A Guide to Surviving Your Firstborn’s College Drop-off Day

You’ve survived that dreaded trip (or ten) to Bed, Bath and Beyond. You’ve stocked her with enough cough and cold medicine to cure a preschool. You’ve gotten all the financial aid papers out of the way. And now it’s time. It’s time to take your first born to college.

College drop off is emotional, exciting, nerve-racking, exhausting and simultaneously one of your greatest joys and greatest losses.

Here are a few recommendations to survive this monumental day. You will survive, but there will be tears.

Talk about the day in advance

Sit down with your kiddo and acknowledge that it’s going to be an exciting, busy and maybe a bit of a stressful day. Tell him all you want to do is help him get moved in and that you’re there to do whatever he needs you to do. Don’t tamper down your excitement – but DO ask him what he expects, what he wants you to do and what he DOESN’T want you to do. When I asked my Girl this last year, she said, “Mom, I know you love to help and take over, but then you get all, like, ‘Ok, lets do this and this and this and this and it’s all just too fast and too crazy.’ Can you not do that?” Sigh. I do that. I do! So I really had to tamp it down. I had to reel myself in. One time I got close and she said, “Mom, you’re starting it…” And I stopped. The day went pretty smoothly after that.

downloadHave low expectations

Everyone will be nervous today. You, your spouse, your kiddo, your kiddo’s roommates and their parents too. We love to think we’ll get to the dorm, meet the roommate, love the roommate, become besties with the roommate’s mom and unpack all so happily. It may not happen this way. There is so much nervous excitement in the air coupled with uncertainty, that it could be a recipe for either a loud argument or passive aggressive eye rolling.

Remember, while you are moving in your kiddo, the focus is on them, not you. It may be messy, it may be fun, it may be stressful, it may be a shit-show. It may be everything you dreamed of. Embrace the unexpected and enjoy the day!

Be well fed, bring snacks and your favorite drinks (non-alcoholic, until after you leave)

Go into the move on a full stomach and stay hydrated. No one wants a HANGRY freshman or his parents grumping around the dorm. Maybe even bake his favorite cookies and surprise him while unpacking…

Go with the Flow

Just do this. Enjoy every minute. If your Kiddo is excited and wants to meet every girl on her floor before unpacking – let her. If she insists on unpacking and having her twinkle lights exactly 2 inches apart on the wall – let her. If you get the vibe that your son wants you to leave him alone for a while as he talks with his new roommate – let him. If they decide they don’t want to go to dinner with you, but want to go with their floor mates instead, let them.  The more you allow and let go, the better off your Kiddo will be and the better off you will be, knowing said Kiddo is happy.

Let them go.

This is the hardest thing to do. You must hug goodbye, be strong for you Kiddo (because he is scared too) and walk away. When we dropped off Girl last year, we hugged, barely holding it together and walked away. We walked away from Girl. We had sunglasses and held hands and were doing that awful holding it in, barely breathing cry. You know the one, right? The one where you are holding so much breath and so many tears that your eyes are about to overflow and your cheeks are about to burst with the air that’s being stored there?

We got in the car. And we let it out. And we hugged and cried and drove away. Happy for her and for us, and sad all at the same time. And she texted us saying she needed one more hug. And I laughed and texted back that I did too and that I was ugly crying. She sent me a smiley emoticon. And I sent her one back and told her I loved her, was proud of her and knew she was gonna rock it.

And she did. And we survived. Beautifully.

Related Post: Among the Wildflowers: A Mom’s Reflection on Taking Her Daughter to College

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