The Freshman College Drop-Off

What all moms are thinking: To cry, or not to cry?

If you’ve been following my posts over the past several months, you know that I’ve been anticipating the approaching school year with excitement and expectation. I’ve mentioned that my daughter is going off to college in Boston, and I am ready to see her go. This past senior year has been one of boundary stretching that has tried my patience to its limits. With lots of teenager angst and parental consternation, it has become crystal clear to me that my daughter is ready to fly, stand on her own two feet, attack the academic rigors of university and perhaps even do a load of laundry.

Dreams of attacking her pig-sty of a room danced through my head. I looked forward to scouring, organizing and reclaiming that piece of my home that had been overrun with teenager detritus for oh-so-many years now. With that foundation in place and firmly convinced that I have done my best with this child (I take credit for all the good qualities and assign blame for all faults to my husband), I have prepared her for the responsibilities that lie ahead as a student and as an adult. I gleefully told all my friends that the only thing that would make me cry at drop-off would be if the champagne weren’t cold enough. I was convinced that I would be doing the happy dance all the way back to Philly. [SIGNUP]

No one was surprised more than me when a tidal wave of emotions overcame me at that moment when I left my child (I don’t care what the state says, barely 18 is still a child) on a curb of Commonwealth Avenue looking confident but just a little anxious as she crossed not just a street but a milestone. I cried all the way back to the hotel. I cried all the way back to Philly. I can’t go into her room without a box of tissues.

Why? Beats me. I tell you, without a doubt, this child was making me crazy for months now. We fought about just about everything and I stared at that August date on my calendar more than once while I muttered under my breath “Just 22 more days. Just 21 more days. Just…”

So why all the emotion? I think it’s because of some innate, feral mamma bear thing that is programmed into every mother. I’d like to think that had I been saying good-bye to her at Villanova or Ursinus or Temple, I wouldn’t have felt like I was abandoning her. I felt like I was demanding that she navigate the perils of a big city school without a safety net as I drove six hours away from her. Six hours! What if she got lonely or sad? What if she developed a rash or a cold or dengue fever? What if she fell out of bed or out of a tree or off the Citgo sign?

What if she got lost on the T or lost her room key or lost her mind? What then, huh?! I mean, what if she needed me?

Okay, even without a degree in psychology I can figure out that the one that feels abandoned is me. My Mommy job is, if not over, forever altered. I’m still on the team but no longer the coach. And that, I figure, is what all the tears are about. I don’t think I realized how much of the job I enjoyed. Despite all the arguments over tattoos and piercings and sky-diving and European adventures, I enjoyed being her Mom. For all my griping, I liked doing her laundry and picking her up at school. I looked forward to getting my hug in the morning and a kiss at night. It was my pleasure to suffer every detail of her latest girl drama, to labor through each detail of the last concert she attended (“Mom, they were the best band I’ve ever heard!” Until the next best band …). In a world where much can disappoint, being her mom felt like a success, a job well done.

First semester grades will tell. In the meantime, I now have a date in October circled in red: Parents’ Weekend. Just 22 more days, just 21 more days …