My daughter Alessandra just left to start her last term at Brown. My heart breaks all over again every time she gets on a plane going east. I loved having her home for Winter Break because it encouraged me to experience the world in a new way. Whenever she comes home I connect in different ways, with different people.
Having a college-age child back home is an invigorating experience. College years are a time of growth and exploration. It is a time of constantly going outside of one’s comfort zone. I find when Alessandra is home she brings this energy into my life, too. Over the past month I’ve done a few things that I don’t do in my normal routine— I’ve gone out to a late night movie on a weeknight with Alessandra and a few of her friends. She’s taken me to drinks in a neighborhood I rarely frequent, and introduced new recipes to the family that I wouldn’t think to make.
Writers don’t often discuss the college-age child. It’s all about the toddler, the tween and the teen. And that makes sense; the 20’s are a decade of gaining independence from one’s parents and finding a separate identity. But your relationships with your children don’t have to suffer, even as they begin to make their own ways in the world. I think the key is to accept invitations to peek into their new lives as they become adults. Parent-child relationships change as children grow. It’s often difficult for parents to relearn to negotiate a world in which they don’t have to constantly consider a child’s needs.
This shift is tough, but there are ways to make the transition gracefully. For example:
Always accept an invitation extended by your college-age child. These experiences provide a poignant reminder of what it feels like to be flexible, curious and spontaneous.