that being excited for her and all she was doing took away the emptiness. It was as if I were there still. E-mails and phone calls at least once or twice a week kept me in the loop and kept away the loneliness. I could picture her doing things and reveling in her experiences. And I love watching her become a mature woman! Even at a distance, you can see it and feel it. Just see this as another milestone and wish you could be doing this, too!
  • momkaesmomkaes Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
    We stared our kids off with the most extensive meal plan offered and reviewed it after first semester. We have found them to be quite realistic about their needs. Also, keep in mind that it could change each year. Our son lives off campus this year, but we still got the one meal a day plan because I knew he would never cook. I dont know why, but I was always concerned they wouldnt have enough to eat. Maybe the old starving college student stories stuck with me.
  • momkaesmomkaes Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
    One other thing Id like to mention. I have four great kids and have loved every minute of it. Although I cant imagine only having this wonderful experience one time, try to keep in mind my heart was ripped out when each of my kids left for college. I only say this to point out that the parents of your kids friends will be hurting also even if they have other kids at home. Every child brings something special to the family and are sorely missed when they leave. The void does fill up.
  • doubleplaydoubleplay Registered User Posts: 3,550 Senior Member
    I had two leave, one after the other (12 months apart)- so it was more like a sonic double-boom shudder. I spent the day after younger left putting together a piece of furniture, and crying. After that, everything was OK. Fortunately, they go to a big 'football' university a few hours away, so H and I could look forward to going to a game or two during the fall.

    The one thing I found was that my relationship with my oldest actually improved after he went to college. We've always been close, but we're very similar in temperment and tend to clash, personality-wise. Being apart, and him being an 'adult', has put our relationship on a different level. We talk often on the phone, and things are sometimes better now than they were when he was in high school. Cell phones are a wonderful thing. Learn to text message. The changes in our relationship have turned out to be a blessing- different but good... Here's hoping yours will also!
  • kittymomkittymom Registered User Posts: 108 Junior Member
    Our only DD went off to the opposite (east) coast in 2004, graduates and is coming back in May (YAY!) We went to orientation and stuck around a few days to buy the necessary things and be sure she was settled and did some sight seeing too. From day one, we had an agreement for her to call every Sunday. Sometimes she calls very late at night, but she has always called us with updates of what was happening. Rarely hear from her otherwise, as she is very busy at a very tough school. The first year was hard, I kept wandering into her room to "straighten up". Then she set me up with IM, which allowed me to check in to see if she was online. By this year, I accept her as a full adult, and our relationship has matured into a much closer and respectful one. She genuinely enjoys spending time with us. I met her in Las Vegas for spring break to celebrate her birthday, and we had a great time. DH and I are planning the graduation trip, the last trip to the east coast for awhile, with some sadness that it's over. Now when she moves out, it will be forever, and we will have that guest room we always wanted. Makes me want to cry, but seeing her excitement at looking for apartments makes it all better. Her BF is an only child as well, and his mother and I have found joy that they have each other as they enter into adulthood.
  • 07DAD07DAD Registered User Posts: 5,169 Senior Member
    My experience with my 2007 freshman S (only child) has been that fexibilty is very important. We had the "he would call us every Sunday" agreement. Those calls were NOT informative and enjoyable for either S or me. I sensed that he felt they were an obligation and we agreed to stop them as mandatory. It took several months of very infrequent communication, but eventually I started getting an ocassional pone call and email. After Thanksgiving the communication reached a balance that seems to work for both.

    Meal plans also got re-worked. He picked the medium plan and by the end of first semester we "upped" it to the next higher one. It is easy to do.

    BTW--I suggest that by letting the adjustments to the parents and the emerging young adult happen, rather than sticking to the predetermined "plan" when it doesn't really feel right after implimentation is the way to go. In our case, S's college EC's and the current political events have provided a basis for adult communications which are much more enjoyable to my S and I than scheduled reporting in calls.
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