The Washington Post

Dropping a kid at college, trying not to cry

I know I am far from the only parent who’s uneasily measuring the rapidly dwindling days left before taking a kid to college for the first time. But I’m starting to think I’m the only one whose eyes well up every time I think about the prospect.

In less than two weeks my husband, son and I will drop our daughter/sister off at her new dorm. It’s very exciting: She’s going to a great school, and her attendance there is the continuation of a journey we’ve been on together since she was born. As my 85-year-old mom would say, “It’s all good.” So why can’t I stop crying about it?

Item: When the cashier at Bed, Bath & Beyond saw the obviously-for-the-dorm furnishings my daughter’s cart contained, she innocently asked, “Going to college?” Nobody, least of all me, was prepared for me to start crying, right there by the cash register. I felt sorry for that clerk -- and for my daughter, who handled it nicely but clearly was embarrassed.

Item: While waiting in line for doughnuts at The Fractured Prune at the beach last week, I struck up a conversation with another mom, who, as it turned out, had been through this sending-kids-to-college thing twice before. She was at least sympathetic to my weeping in the doughnut line.

Item: When I read Joel Achenbach's blog Sunday about anticipating his own daughter’s heading off to school, I had trouble seeing the words through my tears. Sure, his story seemed designed to tug at heart strings, but my heart strings seem all too fragile these days.

For the record, I’m not one of those over-involved moms who can’t seem to cut the umbilical cord. It’s just that this seems like such a momentous, era-ending event. That, and I’ll just plain miss my girl. I know I’ll be fine once she’s settled and my son goes back to high school and we all find our new groove. Skype surely will help.

But I’d really like to avoid being the sobbing mom in the dorm. As this excellent article from two years ago notes, crying in front of your kid’s new friends isn’t exactly helpful.

I’ve been advised by friends to save my tears for the long car ride home. The mom in the doughnut line suggested getting the crying out of the way before you even start packing the car. She said her family had breakfast together, talked about the oldest kid’s departure and shared a good cry. That, she said, made move-in day much less emotional for all.

What are your tips for keeping your cool when you take your kid to school?

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