Thursday, August 27, 2015


We dropped our oldest child W. off at college on Saturday. For weeks leading up to the drop off, people would ask me how I was handling it. I think I shocked them when I said I was fine with it. But I was. I couldn't stop smiling. Not because a child was leaving the nest and our grocery bills would become more reasonable but because I was so excited for him to experience college. Other friends were counting down each "last thing" they'd have with their college bound child. I flat ignored all of that. I mean why be sad before you have to be (not that I had any intention of being sad anyway)?  I didn't cry when he started school and I didn't cry when he graduated so I was pretty sure I wasn't going to cry when we dropped him off on his latest and greatest adventure.

Because of his dorm and floor, he was assigned a 7:30 am move in time. I am not a morning person. W. is not a morning person. D. (hubby and dad) is the only one who is a morning person so he was completely perplexed when I insisted that we needed to get a hotel room for the night before move in. His argument was that the school is a mere hour and a half from us. My argument was that no one wants to wake me up to drive somewhere at 5 am if they value their life. We got a hotel room. The plan was to drive up sometime late afternoon and be well rested for the next morning. But in the time honored tradition of clueless teenagers everywhere, W. not only wasn't ready to leave at a reasonable hour, he didn't help me pack up all of the stuff that had taken up residence on the dining room table or help me pack the car, but he invited those friends who hadn't yet left for college themselves to come over and hang out and play video games for hours. He did pack up the clothes he wanted to take before they arrived though (more on this later), so there's that. After we fed the additional teenagers one last dinner and finally shooed them out the door, I finished packing up the car, we hopped in, and headed out. It was almost 11 pm when we got to the hotel. W. rolled himself out of the car, directly into a bed, and off to sleep. Apparently it's weird that I wanted him to be all jazzed up, chatty, and excited about the next day.

The next morning we rallied early in hopes that we wouldn't have to wait in line to unload his stuff. And we didn't. Even better, we had to carry nothing at all up to his fourth floor room. A welcome home team of students, faculty, and staff greeted us at the curb, unloaded the car, and whisked it all up to his room, where his roommate was already unpacking. Seeing the mound of stuff that the roommate brought made me worry that we didn't have enough. But in the weeks prior, whenever I asked him about some article listed on every college necessity list ever, he'd say he didn't need it. And I figured he was in charge. If he came to regret it later, I could always say "I told you so" because that is something I do really, really well. (Well, at least on the rare occasions that my children forget what I've taught them about the fact that I'm always right.) But seriously, the mountain of stuff his roommate had compared to what he had was comical. And they are in the smallest possible room that two people can inhabit together without sharing a bed. (It looks bigger in the picture than it actually is.) But W. still seemed completely unperturbed by his lack of stuff. He unpacked his clothes, jamming them into his drawers, and declared himself done.  Perhaps he's got a future calling writing the minimalist list version of what to take to college.

Meanwhile, anal retentive mom (that would be me, for anyone in doubt), unpacked and organized everything else. (I did refrain from alphabetizing anything but only with the greatest difficulty.) I asked nicely if I could hang up the shirts he'd squashed into the drawer but was summarily told no. I asked why we'd bought hangers then and he said he didn't know. Yes, you've guessed it, there was no way I was going to cry about leaving him when he was being an ornery little twit. He was grumpy. I was grumpy. D. left the room "to stay out of the way," wisely fleeing to check out the rest of the hall and dorm. Instead of continuing to argue (the roommate was arguing with his mom too so either it was contagious or this is one of those unpleasant things they don't warn you about dropping your kid off at college, kind of like no one tells you about the gross body after affects of giving birth), we found D. and went off to get breakfast. Food helped the hangry a lot.

Since W.'s side of the room was mostly handled by then, we made a run to buy the very few things we'd forgotten (or never knew he'd need/want). One extra pillow, an HDMI cord, an over the door hook, an ethernet cable, and a plethora of snacks and soda later and we were back in the room. Realizing that there was nowhere to store the snacks (it really is a tiny room), I made the sneaky suggestion that if he let me hang up his shirts, that would free up one of his three dresser drawers to become a snack drawer. He thought that was a genius idea. I'm not only always right, I pretty much always get my way. ;-) And since he was letting me muck about in the dresser, I opened both other drawers as well and folded his shorts and pants. Remember when I said he packed his own clothes? The child packed three pairs of athletic shorts, one pair of cargo shorts, two pairs of jeans, and two pairs of dress pants. He had a tiny stack of underwear and about 5 pairs of socks. I'm fairly certain my home laundry lessons fell on deaf ears so this could be interesting. He's either going to be filthy, become a nudist, or he's going to learn how to do laundry pretty quickly since this will have to last him at least six weeks until Family Weekend. I've been practicing though and I can confidently say: not my problem.

W. is a bit of an introvert so he wasn't interested in wandering down his hall to meet people.  Instead he plopped his cheesehead on and spun around in his desk chair.  When asked what he was doing, he said that if he wore the cheesehead, it might inspire other people to initiate a conversation with him so he didn't have to.  Bless his dorky little Packer backer heart!  We sat in his room for a while and no one who walked by mentioned the large wedge of cheese he was wearing so I suggested we get out and explore a bit. W. and D. found the pool table in the main lounge area and D. proceeded to school W. in a game. Almost as soon as the game ended, W. looked at me and said, "You know, I think you're the only parents who are finished unpacking their kid who are still here." I took that as a rather unsubtle hint (what a poor loser!) so we hugged him and left after checking to see if he wanted us to come back for dinner (no) or for convocation the next morning (yes).

Convocation was billed as business casual. Pretty much everyone we saw was dressed nicely. I even wore a dress. When W. came downstairs to meet us for breakfast before the ceremony, he was wearing a button down shirt and dress pants so you'd think he got the memo, right?  But remember when he crumpled up all of his things in his drawer and then snapped at me for wanting to hang them? Yeah, he looked like he'd slept in his clothes. Not one other kid we passed looked as schlumpy as my kid. The wrinkles in his shirt had wrinkles. And he didn't have it tucked in. This was apparently to hide the fact that he managed to break his belt while getting dressed. As we walked along, D. noticed that W. was also wearing white athletic socks with his khakis and dress shoes. Seems he forgot to pack dress socks too. And he hadn't shaved. Classy. It's no wonder that when I looked at the photos of convocation later, my kid is not in a single one.

At the ceremony, the school gave each freshman (even the ones who looked like they were rag pickers like my kid) an HPU blanket and the president told them that they were not to keep it but to give it to that person who had been the most influential in getting them to college, the person who had always wrapped them up with love and encouragement. I figured I was a shoe-in for the blanket. Brat grinned and told me to give it to the dog. (We all know it's mine now anyway.) I gave him the cheese he had inadvertently left at home (yes, we're a weird family but we love our cheese and he has a thing for smoked gouda with bacon which is ridiculously hard to find around here), we hugged him, and headed home.  We didn't want to be the last parents standing when the school had specifically said that parents should leave as soon as convocation was over.  That was the last we heard from the boy until this morning when he texted me a selfie of himself on his first day of classes. (As sweet as this sounds, know that the university suggested it to the kids. At least he went along with it, unlike the suggestion the president made to all of them to call their mothers every day to tell them that their kid loved them--and to call their fathers once a week to ask for money.) For now I'll assume that no news is good news and D. assures me that W. will most definitely call when he needs money.  I have no doubt.

I found it hard to sleep those first nights with him gone. In the past when he's been out at night, I have had the reassurance of the door chime waking me up to let me know he's home safe and sound. Saturday night and every night since then, that chime has never sounded and I think that's why I've tossed and turned. It's a huge change for him and for me.  Maybe bigger for me.  And I will admit to having clicked through every last picture the school took of each event during welcome weekend looking for my child. But he's either still sporting hopelessly wrinkled clothing (I wouldn't take a picture of that either) or he's decided to taunt me by staying as far as possible from any cameras because he doesn't appear in a single one. Seriously, is it too much to ask for him to just be on the outskirts of even one picture?!

So how am I doing with all if this? Well, I didn't cry at any point but I have to say it is a bit disorienting for me to have such a huge piece of my heart building a life away from me after 18 and a half years of building it with me.  But I think I'm doing okay.  Ask me again next year when another big chunk of my heart goes off to build her life elsewhere too.  For 18 years W. has been my baby.  Now he's his own person.  I hope we've done a good job with him and I hope he's having the time of his life.  I also hope he remembers to call home sometime soon!


  1. Ok, so even if you didn't cry, I did.

  2. Thanks for sharing your very touching story Kristen.

  3. You're the bomb Mom! He's lucky to have you :)

  4. You're the bomb Mom!! He's lucky to have you!

  5. Kristen - I laughed and laughed. And I wonder if your experience here will in any measure be like your experience next year - girl, right? We only had one girl. We took her car, full of things, and our SUV, full of things. Packed, packed, packed. And then we had to decorate - it took hours. The two Dad's (roommate's and my hubby) were busy too. Girls take a lot. When we left our girl and drove out of town, my husband looked at me and said, 'you can cry now', and I did. That was 14 years ago. She grew up OK, got married, is gainfully employed. It's all good. Hugs to you!

  6. I loved this! My daughter will be heading off to college next year, and honestly I can't wait. I'm kind of done with the teen girl attitude, although I know in a few years we will be in a much better place with that (once she realizes that I do know a thing or two about life) :)


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