As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed this week, I love seeing all the dorm rooms being set up and happy faces of kids going off to college.
When I see this, I cannot help but be thankful that it s not a year ago.
As I wrote about last year in my Huffington Post article, my daughter’s freshman move-in day was as about as bad as it could possibly get. There were many reasons for this: she has terrible anxiety, her dad passed away six years prior so it would have been a hard day under the best of circumstances, her roommate backed out of going to school at the very last minute, she was in a dorm where she knew no one because it was the dorm the absent roommate had insisted on, and as it turned out, this particular school was definitely not her “place”.
In the end, she left after three weeks and transferred to a different school where she remains and is very happy.
When I look at this new batch of freshman dorm rooms, I have mixed emotions:
I am excited for these kids, especially the ones I know. The rooms all look beautiful and I hope they have a great four years.
I am also jealous (yes I can admit it). Not so much for myself, but for my daughter. She never had that fun and exciting move-in day. There was no happily hanging decorations with a great new roommate, there was no laughter, there were no exciting plans being made for going out that night. Instead, we had a lot of tears of frustration, loneliness, and missing her dad. She now refers to that day as “the second worse day of her life”. It may be mine too. Words cannot describe what a painful day it was.
Something else I feel is wonder. How many of those happy smiles and thumbs up are 100% real? Funny – after the “second worse day of her life” my daughter wiped her tears, splashed water on her face, put on the fakest smile I had ever seen, and made me take a picture of her so that we could post it. I still can’t believe how she wanted the outside world to see her happy when she was miserable because that was “what she was supposed to do”. I am not suggesting that any of the new freshman had days as bad as ours (that would be impossible), but I also cannot imagine that some of those smiles are not hiding tears or anxiety, which by the way, is normal.
I also feel bewilderment at some of the parents. I understand how you may be sad. Of course you will miss your child, of course you will worry about him/her. We all do, but some situations are a lot better than others. If you are those lucky parents whose child is going off happily to the school of their dreams, if they don’t have anxiety or homesickness, if they are those happy easy-going kids, if move-in day goes smoothly, if they have two healthy parents who are there for them – just be happy for them. There is no reason to create drama around yourself and your own sadness. Put it in perspective and count your blessings. I know that if I had a good experience with my daughter last year, I would have shed some tears at the goodbye and then gone out to celebrate – not because she had left, but because she was happily moving forward with her life. That is all we want for our children.
Now, I do have a younger daughter. She is a senior in high school so I have one more year before I need to do move-in day all over again. Her personality is very different from that of her sister, and I pray her experience is a much better one.
In the meantime, I will continue to smile happily at those move-in pictures this year and try not to be too jealous 🙂