by Jane Parent
It’s that time of year: college move in day. Whether it’s your first child on their first day of college, or your last child on their senior year, it’s a big day full of complicated emotions. Excitement, joy, anxiety, dread, relief. And that’s just the mothers.
Kids? Today isn’t about you. You’re about to start the most rewarding, memorable, challenging years of your life and everything is in front of you. No one feels sorry for you today. Dads don’t count, either. Beyond the “Study hard. Have fun” advice you’ll dispense just before you leave the dorm room, you’re here mainly to unload the car and carry stuff in.
No, college drop-off day is about the mothers, whose labor began more than eighteen years ago and will finally culminate today, in this very moment when she releases that precious child from her safe, loving embrace into the world. So the question is, moms: what kind of drop off mom will you be?
Which Mom Will You Be On College Move In Day?
1) The “I’m Fine” Mom.
“I’m fine, I really am” is what she’s been saying all summer whenever anyone asks her if she’s ready for her son or daughter to leave for college. She’s cheerful and upbeat as they stroll the aisles of Target picking out bedding sets and shower caddies. She’s unsentimental as she goes through her son’s closet, weeding out all the practice t-shirts, football pads, and outgrown clothes. She is friendly as they meet the new roommate and his parents, laughingly complaining about how the room will never be this neat again. When the big moment comes, she is dry-eyed and sensible. The “I’m Fine” Mom will be fine the entire drive home—until she gets upstairs and walks past her son’s bedroom which is now stripped bare and utterly silent, and then it will hit her like a ton of bricks. She will cry for two weeks.
2) The Weekender Mom.
This mom isn’t just dropping her daughter off and leaving. No, sir—she’s staying for the entire weekend. She has a hotel room just off campus, and with her daughter, they will hit every Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Ikea to decorate her room. She will go to convocation, buy textbooks at the bookstore, and walk campus with her daughter to find her classes. She’s even thinking about getting a condo already so they have a place to stay when they visit—it’ll be a good tax write-off, too! She loved college, and can’t wait to live it all vicariously again through her child. She’ll be back in two weeks for the first football game.
3) The Weeper.
She’s had a lump in her throat since the first college application was sent. She cried at high school graduation, when the college information packet arrived, and every time she thought about college move in day. Her throat is tight as she makes his bed in his new dorm room—it’s the last thing she can do for him before he leaves her sight and their happy family life is irrevocably changed. Nothing will ever be the same again. When she gives her son one last hug before leaving, it’s ugly cry time. She’ll be crying so hard she can’t even speak. She will soak the steering wheel with her salty tears on the drive home. At home, about four weeks will pass before she is able to go into her son’s bedroom. She will repeat this for each child that leaves home.
4) The Old Pro.
This seasoned veteran has already taken four other kids to college, and today is her third drop off day this week alone. Her husband has a wheeled dolly in the car so they don’t have to wait like the other noobs for one of the college’s move-in carts. She already looked up online the floor plan of the room, and purchased storage containers with the exact dimensions to fit under the bed. She already has a mattress pad, over-the-door hooks and Command strips—only an amateur would have to go out and find a Walmart to buy them. Books, school supplies? Purchased weeks ago. Pray that your kid rooms with this woman’s son because she will know everything for the next four years and make your life so much easier.
5) The “All Business” Mom.
This mom is here to get her son or daughter moved in and get out as quickly as possible. She’s the kind of gal who believes in ripping the Band Aid off quickly. It’s not that she doesn’t love her son or won’t miss him, but he has spent this last summer at home “fouling the nest” and being as teenager-y as possible, and she’s ready for him to leave home. There is a high degree of likelihood that All Business Mom is about to be an empty nester, and she’s ready to get on with it. Besides, “All Business” Mom knows she will probably receive a text from her son before she even gets on the highway telling her what he has forgotten. She will be in and out of her son’s dorm room and on her way back home in under 45 minutes without a tear in sight. She will cry discreetly at home and tell no one.
Whatever kind of mom you are on college move in day, enjoy this day with your son or daughter. You made it through the first day of kindergarten, middle school, and high school. And they’ll be home for Thanksgiving before you know it.
Jane Parent is senior editor of Your Teen.