I originally wrote about taking my oldest kid to college, and how it ripped my heart out of my chest. That was three drop offs ago.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say. Big deal. No biggie, right?
I am overwhelmed with joy and pride as each of my kids make their way into the great big scary, but still terrific world, armed with $1000 worth Target-sponsored “dorm list” products and mom-sponsored mandatory Lysol, pepper spray, and condoms.
When I dropped off kid1, my other kids witnessed up close and personal how we parents struggled walking away, all smiles and laughter on the outside, all ulcers and what-ifs and what-nows on the inside.
The younger sibs (two sisters, one brother), were too quiet, too ‘weirded out‘ in the after. They felt the loss during the silent, long ride home, and the days, weeks, and – I’ll admit it – months after. It was their loss too, but soon life got loud again. School, sports, homework, chores.
Routine and time is great for broken hearts.
When we took Kid2 to college, we were ready. We knew what to buy, what to avoid, what kind of adhesive to use on the walls. We knew the routine: drop and run. Got her settled, met the roommates, hugged, kissed, and went on our way. Because we’re pros, right?
Been there, done that. Easy-peasy. We knew what to do and how to do it. Plus, I knew to fake it better: leave laughing and smiling.
But before we got to the parking lot, Kid2 texted:
“You didn’t cry. You didn’t even CRY! You cried when you dropped off [Kid1]. You want to get rid of me?”
We called her immediately, laughing and teasing. (It’s how we roll.) We explained we were sad, but proud and that we loved – but she didn’t have time –”Gotta go!” The RA had something planned and her roommates were leaving.
“Later Mom, alright?”
While preparing to take Kid3 to college, I ran into first-timers over and over again at Target, at Bed Bath & Beyond, at Staples, and they all said without fail: “This is no big deal for you, you’re a pro!”
I just nodded. Nobody’s a pro at letting go.
Setting up her room, I sat in the hall and let the other parents: two first timers, and my rather attractive husband, take over inside. Not because I didn’t want to help; because I couldn’t.
I couldn’t fake it one more minute.
Taking your kid to college is much like childbirth: the first time is new and exciting. You don’t know what to expect and it can’t really hurt THAT BAD, can it?
Until it does.
The pain and loss hits you as a surprise; you knew it would hurt, you just didn’t know how much.
Now you do.
I take each kid shopping for stuff we don’t need, clutching coupons in one hand, trying desperately to buy more time before the hard stuff starts.
Although I’ve been here before, only the novelty is gone. The rest remains a reminder of what was, and what is yet to be.
I just know what to expect, and am living proof to all you newbies, that you too will survive. And perhaps, if you’re lucky, have the chance to do it all over again.
Julie Jo Severson says
I seriously do not know how I’m going to survive it/leg go when it’s my time. I cannot imagine that moment when you turn to leave their dorm room and drive away. But I didn’t know how I was going to survive sending my oldest to her freshman year in a high school that has over 3,200 kids this fall either. And I’m still here. My sister assures me that it will not be as difficult as I think it might be. I hope so. Well, kudos to you mama! Nice post. Fun to see the inside of the dorm. They make ’em so stinkin’ small!
Kate Mayer says
We raise them to do just this; just can’t be a little bit sad at their – and our – success! Good luck for a healthy, smart, and kind high school year!
I loved this- so true. I have been through it with my own kids, and as a college professor watched lots of nervous Moms leave their kids in the dorm. The first hours are really hard. When I left my daughter in California for law school (we live in Wisconsin) I swear I cried all the way to New Mexico.
Kate Mayer says
Thx! As a college prof you see first hand how well they are once us sadsack parents drive away. Like in pre-school, we just gotta get outta the way and let them grow. Thank you kindly for the read and comment!