By MJ Lemire, UC Davis Parent Council Member
Figuring it Out
“There’s so much college information to sort through,” my friend tells me over coffee. “We’re trying to help Emily figure it out, but how do we know what’s best?”
It’s that time of year when college admittance decisions are in the mail. Not long ago, I was the mom on the other side of the table, asking questions. I remember both the excitement and the apprehension back then as my husband and I stood beside Austin and Faith, helping each sift through the cavalcade of college material. It seemed impossible that, at seventeen and eighteen years old, they were about to take that first step towards adulthood by enrolling in college.
Several years earlier, when Faith and Austin were just two and three years old, I thought, “This is their best year right now. I wish I could stop time.” While I’ve echoed this sentiment almost every year of their lives, the years have not been without struggles. Like every family, we’ve had our share of challenges.
And the college years have been no different. During these university years, we’ve had to grapple with finances, distances, and misunderstandings. There were illnesses and accidents, failed friendships and failed classes. Yet, while the college years have had struggles, there has been this sense of wonder as we’ve watched our kids grow into themselves.
It seems like only yesterday Austin was new to UC Davis, meeting his freshman roommate on the third floor of Wall Hall. Now he and his sister are standing in the wings, soon-to-be college graduates. After Austin and Faith receive their degrees in engineering, one will start a career in engineering and the other, surprisingly, may not. As these college years have progressed, my husband and I have had to learn to stand less beside our kids and more behind them. To support their decisions, not direct them. It isn’t an easy role-shift to make –stepping back – and we’ve been far from perfect at it.
As in all years prior, parenting during the college years has been about adapting. Along the way, we’ve learned from parents who have gone before us, as well as shared experiences with those navigating the college years with us. UC Davis provides a wealth of opportunities for parents to connect with other parents, the university and their kids. Seek these opportunities out. Join the AFPA, attend Picnic Day and walk the Traditions. Learn about UC Davis, this place that’s now your child’s life. A great starting point is CAAA’s and APFA’s website.
“So, based on your kids’ college experiences,” my friend says, “how do you determine what’s best for them?”
Best for them? I realize that I don’t have that answer.
Based on my kids’ college experiences, I can tell her this. Be there for your student. Don’t lose sight of the person you raised; they are there at the core. Listen. Acknowledge their maturity. Understand their choices. Teach them tenacity. Celebrate their successes. Accept their failures. Praise their perseverance. And pat yourself on the back.
As the next four years progress, I’ll tell my friend to take a step back and marvel at her daughter’s growth. Then, I’ll tell her, “Marvel at your own growth, too.”