Monday, September 1, 2014

How to drop a freshman off at college

This has been one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.  There has been real grief and real joy in this process.  I am still recovering.  I'm going to apologize in advance for the blurry photos.  Everything happened so fast.  It will give the realistic impression of looking through tears.

Step 1:  Packing.

Three suitcases packed impossibly full.  Each suitcase came in at just under the 50lb weight limit.  This was no small feat.  Favorite pillow, favorite teddy, favorite journals all had to stay home.  We enjoyed the miracle of those big bags that can be filled and then vacuumed to remove the air.  Even though this made things wonderfully compact, it didn't make them any lighter.

Step 2:  Arrive at destination, hit all the stores.
It's all those little things that add up:  a white board, highlighters, a desk lamp.  Ka-ching!  Big bill at Target.  Then we went to another store where my credit card was immediately denied.  Apparently out-of-state big purchases trigger a freeze.  One parent told me that a Target she went to actually had  a sign on the front door warning out-of-state college parents to notify their credit card company before trying to make a purchase.  It took a little time, but I got it cleared up and spent plenty more money at the bedding store.

Step 3: Visit the campus even though move-in day is the next day.


"Mom,this is the lawn, this is the castle..."  is about the level of detail I got from her. She had been out to visit earlier in the summer with a friend to take placement tests. She was thrilled to show me the "writing room" in the library where she plans to hunker down with her laptop.

But the castle!  Oh my, what a beautiful place.  I learned the next day that it was modeled after the castle in Scotland that was later used to film the Harry Potter movies.

There were numerous ballrooms.

Some of the ballrooms had painted ceilings.

Suit of armor - I was told he tends to change spots and poses in the night.

Step 4:  Try to sleep the night before move-in.  Fail.

Step 5: Try to survive move-in day
This was so well orchestrated that it all went pretty quickly.  Parents backed cars up to the curb in front of the dorms and all the sports teams descended on the cars and unloaded them and took everything up to the room.  It felt like it was about 130 degrees and these poor kids kept their good humor despite being drenched with sweat at 10:00 in the morning. 

Step 6: Make the bed.

Even though it would have been a lot easier for her to wrestle the sheets onto the top bunk, I insisted on doing it.  It's the mom's job, the last time I'll probably ever make her bed for her.  I tugged and smoothed and tried to make everything as perfect as possible.  Meanwhile, Drama Girl stuffed clothes into drawers and I bit my tongue to stop myself from lecturing about the importance of folding.

Step 7: Meet the roommates and their parents
Did I mention three girls are stuffed into an "overbooked double?"  Drama Girl will only be with them for one semester and they communicated a lot before they met, but I still have reservations about the whole setup.  By the time we got all three girls and all of their stuff squeezed into the room, it was time to attend the half-dozen parent orientation activities while the kids went off to do some icebreaker activities with other students.

Step 8:  The final goodbye
I can't write about this without crying.  As the staff explained it, they designed it to happen fast, like pulling off a bandaid.  There were plenty of volunteers around with "Free Hugs" buttons and I confess I got one from a sympathetic stranger.  Seeing other moms (and some dads) tearing up didn't make any of it any easier.

But when all was said and done, it was such a happy day too.  As one parent said, it was like "releasing a trout."  A flip of the tail, a shimmer of light, and they were off, happy in their environment.

Good luck Drama Girl.  I love you.





4 people stopped folding laundry to write:

carol fun said...

Oh this brought back the memories of taking my son off to college. Same sequence of events although we drove so there was more stuff to unload. I cried the entire way home - all 3 hours! It does get better! It is wonderful to see them grow but it sure tugs at a mother's heart- take care - Sending a great big hug!

Rosemary said...

I'm sending you big hugs from Australia. I know what you are going through. When we moved to the farm here I had to leave my two oldest children back in our old town four hours from here. My daughter was at university, but lived at home my son had a job. I cried all the way to the new farm after leaving them behind.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Such an exciting and bittersweet time. I know how you feel having done this twice now (with a third one coming up in a few years). I made their beds too. :-)

Tami said...

Crying at my desk and I don't care who sees! :) I did that day twice, and I understand everything you wrote - especially making the bed! And the overcrowded room full of strangers. And the tears. I didn't lock the back door for a week after Son left - just in case he mysteriously drove hours home in the night, and forgot how to use his key, his cellphone or knock.

More "Free Hugs" coming your way from here. All I can say is it gets a little easier.

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