This is Valerie’s third weekend away at college; it may be to soon to know for sure, but it sounds to us like the worst of her homesickness is behind her and she has turned the corner on adjusting to her new world without a room of her own, a stocked refrigerator and her favorite orange cat.

The reason we think her attitude is improving is because her text messages have gone from “Independence is over-rated,” and a panicked, “OMG, this is my life for the next four years!” to “It still feels like summer camp, but it’s getting better.”

As her parents, living through this sometimes painful adjustment has caused me to wonder, are kids really prepared to leave home at 18?

After talking to other parents and young adults who have gone through this more recently, the answer to that question is a lot like the answer you get when you ask, “Are five-year-olds ready for kindergarten?”

Based on my very small research sample, some are and some aren’t.

There are some kids, particularly boys, who are so ready to leave mom and dad and jump into the college experience that they are out of the car before it comes to a complete stop. The prospect of freedom…and cute girls…far outweighs any discomfort they may have in rooming with people don’t share the same DNA.

On the other end of the spectrum, are the stories about girls who are so miserable living in the dorms that the parents won’t even answer the phone when caller ID shows that it is their daughter calling. It’s too hard for them to stay objective that going away to college is a positive experience when that much weeping is coming at you from the other end of the phone.

I have even heard that there are kids who are so overwhelmed by the adjustment that they beg their parents to rescue them after being at college for just one week – and their parents oblige. All I can say is that I hope they have tuition insurance. If Valerie were truly miserable after being at Chapman for one year, we would talk about it.  But unless she wants to walk home from Orange County, in our minds, she is committed for the year.

So where do we think Valerie fits in this range of being ready to go away to school? We definitely believe that she is ready to develop into her own person away from mom and dad and that she is just going through some growing pains.