Acceptance Letters: Parents, college and letting go

Getting into a Communication Groove that Works for You

Katie Hafner
October 16, 2013

When my daughter was a junior in high school, she signed up for a six-week summer program in Brazil.  I couldn’t imagine how I would cope for that long without her. If I couldn’t face putting her on an airplane for a six-week trip, how would I handle a college drop-off? I joked with her that after she said good-bye to me on freshman move-in day, she should check under the bed in her dorm room. She was not amused.

That was then.

Now my daughter is a Kenyon junior, and I’m happy to report that although I miss her – and terribly -- life does indeed go on.

The right rhythm for communication has helped. Over the last couple of years, she and I have found a groove that works well. Okay, to be perfectly frank, she calls the shots. Unless I need to convey something urgent -- and I try not to stretch the definition of urgent (in case you’re wondering, “Why haven’t I heard from you this week???” doesn’t qualify) -- she is the one to initiate contact. We don’t Skype or FaceTime. We text. That is, she texts me once in a while to report a good – or, bless her heart, disappointing -- grade on a test. And she’ll text me the occasional photo – of a gorgeous day in Gambier, or the first snowfall (okay, I’ll confess that the last photo she sent was of a bill I had failed to pay).  I text back, and we get into a nice little texting chat, which invariably ends with her needing to go to class, or dinner – or just go wherever college kids go. And sometimes she calls. Nothing makes me happier than when she calls me every couple of weeks or so “just to chat.” And we’ll talk about anything and everything for as long as both of us can stay on the phone.

Sometimes I cheat, and invent an excuse to be in touch. I’ll idly text her to relay a flash of family news that she doesn’t really need to hear. She’s invariably great about responding, even if it’s just with an emoji. If I persist, but don’t hear back, I know it’s her quiet and polite way of telling me to cease and desist, which I do.

Here’s a whopper: My husband and I just got a puppy, and part of me suspects we got Newman the dog so I’d have an excuse to text photos of this irresistibly adorable animal to my child. At first, I texted her several shots a day: Newman getting a bath; Newman climbing into the dishwasher; Newman shredding a shoe. She’s been gushing about the dog. But as her responses have tapered off, I’ve cut back on the photos, and we’ve settled back into our happy groove of occasional texting and phone calls. And if she needs me – or wants me to send her a shot of Newman chewing off the leg of our favorite chair -- she knows how to find me.