Labor Pains: Sending Your Child Off To College

Advice for sending your kid off to college without the need of an epidural.

Nobody tells you that labor pains don't really kick in until your child hits adolescence. And the closer they get to leaving the nest for college, the more intense those pains become. 

As one mom emphatically put it, "I'm so ready for her to leave--she's driving me (expletive deleted) crazy!" 

It's only when your child turns the corner of 17 that you realize that the iconic book on parenting "What To Expect When You're Expecting" should have a "College Bound" edition.

Let's face it, the last few years with your child have been an emotional rollercoaster with everyone's hormones a-popping, including the dog's. Your burgeoning adult is testing your mettle while you're just emerging from an 18-year stupor filled with playdates, practices, endless loads of laundry and a medicine cabinet filled with a lifetime supply of Mother Motrin to see you through it all.

You're also starting to realize that the man who has been aimlessly walking around your house for the last 18 years is not a plumber, carpenter or handyman. Despite his eerily strong resemblance to your father-in-law, this man is actually your husband. And you curiously muse as you reach for the bottle of wine, "Really? This is what I was looking for 20 years ago?"  

Here are 10 pieces of advice to help you hold onto your sanity as you get your child off to college: 

1. Raid your neighbor's mailbox for every Bed, Bath & Beyond 20 percent off coupon you can find. Cozy up to the mailman. Skulk other towns for bulk mail drop offs. Remember this--that 20 percent cost savings has to be good for a couple of bottles of cheap wine.

2. Don't stress over trying to delicately give your child advice about laundry, life and dorm disasters. 90 percent of anything you say to them has the potential to ignite an emotional outburst. Let's face it, you've been a total embarrassment to them for at least the last three years, so anything you say is guaranteed at least two eye rolls and a shake of the head. Liberate yourself: if you have something to say, pretend you're your mother-in-law and just let it fly without the filter.

3. Now is not the time to have that talk. Whether that talk is about amorous relations, the handling of money or the direction of their life. No matter what you say to them all they'll hear is "Don't worry, we'll send money." Save the serious conversations for the Thanksgiving break when your patience is absolutely snapped by all the relatives who have invaded your home empty-handed.

4. Unless you want to be known as the parents who funded the best party for the entire incoming freshman class, do not give your kids a credit card under your account without placing a limit on what they can spend. In fact, do yourself a favor and have them use a debit card instead. Better for them to get flustered reading "Insufficient Funds" on the ATM machine than you being embarrassed at dinner with your in-laws when the petulant 16-year old waiter hands you back your credit card sneering, "It's been denied" and your father-in-law goes on a tirade about your lack of fiscal responsibility as he pulls crisp cash from his WWII government issued money clip, and reminds you that when he was your age his house was paid off.

5. Keep in mind that sometime around the second semester you will shift back into a position of power in your college-bound child's life. The further they move from the comfort and security of your home, the more God-like you will become to them. They'll fall to their knees, invoke your greatness, and call you when they are absolutely desperate and out of other options. Just remember that your divine intervention is always in the form of cash. 

6. Don't be upset if, in the process of packing your child up, they tell you that they hate you at least once. Anyone who tells you that a teenager has never screamed "I hate you" to them is an aunt or an uncle and have no children of their own. 

7. College is the most expensive round-the-clock daycare with supervision that kicks in only when they get kicked out. Nonetheless, try to find the sleep patterns you had 18 years ago now that you're not waiting up for anyone to come home. 

8. You and your college-bound child share more than just DNA--you share the primary goal of achieving independence. Help them by packing faster; help you by converting their room into your sanctuary.  

9. When you drop your child off at college it's time to let them go. Just remember to stop the car before you do. 

10. If you still have younger children at home, put your feet up and have a glass or two of wine. By the time they leave, your oldest will move back home with massive debt and their ex-boyfriend or girlfriend's dog. 


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