[Book Brief] Out To Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage

college student

Out to SeaOut To Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to The Freshman Voyage
Kelly Radi
2016, Beaver’s Pond Press

The Idea

The author says it best:

After watching a little pink plus sign slowly reveal itself on a stick twenty-two years ago, one of the first things I did was buy a book called What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This book became my pregnancy survival guide. I referenced it daily, comforted by advice from experts and women who’d carried babies before I did.

In the years that followed, I found how-to books for parenting toddlers and teens. So as our “baby” neared high school graduation, I found myself once again unsure about the future—wondering what to expect as we sent her off to college. I searched for answers, for a guidebook. I found books on ACT prep, college finances, and admissions. I found several books geared toward students themselves. But what I wanted was an honest, heartfelt, informative book written for parents by someone who truly grasped the tsunami of emotions I was experiencing and would give it to me straight.

Life is a series of journeys. This book speaks to those of us who are sending our children off on the journey of a lifetime: the first year of college. A combination of anecdotes, research and checklists, Out To Sea helps parents navigate the practical and emotional aspects of this part of the  journey.

Recommended For

Someone who is launching their first child off to college, enjoys learning from other people’s tips and stories and wants some practical “been there, done that” insider information to brace themselves for what lies ahead for their launching child, remaining at home siblings, their partner, and themselves.

The Pros

It is a well-written book containing just the right mix of the author’s personal stories, university administrators’ feedback, and student/child anecdotes. Radi is thorough in sharing all the perspectives and interspersing them with check lists and quizzes (“Are You a Helicopter Parent”, Packing Lists and Summer Break Conversation Starters).

It also tackles topics like how to discuss finances with your child, crime and safety on campuses and how to handle roommate relations, difficult topics that need to be discussed.

She also acknowledges how the distance from home can change a dynamic, but recognizes that the emotions of a child launching from their parents’ home are not defined by the mileage between the childhood bedroom and the young adult dorm room.

The Cons

There are a plethora of “launching your kid into the big wide world” books on the market, so it’s necessary to have a hook that makes your book standout. This book’s hook is the voyage analogy. From the cover artwork to the quotes leading off each chapter, Radi is true to her voyage message. A bit kitschy for my liking at times, but may resonate with others.

Radi’s stories are well-written but too detailed. I can picture the parent she describes at the conclusion of Move-In Day, crying big messy tears with Kleenex stuffed up her sleeve, clinging to her baby for one last hug. But three paragraphs about this was a bit much for me.

My Take

To buy or not to buy – that is my monthly question. I bought this one for three reasons: 1) With the emotional charge of this topic, I thought having a quick-reference guide on hand for the next 8 months would be good for my mental balance; 2) I wasn’t sure how highlighting and post-it noting I would want to do in it; and 3) It wasn’t available through my library. I’m glad I bought it, but would gladly share it with anyone who’s interested in a sampler before purchasing their own.

Parenting books, like many business books, can easily and quickly go off topic. Thankfully, this one is well-organized and sequential. The mixture of shared personal experiences (the author’s, her husband’s and her younger daughter’s) combined with those of friends, administrators and current freshman (random people she approached on campuses) provide a well-rounded perspective on how this voyage can unfold. The checklists are good starting points and some of her commentary are direct reminders (if it won’t fit in the back of the SUV, it probably won’t fit into the dorm room) that need to be restated and shared with my child.

Shared Insight

Chapter 8 – Changing Course at Home was my favorite. Radi talks about how the child’s departure affects the remaining sibling(s) as well as you and your partner. I shared this chapter with my sons and my husband. We discussed how technology has changed this part of the launch from the time we left our parents’ houses and our own experiences as stay-at-home siblings (both my husband and I are the youngest of our families).  Having this conversation with everyone felt like we were all given permission to acknowledge the change coming our way and the understanding that we’ll all process it differently.

Bon Voyage!

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