By Guest Blogger Chanel James

July 2020. How did we get HERE? I mean, I do have a few guesses, but that might start some drama.

Specifically, how did we get here… the place where your baby is leaving for college. Away from you. Away from your protection. Into a world of stress, trauma, racism, and corona. Like, Corona AND Corona.

My son, Dylan, will be a sophomore at App State this fall. A lot has changed since last year, but there are feelings that all parents will share, and you don’t know until you get to this place.

Positives: Your child is excited, and ready for this new chapter! Butterflies in their tummies and an internal smile too large to be measured. Most colleges are like resorts these days, so your child is about to be on the best all-inclusive vacay of his life!  The more excited they are, the stronger the confirmation that you did this thing right … you prepared them, and they are ready!

Reality: As a parent, particularly as a mother, get ready to grieve. You thought you were fine with it, but the weeks leading up to his departure have you thinking about it– each time you say goodnight face to face, ask if he needs ketchup, or tell him to empty the bathroom trash cans, or each time I ask about his blood sugar (living with Type 1 Diabetes). I worried about what I meant to tell him but didn’t. We are also Black, so worries about my black son’s safety and interactions with others has always been a concern long before it was acknowledged by so much of the nation.

Simple advice:  Be sad, worry, panic about his health, and let yourself tear up or even ugly cry when you walk past the empty bedroom. Let yourself feel the loss and don’t fear that you are over-reacting. Don’t stress yourself to the point of shingles the week he leaves (I may or may not have done this), but it’s okay to be sad as you realize things will never be the same.

Younger siblings: It WILL affect them. It’s not always clear, as they experience nervousness and anxiety that they can’t necessarily articulate. Transitions can be hard, but realize that the situation often fosters a space for them to become more independent and creates a new relationship between siblings. It has been encouraging watching Bryce, our rising high school freshman, grow and appreciate his time with his older brother, cracking up together as they talk about current events and share educational Tik Tok videos and memes (“You about to lose your job”).

New Family: Your child will have a new family, including new friends, suitemates, roomies, etc. Don’t over think this! Don’t get over involved! We were incredibly blessed to have a wonderful experience with Dylan’s roommate— buddies from middle school and they could not have been a more perfect match. The roommate situation has a huge impact on your child’s transition and first year in college. Be sure to offer your child advice on healthy conflict resolution, and healthy compromise and communication. I also think it’s a good idea to have the roommate’s contact info- but for the love of Yosef do not use it! Having their phone number is only to make you feel better knowing that you have it in the event of an emergency.

College move in day 2020 will be undoubtedly different than every other. We will make sure that Dylan has all the insulin and supplies he needs for his diabetes, purchase about 2.3 million masks—reusable and disposable—because I assure you these kids are not washing every week. We’ll ensure he has enough cleaning supplies, soap, etc. Hopefully, Appalachian State will offer guidance regarding if our child becomes COVID sick because I will need a protocol, or else I may follow a carefully detailed plan of my own called, “Get to baby Dyl, NOW!”

If you are a believer, know that the real deal is this: We were never really in control—we just thought we were. So sit back and enjoy the ride. Trust the One who got us here, and promises to bring us through.

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