Sending My Oldest Child Off to College — A Day-By-Day Diary
  • September 8, 2018
  • (Written one week before drop off)

    My husband and I are dropping off our daughter for her freshman year at college in one week. My emotions are all over the place.

    It’s all a bit surreal. I can’t imagine not seeing her bounce into the house after school and tell me about her day. I can’t picture my day without hearing her chattering about what’s going on in her life.

    When she’s at college, I won’t know where she is, who she’s with and what she’s doing.   It’s a bizarre thought for a parent who knew where her kid was (most of the time) for 18 years to suddenly have no clue.  How does a mom reconcile that?

    I have no choice.  I’ve been slowly handing over the reigns to her over the past couple of years since she received her driver’s license and tasted freedom.

    sending first child to college

    I am so excited for her to go to college; I honestly am.

    A parent’s job is to prepare their kids to live on their own.  Now, the test begins.   My husband and I tried to explain to her a couple of years ago and repeat it just about every time that she went out, to have fun and make good choices.

    Is it wrong that I still want to eat her toes?  That if I could, I would snuggle her body, which is one inch taller than mine, onto my lap and wrap my arms around her.  I still love pulling her close (when she lets me) and inhaling her scent.

    Once she decided which college to attend, she took the bull by the horns and on her own found housing, chose a meal plan and searched for the right roommates.  She made a list of all the things we needed to buy for her dorm. She organized who would be getting what with her roommates.

    I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised that she prepared like that, but I was. I was impressed and so proud.

    (Written the day after drop off)

    Oh man, yesterday was a terrible day for me.

    I woke up feeling nauseated.  Was I getting physically sick, or were my ailments purely emotional? It turned out to be the latter.

    Everything about the day was wholly right and how it should be.  My very capable 18-year old started the next chapter of her life at college.  It’s what many kids do after high school.  We like the school she chose; we like her roommates; we know she will shine.

    With a nauseous stomach, tears bubbled out a few times on the car ride to school.  I almost couldn’t be cheerful; I was stunned at what was happening.  

    Fortunately, when we arrived, things were very organized and the schlepping of all her stuff out of our car and into a cart went fine.  I focused on the task at hand; I had a purpose.  

    We wheeled her belongings up to her room and helped her unpack.  Not wanting to jump all over her big moment, I let her direct me on what she wanted to do.  Slowly but surely, all the bags she had so carefully packed up were unpacked, and her dorm room, shared with her roommate, took shape.

    When we reached the small stuff that only she could put where she wanted, I knew my tasks were done. My brain shifted from task-mode, to holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening mode.  The tears began to bubble again.

    It was time to say our goodbyes, time to leave my baby girl.  I couldn’t hold my shit together any longer and cried hard as I hugged her good-bye.  She tried to comfort me, to no avail.  

    My husband and I left.  I cried most of the way home.  Logically, I knew everything was right and okay.  She was a little nervous, but mostly excited to experience college life.  I know she’s self-sufficient and that she and her roommate would navigate things just fine.  I knew she would eat and take care of herself.

    The emotional part of me, however, felt like I just abandoned my baby girl.  I left her in a big building full of strangers, on a campus full of more strangers and I, her own mother, wouldn’t be there to take care of her.

    How could I do that? Who would remind her to bring a jacket, take along a water bottle, way the pros and cons of her decisions?  How have other parents navigated this? It was unbearable.  A chunk of my heart was ripped out and left in the dorm room.

    Since I no longer eat my feelings away, nor do I drink or take any other substances, I sat with my sad feelings. I know that gradually I will adjust to being a mom who has one kid in college and one in high school.  

    Did I mention the one in high school is taking his driver’s test next month? *Sigh*

    (Written one week post drop-off)

    My daughter, according to our many exchanged text messages, seems happy at college and I am thrilled.  

    She’s made friends, joined clubs, and has so far been enjoying the events that the campus has to offer.  And oh, she’s started her classes and none of them have paralyzed her with fear and self-doubt.

    I feel much better than I did a week ago.  I still feel sad when I look into her empty bedroom or pass by the things in the market that I used to buy her.  I cry when I read on social media or see anything remotely involving a mother and a daughter.

    I’m now outnumbered as the only female in the house as my husband and son are home with me.  I have no one with whom to discuss menstrual cramps.

    I have no one to ask – which looks better with these jeans – this or this?   I have one less person in the house who makes me laugh.

    I replay a montage of her life in my mind:  telling my husband we were pregnant; the emergency C-section that brought her into the world; her strawberry blonde pin curls that for years grew outward until they were substantial enough to grow down; how she practically crawled under my skin in jealousy when I was nursing her little brother; her lisp that she outgrew; talking to her about getting her period; looking for colleges.

    Tears are streaming down my face as I write this.  Maybe I’m not adjusting quite as well as I thought.

    I know she is happy and thriving.  What more could a mother ask?  

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    About Ronni Robinson

    Ronni is a member of the Sandwich Generation; she's the tired lunch meat layered between two teenage children and aging parents. She finds hours of cardio activity to be less exhausting than her combined caretaking efforts. Although Ronni grew up in South Jersey, she was pulled over the bridge in to the Philadelphia area by her husband over 20 years ago. She's a little freaked out that her oldest child left for college in August; the first step to adding Empty Nester to her resume. She looks forward to a healthy and happy 2018, full of family, friends, and fitness.

    3 thoughts on “Sending My Oldest Child Off to College — A Day-By-Day Diary

    1. Emily Gaffney

      Great post Ronni! I wasn’t a crier myself, and my daughters seemed particularly happy to be on their own, but, flash forward 7 years and my oldest lives right next door! The circle of life!

      Reply
    2. Maria Fernanda Wetzel

      What a sweet post. I am a mother of a 6 year old who just started first grade. I cried (and still do) when I think about the end of her journey as a preschooler and kindergartener. She is not my baby anymore and time is not slowing down. I have the feeling I will be very emotional when college comes around. Just from reading your post I can feel the nod in my throat and the tears trying to escape. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Reply

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