For the first time in your life you are not alone – even when there is no one else in the room. A part of you, which began as a warm shadow of cells below your rib cage, has grown and splayed your ribs – like fingers around an orange. Your body holds the other safely within until it grows solid too. It effects your every moment, day and night. You are constantly aware of the potential life.
Eventually your balance shifts and your breathing becomes shallow. You fight your fear of childbirth, pushing through the pain, and after what seems a ridiculously long time, your body opens to welcome the other. And finally you see the who.
Well that’s how it was for me … And now my who has left me. The umbilical cut is complete and it is a whole new sensation. Eldest daughter has gone to university. I’m excited, pleased for her (proud too) and thankful she was able to take advantage of the opportunity to study and work towards her goal. Knowing many young people in the world don’t have those chances, particularly girls, she is fortunate.
I know instinctively it is natural for her to leave home at this age; eighteen years ought to be long enough to grow up. It is time, so what’s the ‘but’?
The letting go happens overnight and it really is quite scary. Suddenly I can’t check she’s gone to bed or even be sure she got home safely. Of course she has a phone but she would not appreciate me checking up on her every day.
It seems I have a choice; I can go out of my mind ruminating by day and worrying by night, or simply start to trust that all will be well. I am trying instead to focus on all the years of providing, what I hoped was a good practice manual of parenting, at least some of the time, and believe enough of it sank in and she will look after herself.
All the students were committed to do the work which has taken them to university or college, so surely it follows they won’t throw it all away? Hopefully that will come to pass, however the facts regarding the unfortunately termed ‘college dropouts’ are not likely to relieve parental anxiety. Higher Education statistics indicate between 6-7% of students will leave higher education in their first year at university.
A report from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills presented findings from a study of people who applied to enter higher education in 2006 and later dropped out.
- The most common reasons given by students for dropping out were either “personal” or that they were unsure what they wanted to do.
- Students‟ prior attainment was a key factor behind their likelihood of continuing their studies – those with less than 240 UCAS points were approximately twice as likely to have dropped out compared to students with a score of 360 points or higher.
- Improving career guidance could cut dropout rates – those who spoke highly of the advice they received in sixth form were also far more likely to finish their degree.
‘Personal’ reasons clearly covers so many scenarios but the obvious one is the sudden phenomena of everything in a life changing in the time it takes to journey from home to their university. If you are not feeling emotionally strong and enthusiastic for what lies ahead, it is easy to see how a young person might not cope, particularly when they are at risk of feeling separated from their family, lonely and isolated.
Most institutions do their absolute best to ‘hold’ first year students as they plunder through the alcoholic haze that is ‘fresher’s’ week. However, when the door swings shut on the busy new schedule, there is no denying they are in a strange bed, in a strange place and alone. Or are they? They have a mobile phone and probably a laptop providing endless hours of entertainment and the possibility of keeping in touch, via face-time or Skype, with long established friends. How much more difficult it was before the advent of modern communication devices to ease the experience. Although, I wonder if the absence of parental contact (and clucking) may have encouraged some students to stick at it longer? Tolerance of adversity may have declined with the advent of social media where every inane thought can be legitimately laid bare; simply pushing on through until things get better is not a popular mind-set nowadays.
Certainly the pressure to succeed feels high, jobs are not plentiful in the way they were when I was growing up and competition is strong. University courses are not a right of passage in the way that school is, and the finances eventually have to be borne by someone. The public purse is stretched; student loans will need to be repaid by our children.
Having said all of the above, when I dropped our daughter off, the excitement and expectation in the air was palpable and the Shepherd’s pie in the catered hall smelt delicious. In that moment I would have happily swapped places with her!
My fingers are crossed that all will be well for my daughter and the thousands of students all over the word trying to settle in to a new and stimulating life in higher education. Friends, other mothers, in the same situation have come to the conclusion that checking in every few days is a reasonable amount. I an interest to know what you think and how it has worked out for other, more experienced parents or any students who are living the experience too?
Other blogs on the subject:
‘Empty Nest’ previously on my blog.