What I have learned since my daughter left for uni
I wasn’t sure if I would write this but I have found that if I am pondering something in my life – or experiencing something – it usually follows that others are as well. It also helps me to keep a record of life-changing moments.
Less than two weeks ago, my daughter, formerly known as Little Miss outdoors, headed off to uni. She hasn’t gone too far but she has left home and she is now a fully boarding university student.
These are some of the things I have learned
This doesn’t seem so long ago
They grow up so fast and almost 18 years have flashed by. As soon as they go to secondary school time seems to speed up and then they are suddenly off to uni.
In some ways I wish I could turn back the clock but I am also very proud of the young woman LMO has become.
Uni is not for everyone, but it’s right for many.
A few years ago I wondered (out loud and with my daughter) if university was necessarily the thing to do. So many more people go to uni these days and it seemed like it might be a bit of a sheep thing.
I questioned whether she might be better looking for a job or an apprenticeship and thinking about uni at a later date, once she knew what she wanted to do as a career. (I went in my mid 20s and so I know it can be fulfilling when you are a bit older.)
I worried too that she might not get a place, or that she would be disappointed with not getting her first choice. (I think we always try to protect our children.)
But I have since realised that there are many places and courses for all types of students. The choice is incredible and even if we think that entry qualifications have been dumbed down, going to uni is an amazing experience.
Uni provides a great “next step” from home and is a bridge between parents and properly independent life after studying.
My daughter is only 17 and she seems far too young to leave home.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times in her teenage tears when I have wished for there to be 100 miles between us. On the whole, LMO has been good-natured but she has had her moments of angst and anger.
As we counted down the months and then the weeks to her uni start date I started to wish she was staying home for another year and delaying uni.
She has grown up a lot this summer thanks to a proper office job and a level of maturity I didn’t see coming. She is great company and often good to have around.
I don’t think she will mind me saying that she has also suffered nerves and anxiety about leaving home. We have had tears and crisis chats.
But I have been stunned by how well she has embraced university. I met her today and she seems so much more grown up and content.
She admits there have been a few times when she has felt a bit odd, not full-blown homesickness, but nervous and unsettled. However, she says she likes her new life. She tells me “it’s fine” and she likes the social side, buying her own food, the course and not being told what to do.
There are kids who have not settled so well and that must be awful. It’s bad enough not being there and worrying about your child let alone knowing they are crying themselves to sleep. But the university support system seems to be excellent and the students themselves are great at helping each other through difficult times.
I think that as parents we forget that when we were young we were ready for this next step at 17 and 18 so why would our children not be?
I worry I didn’t prepare my daughter for independent life.
I have thought for the last year or so that I should try to be more “hands off” as a parent. I wanted LMO to leave home and be able to work the washing machine, shop for herself, buy items on-line and cook.
But it’s not been that easy to let go of my mothering duties after almost 18 years and while I am not keen on shopping and cooking I have become very familiar with the routine and purpose of it. I have enjoyed nurturing and bring up LMO and now it feels odd that this duty has gone from my daily life.
And there have been numerous times when she has seemed unable to do things on her own, though. For example, reading a bus timetable, making a doctor’s appointment or opening a bank account.
I worried many times that I’d overdone the mothering a bit and I was incapable of letting go.
However, it seems she is fine. I am pleased that I did make her stand on her own two feet a bit and it’s apparent that she is capable of doing her own thing. She has messaged me only a few times to ask questions. Mostly she has coped and got on with things.
She does seem quite capable of looking after herself at uni.
I think, too, that she is in a lovely and supportive environment and with many other kids in the same position as her but at least I know she is not clueless about looking after herself.
I miss my daughter far more than I thought possible.
I thought I was prepared for LMO leaving. I lead a very busy life and I am never bored. But the day she left I burst into tears. (I confess that there may have been some gin involved in this incidence but even so…)
I feel sad that she is not here. I miss her company, her laughter, her chat and I even miss her mess.
It feels so suddenly final.
I know she will be back for holidays and it might be that the uni course doesn’t work out and so she may return for a while but she has tasted freedom and independence and I know she will always prefer that now to home.
So it feels like there is a bit missing. Like a part of me, or something in my heart, has gone somewhere else.
I am truly happy for her though, just a bit sad for me.
I like some of the changes.
The food shopping costs a lot less. And the food that I put in the fridge and the cupboards stays there until I/the G-Force eat it.
There is a lot less general mess and the washing pile is smaller.
I don’t need to cook routinely and I can do whatever I fancy.
I do like some of these changes very much.
But it all seems to have happened rather suddenly. I am sure we will get used to it but just now I wouldn’t mind some of the mess and demolished biscuit packets to return.
I thought we would up sticks and move.
We still probably will move away from suburbia (where I moved for the good school) in due course but just now I feel like I want to stay here in case LMO wants to come home for a bit.
I had imagined a desperate need to move away, to return to my first love of country living, but it hasn’t happened like that.
I need to readjust and work out what the next step will be – and I want to make sure LMO is properly settled.
I want her to feel like home is still here if she wants to come back.
It’s a bit too early to feel smug.
It’s still less than a fortnight since LMO left home and so many things can happen at uni. She might not like it after the first headiness of a new and freer life. She might find she doesn’t like the course or that she gets behind with her work.
I am hoping it will all work out for her because she seems to be happy with uni life and her chosen subject.
But I’m not counting our chickens, just hoping she’ll continue to enjoy it – and that I’ll continue to cope without her.
People tell me it gets easier, and I’m sure that’s true, but it’s a bit early for me to say that for sure.