I’ve been meaning to write a post since Thursday, the day we dropped Tess off at college, and the day I just wanted to stay in bed because I knew that when I got going and we got the car all packed and we traveled to Iowa City, that my life would never be the same again. I felt this way two years ago when we dropped off Luke at the same place, but it all came rushing at me as I realized it was really going to happen again. It’s probably good I waited a few days for the all the intense emotion to fade or I would be writing one of those sappy “woe is me, I’m so sad” kind of blogs that only other mothers of college freshman can appreciate. Mostly, I just spent last week trying really hard not to think of Thursday—the day we deposited her at the University of Iowa—and I found myself really tired and craving Diet Coke (which I officially gave up 6 months ago—even though I occasionally drink it now) and Snickers bars. I have found that when I am stressed I only want three things—sleep, Diet Coke and chocolate—these things comfort me.
So anyway, after we traveled 2 hours east and parked in a crowded parking lot with a million other harried looking parents, we unloaded all of Tess’ stuff into two big carts and squeezed on a teeny tiny elevator that took us to the 8th floor of her dorm. Then we wheeled those carts down the hall and Tess unloaded them into her new home. Her space is exceptionally huge and amazing for a college dorm room, but it is on the 8th floor, and the day we moved her in, it was pretty breezy and cool, so the window was open. Being the responsible mother that I am, I told her not to sit in the window and lean back into the screen because if she did that the screen would give out and she would fall to her death eight stories down on the parking lot…and she said, “Umm, Mom, I’m not going to sit in the window.” So much for my safety lesson. Then she continued to flit around like a moth in the light and put things in drawers and put out pictures and such. Have I mentioned that this day was not in the least depressing to Tess? Have I mentioned that she was so excited to go off to college that she was kind of like those animals that you hear about in stories that so want to escape their cages that they chew through the metal? Yeah, well she was like that—without the chewing part.
After we pulled her away from her homemaking and went out for lunch, we finally returned to her dorm to drop her off and leave her there. Having been through this once before, I knew it was a wise move to bring my sunglasses so I could shed tears without being obvious. And I did this, while walking down the eight flights of stairs in the stairwell. I was fairly composed by ground level. One mom, though. obviously didn’t know about the sunglasses rule and she was openly crying as she was walking along the sidewalk. I don’t think she wanted to be crying in front of everyone, but she was trying to deal with this change that she didn’t welcome and the tears were falling of their own accord—in other words, she couldn’t stop her sadness just to keep up appearances. I understood her pain and I thought about putting my arm around her and telling her I knew how she felt, but I thought I might break down in the process, so I kept my arms to myself.
Dropping kids at college for me is one of those strange experiences in life where you feel completely “out of control”. By that, I don’t mean that you feel crazy or angry or any of those things, I just mean that you have absolutely no control of what has just conspired and you feel like if Father Time had a body, you would beat him up because he cheated you and made your little girl grow up and leave you. And when you’re walking out of the dorm where you just deposited your daughter, you suddenly feel like turning around and running back in—up all 8 flights of stairs—and telling her it was all just pretend; she is just playing; we’re all just playing, and let’s all go home now and eat supper together and she can play outside with her cats and then you can put her to bed and wind her music box.
But you can’t do that because Father Time always wins and little girls grow up. So, you put on your sunglasses and walk calmly across the street and get in your car and feel numb and stop at Williamsburg and get the forbidden Diet Coke and life goes on. And the next day, anything and everything sets you off and you cry and make way too much pizza because you forget you are only cooking for 4—not 5—not 6—just 4.
I don’t welcome change. I get used to it, but I always resist it and pretend it won’t happen for as long as I can hold out. This same exact thing will happen to me in 2 years and in 4 years and it will hit me like a ton of bricks each time. In this type of instance, practice does not make perfect, it just wears me out.
So I guess this has ultimately turned into one of those sappy posts for other moms of college-aged kids, and I guess you’ll just have to give me a little grace and let me cry a bit more. I’ll be better tomorrow and even better the next day—maybe I’ll even write something funny and act like everything’s A-OK, but right now, my heart still hurts so I think I’ll let the tears flow and go rock my cat.