Every Parent's Worry: Keeping College Students Safe

Last night my daughter got a disturbing text message from one of her college classmates, who had spent the summer interning and attending classes with her in Orizaba, Mexico.

“Did you hear the horrible news?” her friend Sarah texted. We had settled in to watch the Olympics when Caitlin got the message that was followed up seconds later with a phone call.

Listening on the phone, Caitlin jumped up from the couch and ran down the hall. A short while later, I heard her crying.

When Caitlin had told me about the content of the text message while we were watching TV, I had immediately thought that one of her friends had died or was clinging to life.

I don’t know if it’s just me or if most moms catastrophize. When terrible things do happen it makes me all the more fearful. This past Christmas, a friend/classmate of my daughter’s best friend, died in a accident when the car she was riding in hit a patch of black ice and careened into a tree.

Last Thursday, a woman I was looking forward to seeing at my book signing texted that she couldn’t make it because her daughter’s dear friend–who happened to have attended my son’s high school– had died that day of an apparent drug overdose in Las Vegas.

When I ran back to Caitlin’s room to find out what happened, she told me, between sobs, that the father of the wonderful family she had spent nearly 10 weeks with in Mexico this summer had died of a heart attack.  Living with that family had been an incredible experience for her. They were so generous, warm and happy. It was such an inviting family that other college students, who were attending classes in Orizaba, gravitated to their house when they weren’t in school. Caitlin continues to remain a very close friend with the son, Ole, who she refers to as her brother.

I confess that I felt guilty for being a bit relieved that it wasn’t a teenager who died in Mexico yesterday. It’s a tragedy and I feel horribly for the family. But there is something about a young life getting extinguished that is even harder to take.

And that’s why that possibility– however remote it is — makes letting go the hardest part of the college process for me. When our children leave for college, we can’t keep them safe through sheer willpower. I can only trust that my husband and I have given our kids the tools to make the best decisions possible in their young lives, which I hope ultimately will make them safer.

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