I’ve just dropped my last child off to her last year of college.
It’s a funny thing that whole leaving your kids behind at school. Of course, the freshman year move in is brutal. Besides the Ikea bags stuffed with way too much stuff for their dorm room there’s the mental checklist that’s ricocheting around in your parental brain.
Did I put the fear of God in them about their personal safety? Do they know that they need to take care of their mental health? Have I made it clear that college yes is supposed to be fun, but not fun taken to excess? Oh, but did I also share that there are times when college won’t be fun but that’s normal too so don’t freak out about that?
It’s a lot and there’s nothing like that first year drop off when you finally say goodbye and then lose it in when you get to your car. With each kid I promised myself I wouldn’t cry mainly because I’m not a crier. (I was raised that public displays of emotions besides smiling – real and fake – were simply not done.) But oh my God, I lost it with each kid. I’m talking the ugly cry.
With my daughter it was the worse. Primarily because she was going to be 1,600 miles away. I couldn’t stop weeping.
It was so bad at the airport someone asked me in the ladies’ room if I had lost a family member. I answered yes and told them it was my daughter. When they went to offer their condolences, it finally hit me that I needed to clarify I had left my daughter at college so technically I hadn’t actually “lost” her.
By the time sophomore year rolls around it’s less Ikea bags and almost zero tears and then once you hit their senior year you’ve got your drop off dance well-choreographed. The parental parting words of wisdom are more geared towards telling your child to be sure to use their University’s career placement center. Although, I never missed the chance to whisper to my children that they can always come home – no matter what.
This year my advice was a little different. I never mentioned home. I told my daughter she needed to truly savor every second of college, to embrace being back on campus after a solid year of virtual classes. She gave me a look that said, “thanks Mom for stating the obvious.”
But I couldn’t help myself because I felt giddy being at her college. This time last year it was a ghost town. There were no visible signs of terran life forms except for security guards. Now the campus was bustling and the energy from the students being back was like getting a group hug while throwing back a double shot of espresso.
Even my mom worry meter which is usually in the red zone, was fairly chill. Students, staff and faculty are fully masked and vaxxed which allows me to feel optimistic that maybe, just maybe, everyone might have a “normal” school year.
Weird isn’t it how the pandemic had made normal our North Star? As a parent right now I’m wishing and even praying for normal. I don’t want great (Who could be that greedy?) or even very good. I just want normal.
I want my smart, funny, beautiful daughter to have a normal senior year of college and yet when I say that outloud it feels like I’m asking for the moon.