As I prepare to send my second daughter off to college and she approaches turning 18-years-old, (most of her friends are already 18 but she is a later birthday), I can't help but mus on the similarity between this impending separation, and the 18 month old toddler she was, with those separations.
In the therapy "biz," 18 months is characterized by toddlers moving away -- literally ambulating away from their moms or dads, and returning back, to "refuel." I always loved this term; anyone studying developmental psychology has probably watched dozens of tapes of little tykes toddling off after the ball, or after whatever has caught their imagination, but then returning back for a cuddle, or a nuzzle, to literally "refuel" on security. Literal "love fuel," security, home base.
Not sure things are different for our 18-year-olds going off to college.
Their leash, or their range of mileage away from home base is certainly a lot longer, but is there anything really different in what they need from us?
Hopefully they have internalized lots of that love and security, but they still need to refuel! Maybe it's in the way of cash, (symbolic of that security and real too!) but they still need to come back and know that we are still there. Sometimes they will need to connect by fighting, creating strife; it's still better than indifference and a lack of contact! Kids do it in different ways, but they all do it. They all need to connect, refuel, and then move away, do their own thing. Practice being on their own. Back and forth. Just like the toddlers.
But, for those of you with kids going off to college for their first time, as you are approaching this very bittersweet, poignant moment in their lives, keep that memory of them toddling off and away from you, but always coming back.
For they will be back. Whether by text, a phone call, skype, or a visit, they still need you to refuel.
Happy Parenting and Congratulations to all you Freshmen!
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