So your kid is going off to college and you're dreading it. Every time you walk past his or her room, all you can see are the bags from Target or Walmart filled with towels, extra long twin sheets, pillows, socks, a shower caddy and Ramen noodles.
Your heart is breaking, right?
Bad news: there's nothing right now that will take that lump in your throat away.
Good news: that feeling won't last long.
We learn that most of the time what we dread about any foreboding life change, is not the change itself, but the impending nature of it.
Your kid is about to leave you. The kid, who at age three wouldn't even let you go to the john by yourself, is now going to be able to undo all that you have taught him or her. Eat your vegetables. Don't talk to strangers. Do your homework. Go to bed.
No doubt behind that air of exhilaration your teen is giving off, you know he or she is a little anxious, too. And that fuels your angst even more.
You envision your kid sitting alone on some extra long dorm bed that required special sheets you had to hunt down. That moment in June, when you were complaining about those stupid linens as some kind of conspiracy between higher education and the big box stores, will give way to this moment in August when all you will want is to hear that toddler screaming on the other side of that bathroom door.
Bad news: a variation of this scene will happen on move in day.
Good news: move in day moves on and so will your kid.
Daughters will keep in contact more often than sons. But kids these days love to stay connected -- even to their parents. Skype, text and emails ease our hovering generation into this new uncharted territory of not being needed on a daily basis even if for the last few years it's been only to provide food and shelter.
Now you are reduced to writing a check or filling out a FAFSA form to give them those basic needs.
But your kid isn't the only one getting an education. You must now become versed in a thing or two.
Here's what I've learned from having two kids dare to move on after high school and do quite well despite all my attempts to keep them needy and dependent on their mom.
Syllabus on Letting Go of Your Kid 101:
1. Give them space. Let them establish communication and be okay with how often or how little they make the effort. (You will be surprised at how frequently they want to talk to you now.)
2. Understand that your role is changing. Setting rules now gives way to establishing expectations that they learn to be healthy, independent thinkers and doers.
3. Ask how classes are going, but don't demand a report on grades. Simply let them know if they are flunking they should tell you, otherwise let it be. (To this day I have never asked about college grades from my kids.)
4. Don't respond to every Facebook photo they post. Believe me, they aren't posting that photo for your benefit anyway.
5. Show them you are independent from them. Like a clingy boyfriend, parental neediness is unattractive. Explore one new thing for yourself now that your brain isn't completely consumed with being their parent. Being too busy to immediately answer a phone call or text from them because you're too engaged being you again sends them a great message about navigating changes in life.
6. Reinvent their bedroom. This doesn't have to be a major overhaul. Ease your way into it by getting a new comforter or pictures that you like. Think about a new paint color. You'll be looking at that room far more than they will from now on.
7. Send a care package. Include a simple note that says enjoy. You'll have fun gathering some of their favorite items. They'll appreciate the goods and that it came without any parenting strings or advice attached. Don't do this often as it defeats #5.
Bad news: this isn't an easy class.
Good news: Embrace your kid by letting go. You'll see that college can be an incredible journey. Who knows, your kid might even enjoy it, too.
Home of Boise State University, Boise made number three on CNN Money's "25 Best Places To Retire" list for its cultural scene, surprisingly moderate climate, and access to outdoor activities. They also ranked it among their "Top 10 Turnaround Towns," economically -- so it may be worth investing in as home values appreciate.
Claremont offers extensive senior services including the "Claremont Avenues for Lifelong Learning" program, which allows 60+ residents to audit classes at the Claremont Colleges for free. And that sunny California climate isn't bad either.
Fort Collins, home of Colorado State University, boasts a "small town feeling with the big city attributes that baby boomers crave," says bestboomertowns.com. Natural attributes abound, too, for retirees who like to ski, or are at least willing to weather snowy winters.
RealAge.com ranks the home of Duke, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University among its "25 Best Cities For Staying Young" for its "lively, optimistic, and socially connected population." In 2010, the Carolinas overtook Florida and Arizona as the top places to retire, a Del Webb study found: Topretirements.com cites lower taxes and cost of living, mild climate and promixity to beaches, among other reasons.
Clemson, SC with its reasonably priced homes, large university, lakeside location, and proximity to mountains and waterfalls also boasts a newly constructed million-dollar Osher Life-Long Learning Institute.
Home of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque boasts great year-round climate: warm, dry and sunny. It's not as walkable as retirees might prefer, but for the boomer who wants to stay active you can't beat the Sandia Mountains, as Topretirements.com notes.
Ithaca, located on the shores of Cayuga Lake, New York, is home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College. The area is known for its many vineyards and farms and is surrounded by rolling hills with pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. A recent partnership between Ithaca College and a few nearby retirement communities to promote intergenerational learning has opened the doors for local seniors to audit classes and attend plays and concerts on campus.
Princeton, New Jersey is a quaint and picturesque town featuring graceful streets, first-class shopping and top-rated restaurants. If you can handle the high state taxes and housing prices, the cultural opportunities in Princeton are superb because of the university and its proximity to both New York City and Philadelphia. In 2005, CNN/Money rated Princeton 15th on its list of the 100 best places to live in the U.S.
Set in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, Williamstown, home to Williams College, is a delightful town nestled in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. Williamstown is a sought-after retirement community for these reasons and for its extremely rich cultural environment. The famed Clark Art Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival are all located in this cozy northeastern community.
The city of Asheville, North Carolina offers transplants majestic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, relatively moderate temperatures year-round and first-class medical facilities. The University of North Carolina at Asheville was one of the first major schools to offer an on-campus center dedicated to making retirement a fulfilling stage of life: The North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, founded in 1988, is consistently ranked as one of the best facilities of its kind.
Charlottesville, Virginia, is home to the stately and picturesque University of Virginia, founded by President Thomas Jefferson. The town offers a tree-lined charm that, combined with its location at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, makes it easy to see why so many active adults are planning to retire in Charlottesville.
One of America's most famous college towns, Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to world famous University of Michigan. The city has strict zoning regulations that make life difficult for developers but result in an extremely pleasant small-town environment. Downtown Ann Arbor has music stores, sidewalk cafes, bars, bookstores, shops and an array of people from surrounding Michigan areas that descend on the town each weekend. For these reasons, many Midwesterners and University of Michigan alumni choose Ann Arbor as their retirement destination. (Just find friends to visit in the south when winter arrives.)
Gainesville, Florida, home to the University of Florida, has a reputation for being an inexpensive, lively college town with a Southern charm and knack for attracting recent retirees. The University offers local seniors access to college classes, cultural opportunities and world-class medical facilities, as well as priority access to Gators football games.
Eugene, Oregon, home to the University of Oregon, is famous for its extensive park system, which includes many bike and running trails. Access to the Cascade Mountain range with its unlimited hiking, skiing and outdoor opportunities, as well as a thriving and eclectic arts scene, make Eugene a favored destination for retirees.
Athens is a college town in the hills of northeastern Georgia. Nearby University of Georgia has helped to create an unusually liberal community with a thriving artistic, literary, musical and intellectual scene. Athens consistently ranks among the nation's best towns for relocation and retirement, with new residents drawn to the moderate climate, convenience to Atlanta and world-class hospitals and medical facilities associated with the University.
State College, home to Penn State University, has long attracted retirees with an abundance of shops, restaurants and cultural amenities in the area. People over 55 comprise the fastest growing segment of the town's population and the Village at Penn State, a renowned continuing care residence in the heart of State College, offers residents access to premium care as well as free admission to University classes and priority access to Penn State football games.