I remember the lump in my throat that felt like it was choking me. I pulled my sunglasses down so my oldest child could not see the tears that were about to flow down my cheeks as we hugged goodbye at the door to her first college dorm room.
That was four summers ago. I can hardly believe we are moving her back to school for the final time this month for her senior year of college.
College Freshman Parent
But I have not forgotten the months leading up to dropping her off at the dorm freshman year. Summer nights spent lying awake imagining the worst. Watching the days fly by full of shopping for the dorm room, virtually meeting new roommates, teaching her how to do laundry, prepping for this huge transition. Moments of panic, mine, not hers.
Looking ahead to Thanksgiving break, not knowing how I could go that long without seeing her. Yes, freshman parent, I remember well what you are going through. As a military spouse, I was very used to picking up and moving, meeting new friends, saying goodbye. But not to my child. It is a whole other ballgame and one that caught me off guard.
It Really is OK
It feels like your heart is being ripped out, but at the same time, your chest is pumped with such pride. It’s a complete contradiction of emotions! And it’s totally NORMAL.
I recently attended a going away party for a young woman, a military brat, taking a job overseas. I’ve known this young lady since she was a girl. Her Mom is one of my closest friends, and we’ve been through a lot together as military families. The country she is moving to is not a war zone, but it is not a secure, stable government either. While I am sure her parents have their moments of worry, they are more excited for her than anything else. And I think a large part of that is because of her upbringing in a military family.
As a military brat, this young woman saw her parents deal with, at times struggle with, and ultimately overcome obstacles such as PCSes, deployments, and missed birthdays and anniversaries. The Air Force moved them around the world to Australia and across the country several times. The moving wasn’t always smooth. One of the worst was the bed bug PCS where every single mattress became infested, the result of not being packed up properly. Not a dime of reimbursement because they had no way of proving the infestation occurred during the move. Sound familiar?
It Takes a Village
She experienced her Dad deployed for a year, the year she was learning to drive. In fact, her Dad had asked my husband to take her out driving in the snow so she could gain experience. She witnessed first-hand how military families work together to support each other and step up in a pinch.
My friend, her Mom ended up in the hospital during that same deployment. She saw over and over again how you make lemonade when life deals you bed bugs, a hospital stay and a moving company that should be out of business.
So, it is no wonder her parents feel comfortable sending their daughter halfway around the world. It is the same reason I’ve been able to let my daughter move six hours away for the last four summers. I am confident that the military moving around, having to adapt to new schools, make new friends, dealing with having a parent absent for a year, it all builds character and resiliency. Our military kids are more than prepared as we send them off into adulthood.
So the next time the nerves start to hit you Freshman Parent, don’t wallow in the sadness. You’ve worked hard instilling in your kids good common sense and a decent work ethic.
When you feel the tears start to come, or nostalgia begins to take over, try not to let your child feel your anxiety.
And when you are standing at the dorm room door, make the goodbye a quick one. Have your sunglasses handy and remember that you’ve done your job well. Yes, an internal pep talk really does help.
Saying Goodbye (for now)
I’m not going to lie. This moment will be one of the hardest. Much harder than watching them play their last high school game, harder than attending their final band concert, and harder than watching them accept their diploma.
No sugarcoat. Saying goodbye at the start of freshman year sucks. Plain and simple.
But you will get through it.
Your joy and pride will eventually take over for your raw nerves and fear.
The next four years will go by in the blink of an eye. I know, it sounds trite but it will… in a flash. So enjoy, cry, think, feel and remember our military kids truly are resilient and ready to fly.
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PCSgrades Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media/Community Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel and their two children.