A letter from a freshman’s mom

By Merry Smith

College was a distant thought when my daughters were born in 1983 and 1985. However, as any parent can tell you, the preschool years flew by. A major milestone was reached when the girls entered school. The next thing I knew, I was shopping for prom dresses. College was fast approaching, and I, for one, was not ready for this major life change.

My oldest daughter Meghan and I were caught up in the excitement of buying all the various necessities for a new college freshman. Reality set in when the family had to move all of her possessions to Eastern Illinois University. Suddenly, it was time for that difficult good-bye and leaving my first child on her own without her parents’ protective supervision. It was tough.

It wasn’t long before Shannon, my youngest daughter and freshman in LAS, reminded me that I still had a daughter at home. After the initial sense of loss with Meghan gone, routines returned to normal. In fact, life was actually a little simpler. With her sister away at school, there was no one for Shannon to argue with and she was thrilled to have a car to herself. Everyone adjusted to the changes.

Time marched on and Shannon graduated from high school in May 2004. She considered an out-of-state school but finally decided on the University. I was relieved for several reasons, but most importantly, because she would be close to home (that is in Savoy, Ill.), just in case there were any major problems. You know how mothers always fear the worst.

Move-in day was simple. We had gone through the routine before. She was moving into Weston Residence Hall that has the Weston Exploration Program, so she got the luxury of moving in before the big rush. It was a short drive home, in case she forgot anything. And everything seemed simple – until we returned home.

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Quiet – I could not remember a time when it had been that quiet. I did not expect to dislike this quietness. In fact, I was looking forward to it. But to have both my daughters gone left me experiencing sadness. It was going to take awhile to adjust.

Don’t worry, I made the adjustment!

I have learned to appreciate the quietness when my daughters are at school and the bustle of activity when they come home. There’s a key to finding that balance.

Shannon and I talk several times during the week and I feel I have a good grasp of her campus life. She volunteers with Vis-a-Vis, working in the local schools. Since I have been teaching school for 32 years, it gives us a chance to compare notes about kids. And Shannon never fails to call when she needs to go on a Wal-Mart run.

Mom’s Weekend has always been a special time for mothers and their children. I remember when I was a student at the University, I was able to show my mother around campus during that weekend. It was a chance for her to be connected to my campus life and meet a number of my friends. It was something that both of us looked forward to every year.

Now it’s my turn to visit. I am really looking forward to Mom’s Weekend. It will give Shannon and me an opportunity to spend time talking and sharing this unique time in our lives. Plus, I know she’s excited to do something for me. I hope to cherish this weekend, because as prior experience has taught me, tomorrow Shannon will be graduating.