College room

The Dreaded College Drop-Off (Told from Both Sides)

So many of my friends have been taking their kids off to college lately. They post tearful GOODBYE photos on social media, then recount the awful first moments after driving away. My friend Wendy posted what might be the saddest account I’ve read yet and she was cool enough to let me share it here:

It SUCKS. That is the honest truth. I will not hold back any punches I will give it to my mom friends straight. Yes we are excited for them, yes we all post pictures of their dorm rooms, but here is the reality. Nothing prepares you saying goodbye and driving away. You feel like you’re having a part of your body ripped off. We got books on what to expect when you are expecting, toddler years, and so forth but where is the book on how to leave your child and not fall apart book? Anyone?? Here is how it goes…
You can’t say anything you want to because you are trying not to dissolve into tears in front of their roommates. All the things you need to say are stuck in your throat in a lump. No words of wisdom just a squeaky I love you escapes.
You get in the car and you cry and everything inside you wants to go get them and take them home. You then have to sit in a hot car( or could be a hot flash because that is just how the day is going) for 3 hours. 5 minutes away you get a text from them saying ” I love you so much! Thanks for being my mom and always staying my mom. And don’t forget you are still my Mom”. Then the ugly crying starts. Where your head hurts and the car is soooooo Freaking hot, put your head between your knees cry but you can’t because you are old and not flexible. So then it happens. DQ blizzard with fries and onion rings. Yep a proud moment of complete comfort food eating. Now you just feel sick so that was helpful. Your husband wants to hold your hand but you are in a don’t touch me mood because this is ALL his fault. Right!?!?
You cry at dinner, you cry at church, you just cry….
So here is what you can do my friends. I have cracked the code. You clean their room. Because in all that mess you go from wanting to kill them, because why is my kitchen bowl under his bed? To laughing, to starting a box to send with the things they forgot, to realizing you are going to be alright. See you know THEY will be alright but let’s be honest will we???
Clean their room… It helps

I was crying by the end of Wendy’s post and I barely even KNOW her kids. I won’t be leaving my own at a dorm any time soon, but I still get weirdly emotional just thinking about it. When I remember my OWN first night at college though, it gives me a bit of relief. I thought I’d share it, and hopefully ease the pain of all those aching Mom & Dad-hearts out there.

I drove myself to college because I didn’t want the tearful goodbye. I knew it was going to be awful, so I just cut the cord and said NO when my parents offered. I carried in boxes and suitcases without assistance, and hung my James Dean posters all by my lonesome. My new roommate showed up, but left moments later for a keg-party with her best-friend. She didn’t invite me, so I hated her immediately. There was nothing left to do, so I put on my pajamas and opened the letter Mom had packed with my supplies.

She gave it to me right before I left, with strict instructions to NOT OPEN until I’d unpacked. That was unnecessary because I really didn’t want to read the letter at all. I did though, and cried like a freaking baby the whole time.

I no longer have that letter. It’s just one of countless precious things that got dismissed at some point but I’d kill to have it today. I don’t even remember exactly what it said. There was nothing new in there. Just words of encouragement and a reminder of how proud she was of me. I already knew that because Mom told me on a regular basis. Her letter had an unexpected affect on me though, one I bet she didn’t even see coming. As I read her letter, I saw my mother as the WOMAN she really was. I saw her as a person who was trying her hardest to be strong in the now empty nest around her. I recognized how difficult it was for her in that moment, and understood how hard she had worked to care for me throughout my life. It was the first time I’d ever truly appreciated my mother, and it resulted in a complete break-down in my quiet and increasingly depressing dorm room.

“What would she think if she saw me right now,” I thought.

Would she be happy to know that I missed her so much and that I finally recognized what an awesome mother she was? Or would it upset her to see me crying all over her lovingly written note? I had no idea but it all sucked anyway, so I crawled into bed.

I laid there for about 5 minutes before there was a knock at the door. Behind it stood 5 of my friends, who were hell-bent on finding a party. They dragged me out of bed, snagged my fake I.D. and took me directly to the closest bar. I’m not sure I even changed out of my jammies. The rest of the night was a blur and I attacked my first day of college with a Class 3 hangover. I settled into dorm life and was happy (once I got a new roommate because the first one sucked and had NO APPRECIATION for James Dean), but I never forgot the epiphany of my first night.
My Mom is an awesome woman. She loves me so much…and I miss her.
Sometimes all you need is a little distance to see something clearly.

So, try not to cry too hard or worry over everything. It’s their turn to take the wheel now and, thanks to your years of fussing and fretting, they are probably fully prepared.
And if they happen to spend one night alone in their rooms, missing you desperately,
I promise you it’s a good thing.


  1. I never had kids and this made ME cry!

    I was close to my Dad, in college. I’m so old that calling home was long distance and cost money, so we actually wrote letters. I wish I had kept them. I used to tease my dad that he didn’t know my name, because every letter started with, Dear Baby, Dear Princess, Dear Sweetheart, Dear Daughter. LOL I still have my dad. My mom died two and half years ago. But I would still kill to have those letters back.

    They were always signed Love Mommy and Daddy.

    1. Well, now I’M crying too! Thanks for sharing that sweet memory Greta. I actually have a few letters that my Grandfather sent to my Mom while she was in college. He signed them from both too, but openly griped about my Grandmother in them!

  2. Omg… I left my youngest daughter in Wichita, Kansas on Saturday. I had been with her for 2 days, setting up her apartment, etc. I thought I was going to do SO MUCH better than I did last year when I left her in the dorm–but no. I cried like a little baby ALL THE WAY to Dallas. Which is no easy feat with the construction on i35 and I was driving alone. I didn’t even feel like stopping at one of the little casinos… But I didn’t want to go home either. I knew it was going to suck when her car was not in the driveway, no doubt about that. Well, today is Tuesday and I have only cried two or three times since I got home. They were good cries, but not as frequent.

    She loves Wichita State and her classes. So, I’ll pretend that I’m moving on without her, when in reality I’m counting down until her first visit.

    Clean her room? —I’m not even ready for that yet. I’m sure I’ll get there though.

    1. Aww, good for you for being strong Donna. And believe me, I applaud the avoidance of cleaning anything! Stay tough!

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