It’s that time of year again, isn’t it — the time when the long, lazy days of summer draw to a close, the carefree stretch of endless, unplanned hours giving way to the hustle and bustle of a new school year? It’s back-to-school week here at Southern BelleView. We’ve gathered on the front porch to talk about the beginning of a new season and what it means.
Yesterday in Wal-Mart, I watched as a little red-headed guy of about first-grade age plopped himself down behind a display of shiny new spiral notebooks, crossed his arms, locked his little cowboy-boot legs and steadfastly proclaimed, “I don’ want no ‘cool supplies. I wanna go swimmin’!”
Bless that little fella’s heart. I don’t blame him. I remember feeling exactly the same way. As much as I always loved shopping for new sneakers and school clothes, I hated it when those wild-child days of summer were over. It was the end of sprinklers-in-the-yard, countless excursions down the creek with our minnow nets and backpacks, long games of “let’s pretend” in tree forts and stuffy attic rooms….
It was, it seemed, the end of everything I loved the best and the beginning of things that were being forced upon me by a world that just didn’t “get” how much fun we’d been having.
In some ways, as I stood there watching that little boy’s mama try to coax him off the Wal-Mart floor yesterday (she was very sweet mama, because some would’ve tanned his hide right there in the store aisle), I considered plopping myself down and joining him on his sit-in. A little act of denial, during which I’d pretend that I could somehow abort my own little shopping mission… or at least delay it a bit longer.
An hour, a day, a year… maybe ten.
Because this little shopping trip, for me, was “the” shopping trip… the one that happens far, far from home, but just a few blocks from an imposing, brick-clad institution of higher learning where a new dorm room awaits. You may know that shopping trip, yourself. It marks the end of move-in day and the beginning of that awful good-bye that feels like the end of everything.
If you’ve been through it, or you went through it this year, or it looms in your future, you know that unpredictable bag of mixed feelings that travels along when you pack the car and drive the long, long road to whatever destination this seemingly-so-young person has chosen. You’re proud, you’re hopeful, you’re excited, and (if you’re like me and most of the parents I visited with over the weekend) you’re so very caught up in the bittersweet. Life goes by while you’re not looking. How can it be time already? Will it all be okay? What happens now? And the biggest question of all…
Am I going to make it out of Wal-Mart without having a breakdown in the school supply aisle?
I’d have whisked our soon-to-be-college-boy off for another little-kid day at the old swimming hole, if I could’ve, but since that wasn’t possible, I thought I’d share just a little bit of our move-in day at (far, far from home) Texas Tech University… and maybe a tip or two that might help if you’re facing this day yourself soon.
1. Take a last photo at home. While you’re busy trying to cram all that stuff in the car, don’t get so busy that you forget to take pictures before leaving home. This is a big day, after all… and you’ll want that picture later. Trust me ;o)
2. Bring stuff with wheels! Gee whiz, we have tons of fold-up dollies, carts, and book crates, and this is our second kid to head off to school, but did we arrive with ANYTHING that had wheels on it? No. Typically it’s a long way from the parking lot to the dorm room. Wheels save lives in this situation.
3. Make local connections. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing you have friends in your baby’s new location. Be sure to get in touch with friends or relatives who live nearby. Give the phone numbers to your kiddo. Make introductions if necessary. Locals can teach you all the important things… like where to shop and how to properly get your “guns up” in Red Raider speak!
4. Go buy healthy foods… or at least stuff you know they’ll eat. It’ll make you feel better.
5. Bring some treasures from home, like this quilt, which was made from years and years of baseball team shirts. It’s a taste of his home and his history, made with love by a grandmother who’s going to miss him.
6. Plan ahead for some fun photos that capture the moment. Okay, only one of these pout lips is real, but he’s doing a good job of pretending for his mama, and who wants college move-in day to be full of sour, dour memories? Try to find a little fun amid the bittersweet moments.
7. Plan for communication. Seriously, this box we found in the dorm room is no joke. It says “Call your mother”. Plan ahead for a routine of communication. Come to some agreements about how you’ll keep in touch and how often.
8. Don’t cry until you get in the car (if you can help it ). It’s important to be aware that kids being left at college can be insecure and nervous, too. Try your best to put on a strong face and offer plenty of encouragement as they take this big step into the next phase of life.
9. Pray and let them know you’re praying. Why not send a text or a note from time to time to say “Just letting you know you were prayed for today. I hope it’s an awesome day!”
10. Refocus. Have something planned as a distraction when you get home… like a blog post that has to be written, for instance.Remember, many before you have been through this transition and survived. There’s hope.
And after all, the holidays are only a few months away!
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