Hindsight Parenting: Coping with Your “Child” going to College

Five Things You Don’t Do The Day After Leaving Your Child at College

By JlsElsewhere at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Wasted Time R, Stewart715 at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia CommonsAlthough he’s twenty, just last week, Son1 went “off” to college for the first time. For the past two years, he’d been attending classes at our local community college trying to figure out what he wanted to do. This past spring, all his hard work there paid off and he was accepted to many colleges and universities. He chose a college in Connecticut. (Not a huge surprise since Magicalfairyprincessgirlfriend goes there as well.)

Since this is a first for me, a child leaving…really leaving the nest…I had no Hindsight to lean on, and so I had to rely on my gut instead. The week before, I kept checking in with myself on how I was feeling with all this moving away to a new state, new city, hours away from his family. And well…for the entire week before…heck even while I was setting up his chic dorm room my gut said that I was just fine. All I was feeling, seemingly, was pride and excitement. This move ultimately was what every parent strives for while raising their children. He was unfurling his wings, moving into adulthood with grace and assurance. I am proud. I was and am excited. Even as I said goodbye, the pride swelled in me. “Off you go first born love of my life. Go and live this experience to the fullest.” Then I got in the car…Then I got home. Then…then I woke up the next day and well, the pride and excitement was still there, but so was this distinct melancholy; a weepy sort of lonely feeling that got worse as the day went on. I realized very quickly that the day after dropping my child off to college was going to feel worse than the day of. Tear triggers were everywhere and I learned the hard way the top five things NOT to do the day after dropping your child off at college…

  1. DO NOT EAT A PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH (or anything for that matter.) Merely opening your child’s junk food cupboard will cause a flood of emotions as you realize that you’ll no longer have to stock it weekly. Standing there, you’ll begin one of many crying jags and end up eating your feelings in the form of chocolate sandwich cookies and a bag of potato chips.
  2. DO NOT GO SHOPPING. While this task usually is a form of therapy, if you are like me, you’ll be innocently looking at shoes and BAM across the aisle you’ll see a cute little refrigerator or hand vacuum, heck even bleach wipes and you’ll get teary wondering if you should have splurged on one or the other or all of them and instantly feel guilty if you hadn’t.
  3. DO NOT WATCH ‘DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD’ WITH YOUR PRESCHOOLER (or any other TV show.) Daniel’s mother just might have a baby the moment the television turns on and you will all of a sudden find yourself in that hospital bed with her, 20 years ago, holding that college kid in your arms. You will be utterly shocked at the speed that time flew and will long for the days that you could kiss that face anytime you wanted without embarrassment or eye rolling or distance. And as an aside, if you thought coffee or greeting card commercials were hard to watch BEFORE, those things are now two tissue boxes experiences.
  4. DO NOT ENTER HIS OR HER BEDROOM. The clutter. The garbage. The disorganization. Even the smell…you’ll miss. Believe me you will. You will open that door to the emptiness and wish for all of it. (Ok…maybe not the smell, but all of the other stuff.)
  5. DON’T GO TO THE BEACH. It may seem like a relaxing day on a lounge chair, shore side, book in hand, suntan lotion on the skin would be the perfect way to take your mind off of your child so far away. Not so. Not so at all. Mark my words, you will put the book down to scratch your nose just as a little one toddles by in his or her suit. He or she will look somewhat like your own child and once again you will be transported back to days of sand castles and long walks on the ocean watching your child run ahead with his or her siblings. Like me, you’ll will find the tears welling as a puzzled young mother looks at you in a concerned way after scooping up her child. You will mumble something like, “Sand in my eyes…” as you quickly pack to get away from all the happy families that surround you.

The melancholy subsides a bit each day, and soon the fact that my son is an adult doing adult things will be old hat. But for a while, I know that there will be those tear-triggers that will serve as reminders of time past and years gone, and I will look forward to the day when he returns home to spend time with his family who loves him.


Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.  Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.

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