In approximately 8 short weeks, Good Lord willin’ and the COVID don’t rise, my husband and I will be dropping our son off for his first semester of college. And if the past few weeks are anything to go by, we are all going to be more than ready for the separation that will bring thanks to some raging cases of senioritis. Oh, sure, we’ll be heartbroken, too. Naturally! But by the time that day-of-mythical-proportions arrives, well, I am pretty sure we will all be ready for a break from each other.
Senioritis – A Strange Phenomenon
See, for the past few weeks, I have been noticing a strange phenomenon as far as our family dynamics are concerned. And I’ve even come up with a name for it! It’s basically an extra special version of senioritis that seems to present itself in the summer between graduation and starting college. You ready? Here goes:
I Hate You I Love You I’m Leaving I Want to Stay
What do you think, fellow senior moms? Sound about right? I thought so.
Basically, we can pare down the hallmarks of this phenomenon as follows:
- Your usually positive and energetic teen will fall victim to sullenness and long stretches of laziness/inactivity.
- Shoulder shrugs and grunts will start to be substituted for verbal responses.
- Time spent alone or with friends will be immeasurably preferable to time spent with family.
- The family members your child has been closest to will be the ones they choose to unleash their anger and frustration on.
- Family responsibilities (i.e., chores, babysitting, etc) and job obligations will plummet in importance.
- Your teen will suddenly be increasingly nostalgic over “homey” things, meals, and growing siblings.
- As a parent, you find yourself constantly wanting to lecture your child on all the important things of life, just in case you forgot to cover anything over the last 18 years.
- You find yourself increasingly annoyed at any exhibition of immaturity on your teens part.
- The words, “If you want me to treat you like an adult, then you need to act like an adult” come out of your mouth frequently.
- Together, you and your child put off and generally ignore any dorm room shopping or planning because maybe if you ignore the fact that they are moving out, it won’t actually happen.
Is this normal, though, or is my kid just weird?
Let’s all take a collective sigh of relief, moms, because yes. This craziness appears to be 100% normal. According to my friend and parental sounding-board, Dr. MaryRuth Hackett:
No worries. It is all normal. Don’t take it personally. Actually, take it as a compliment. Because it means two things. 1- Leaving you is going to be hard. 2- Your Child is ready to leave.
In her post, she goes on to say there are a variety of behaviors that, while annoying, are perfectly normal and developmentally appropriate. And this year’s class of seniors has had an insane amount of extra crazy incorporated into their senior year! But as parents, we need to remember a couple lessons we’ve been teaching our kids their whole lives long. First, just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right. And second, actions have consequences. When parents and children keep those lessons in mind, I think it makes things a lot easier for everyone.
Speaking from experience
There’s one last thought I want to share today and this one is more for the seniors than their parents. So listen up, kiddos!
You think that by (consciously or subconsciously) severing some of those family ties you’ve held so dear for so long, it’ll make leaving behind the people you love an easier task. And to some extent, you might be right. But you’re still going to miss them when you’re gone! Do you also want to look back with regret on how you treated the people you love the most? Because I guarantee you, it will make the missing even harder.
When I was a kid, my family moved around a lot. Any time we were preparing to leave one school and move to another one, I’d find myself pushing my friends away. I would decline sleepover invitations and wouldn’t take phone calls. I’d avoid lunchroom conversations and would spend recess by myself. And I could be so rude to friends that had been nothing but wonderful to me. I even found myself repeating this pattern with my best friend and roommate as we neared our college graduation. The way I saw it, if I was awful to people and broke friendships ahead of time, then I wouldn’t miss them and they wouldn’t miss me once we were apart.
Can I just tell you how badly that backfired? Not only did I miss my friends, but I ended up feeling horrible about how I had treated them. Even worse, 20th century modes of communication being what they were, it was really hard to keep in touch and apologize.
Love each other through it
That’s really what it’s all about, though, isn’t it? “Love them through it” is just about the best and most versatile piece of parenting advice my mother ever gave me. Except when you’re preparing to launch your baby off into the big wide world and growing pains are hurting you both? Loving them through it becomes a two-way street.
Love each other through it. Give each other space and grace. And know that you’re actually both probably going to cry and miss each other like crazy when the long goodbye of the summer has reached its end. At least, that’s how I’m pretty sure it’s going to go. I still have 8 more weeks until I have to find out.