Yesterday, we moved my oldest daughter into her dorm at college. She is a freshman studying nursing with hopes of becoming a RN in obstetrics or pediatrics. It was such a bittersweet moment in her life, in my life. Such an honor to watch her grow into this amazing woman with such a bright future ahead of her. I can barely contain my excitement for this new phase in her life and what it means for both her and I. Still, it also brings forth a twinge of sadness, emptiness and yes, even a smidgen of fear. Life happens so quickly.
She is entering this world and becoming even more independent. While she will always need her mother, her needs will fall more-so on herself and less on me. She will learn to rise to the challenge of problem solving, decision making, financial responsibility and taking care of her health, her belongings, her safety. Her father and I have done that for eighteen years. It almost feels like I am being fired from the one and only job I was exceptional (with some shortcomings in the mix) at doing…at being. A mom. That has always been and will always be my favorite title, position, and prize (well, in part from daughter of God). I would gladly drop anything to reach that status and I did when I decided to quit college to work as a preschool teacher before becoming a mother. And for the past nineteen years, that is the job title I have held…mom.
It has been and still is the most amazing thing I have ever done. Honestly. Aside from walking with Jesus, naturally.
Being a mother has taught me a lifetime of lessons and brought many tears. But let me assure you that it has brought exceedingly more happiness, laughter and most of all..love. The love is a treasure. It is a gift. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world to hear, “I love you, momma!”
So yesterday, as the girls were settling into the dorm and waiting for the IT guy to fix their connection, or lack there of, I sat in the lobby, watching many kids and families pour in and walk and talk. A mother was crying as she told one of the Welcome Week Crew that she kept telling herself to “Hold it together, just hold it together.” And she no longer could do that. I watched as one shy looking girl stood at the bottom of the stairwell, waiting for her mom to turn around to wave. Mom turned, waved, smiled and said goodbye. I believe that mom was on the verge of tears too. Shy girl retreated very quickly. I watched an overly confident young man try to insist that he could bring his twenty-five pound weights to the dorm until the RA said, “Sorry man, no weights allowed in rooms.” I watched a mother lecturing her daughter about keeping her focus on her grades and no 3am car rides to meet her boyfriend. I watched an amazing welcome crew, upperclassmen, work extremely hard to take EVERY single belonging to the dorms for EVERY single student, for hours upon hours. Not one complained. Well, ok, it was stinking hot but they still did it with a smile on their faces and it was just wonderful. I witnessed nervous kids, nervous parents, happy people, exhausted people, hot people, proud people.
And I witnessed a whole lot of love yesterday.
Then this elderly gentleman came beside me and asked if anyone was sitting in the seat beside me. I told him that my husband had been sitting there but please take the seat. He teased about him being better looking than my husband so he could sit next to me and then quickly asked how big my husband was and as I pointed to him (he was in the corner talking to IT) , the nice man said, “Oh God, He can have his seat any time he wants it!” I couldn’t help but laugh. This ice breaker led to a wonderful conversation about anything and everything. He told Kari she looked eighteen and he told her she isn’t allowed to date until she is twenty-one. He asked if Jenna had a boyfriend and when she said no, he told Kari to follow her sister because she is smart. No boys. No boys. No boys. We all had so many great laughs with him. He was darling.
And then he asked where we were from and when he found out we only lived twenty minutes away, he shared his blunt opinion on Emily living on campus. “What a waste!” “That is crazy!” And when my mom said it was worth the experience, he said adamantly, “No it’s not!” And shook his head.
I get this reaction a lot when others find out that she has chosen to live on campus that is only twenty minutes away and commuter friendly. I truly am used to everyone having an opinion that doesn’t align with ours on this subject. That’s ok. We are not here seeking anyone’s approval on what our family has decided upon regarding our children. I don’t mind anyone having a strong opposing viewpoint. Just hear me out one moment while I explain why it is absolutely worth it to have her live on campus instead of commuting to college daily.
Our Emily was diagnosed with social anxiety at a young age. She was painfully shy, so much so that she didn’t speak much of anything, and most likely not a word, in two years of preschool. All through school, she was one of the most studious, well-mannered, well-behaved, and most quiet students in the classroom. Every year we were met with teachers commenting on how incredibly quiet Emily was and we have heard, nearly every single year of her schooling, that she was a model student, one that the teachers wished all their students would be like. She has always made us very proud in her academics, leading the pack, getting the work done and doing it well. Honor student every single year, National Honor Society in high school, Youth Leadership award, top 20% of her class.
Yet she struggled socially, every single year.
Emily didn’t have many true friends throughout her school years. She was alone a lot of the time and didn’t get to experience many things that friends usually do during their teen years, She was still nearly painfully shy making it a little harder to make and maintain real friendships. Emily faced extreme anxiety when it came to presenting in front of the class and she suffered with a lower self-esteem. The friends that she thought she had never stuck around and most hurt her deeply. She put up walls and became a bit of a loner, never fully ok with that but it was something she learned to accept. I cannot begin to count the many times that I wept for her. It was because I experienced that too, as a teen and as an adult. I lived it. I knew just how much it hurt deep inside the soul. In her ninth grade yearbook, a teacher wrote what a pleasure it was to have her in his class but he still didn’t know if she actually talked or not. Funny. But not so funny.
So fast forward to yesterday, move in day on campus, that is only twenty minutes away from home.
Emily had been talking to her roommate several weeks before yesterday. They have really bonded and get along well. Her roommate met and bonded with a guy on orientation day and he quickly became friends with Emily too. He had another friend who was brought into the circle. They were all pretty emotional last night but were looking after each other and being true friends.
Freshman Frenzy was last night too. Emily wanted to go for dinner but her roommate didn’t and went back up to the room. Emily still went, sat down alone. Shortly thereafter, a young man sat down with her and they talked a little before he left. Sitting alone again, the group of young ladies sitting at the next table invited Emily over to their table because they said they hated seeing her sit alone. So she moved with them and met even more new friends. Later that night, the girl that came into the circle earlier was having a very difficult time, missing her mom and receiving a note from her roommate the night before move in day that she was no longer coming. She was alone. The original circle went down to her dorm and stayed with her until she was feeling better. Earlier this evening, they all helped move her to a single dorm and it is now just a few doors down from Emily.
Read that paragraph one more time. I’ll wait.
Did you get it? Did you feel overcome with love and a sense of belonging? Did you see that others actually saw my daughter and valued her presence and wanted her with them? Not just once. But all night long? Time after time, being accepted, included, loved, valued, wanted.
Yes, that, sweet sir who sat next to me yesterday and didn’t understand why she was living on campus, is the reason.
That? Is enough.
That? Is worth it’s weight in gold.
That? Was so desperately needed in my daughter’s life.
That? Will propel her into even more amazing relationships and special times in the next four years.
That? Will grow her confidence and empower her to know and fully believe that she matters, not only to her family but friends.
That? Smacks social anxiety and insecurity in the face with blunt force trauma.
That? Is so very worth every single dollar spent to have her live on campus.
Every single dollar.
It is worth it.
My God is so good and He has heard my prayers and answered them already. I am at His feet in praise and thanksgiving.
This is going to be the time of her life.
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19
Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find” – Matthew 7:7
All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” – Mark 11:24, emphasis added
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. – Psalm 86:17
Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones – Isaiah 49:13
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. – Luke 2:40
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Matthew 6:21
P.S. – I didn’t shed a tear until I read her texts about all the experiences she had just last night. On the first day. She said, “Mom, it is wayyyy different than high school.” I haven’t had a hardy cry yet. Just got teary. I’m due, though. Won’t be long. I miss her already. Even if it is only 20 minutes away.
She’s my treasure…therefore, she’s my heart.