This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope.
It was when I attended my cousin’s graduation party. Kevin, also known as “Cuddles”, graduated high school. This is a kid that I remember changing his diaper! I remember when he was a baby and not in that “I’ve looked at pictures so many times that I think I remember” way…no I remember him being a baby. I can recall how he would cuddle up next to me in the nook of my arm as we sat on the couch together, feeling as though he could never be close enough. I can recall how his chubby cheeks felt when you kissed them and how his eyes would light up when he would see me return from college for a family visit. And now he is graduating high school!
I feel old. Though I can’t imagine what his parents must be feeling! I have this rush inside of me to share everything with him before he leaves for college. To tell him the lessons that looking back I wish someone told me, to give him the guidance, the understanding to freely go out into the world and discover who he is. I recognize that the words will be wasted, eighteen year olds aren’t that interested in the knowledge of an older family member. But just in case, here is what I will say:
As fast as you can! But look back every once in a while and visit us.
Now is the perfect time to reinvent yourself, don’t be scared to do it. It doesn’t matter what you think your parents will say or do if they find out. Just do it, but be smart about it!
Follow a band around for the summer.
No one expects you to be the same kid who left for college. Each of us anticipate seeing you change, developing into an adult. No one expects you to not fall. So just fall. There is knowledge in the falling. Enjoy the experience of learning, of being around like-minded people and yet at the same time a completely diverse population. The people you meet in college will be your lifelong friends. Grow. Change. Gather ideas and awareness at lightning speed. Don’t worry about not being accepted when you return. College is like a metamorphosis. We are all looking forward to seeing what you will become. Now go, RUN!