Free Falling

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WOELK
Our son has been away at college for his freshman year for the past nine months, and even though he has been only an hour from home at Wichita State University, his moving out brought profound changes to our household.

For one thing, cash spent on our monthly bills has decreased noticeably. Our consumption of milk, water and toilet paper has dropped off. We have less trash to place at the curb, and we can almost keep up with the laundry.

More significantly, however, Jordan’s mother and I have gained some valuable insight into what happens when the first offspring leaves the nest.

I’d like to pass on some of what we have observed to this year’s parents of graduating high school seniors. Feel free to take notes.

Most importantly, everything at college costs money. Everything. We planned for the price of room and board, tuition and books. We figured that would pretty well be it, in terms of expenses. After all, Jordan was planning to eat in the cafeteria. How much spending money would he need?

As it turned out, plenty. An art student, we soon realized, is constantly needing supplies, and we really hadn’t expected a textbook for just one class to cost $100… used.

And, the truth is, college students don’t eat dorm food very often if they can help it. Pizza sounds like a much better idea to them most of the time.

We quickly learned a second lesson. If your son is within reasonable driving distance, expect him to come home often and tote along his laundry. Make sure your washer and dryer are in good working order to handle the pressure of quick turnarounds.

Eventually, Jordan came home less and less, and he began to wash his own clothes in the dorm Laundromat. That took a lot of the pressure off the old Kenmore.

The adage that “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” takes on new significance when you send a loved one out into the world.

I still remember watching my son head off to his first day of kindergarten. I wondered how he would survive without me by his side. He did just fine.

The same was true when he started college. I just couldn’t imagine how he would make it on his own.

My worries were wasted brain activity, however. He soon took on the initiative of making major changes in his class schedule, made lots of new friends and quickly settled into dorm life.

Oh, and it didn’t take him long to find a girlfriend, either.

My advice to parents: Don’t sweat it. You’ve done all you can. Now is the time to let go. I guarantee your child can do much more than you give him or her credit for.

Be there to listen when things aren’t going so well and offer your encouragement when your young man or woman is considering taking on new challenges.

For the first time in years, your son or daughter may actually solicit your advice, may actually want to hear your voice, may actually carry on an adult conversation with you.

And, by this time next year, you will have learned just as much as your child has.

Enjoy the ride because, for once, you will not be in the driver’s seat.

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