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Parenting Advice on Leaving Your First Child at College

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parenting-advice-on-leaving-your-first-child-at-college-headerThis past weekend we moved our daughter into college. Believe it or not, it's not as bad as you think... 

The month leading up to the big event was filled with packages, mail orders, decorating tips, and chaos. Despite the number of times that I told her she was not moving to Zimbabwe, she was adamant that she had to have everything ready and prepared.

Daily, we would check and recheck our list. Mattress Pad... check, matching comforters... check, coffee pot... check, microwave... check, and the list goes on. 

Now that I was addressing the UPS man by his first name, I couldn’t understand what more could be arriving. Short of a toilet plunger, didn’t we have everything checked?

What she didn’t have, she could leave up to her roommates. She met her future roommates during her first visit on campus. Within the first two minutes she met roommate number one, their meeting was clandestine.

“What is your second choice for school?” the girl asked my daughter.

“I am from New Jersey” she added, “and mine is Penn State.”

parenting-advice-on-leaving-your-first-child-at-college-middle-1She went on to share that her dad was an alumni and would be disappointed if she didn’t follow in his footsteps. My daughter just stood and looked at the girl. Did she just say Penn State? Since the day my daughter entered Happy Valley, she always dreamed of carrying on the McGee legacy. Her dad and her uncles were all graduates. Now that she had been accepted to UCLA, she had been struggling with her decision. She loved Happy Valley, however her family had relocated to California and her heart, as always, would be where her family was.

The girls instantly bonded over their shared love and anguish. Her other roommate she met shortly after. She was from Connecticut as well. Ironically, from the back you couldn’t tell the two of them apart. They all appeared to be a great match. Flash forward six months, the girls all reconvened in California for their freshman move-in date. Pulling nine overloaded carts of move-in gear, I wasn’t sure if we were moving into a house or into a dorm. These girls who had met by chance had cemented their relationship with color charts, floor plans, and bed assignments.

We arrived in a sea of Lilly Pulitzer pink- greeted by students who were all anxious to see what treasures these girls were sporting. I was surprised to see that most of the kids were on their own. Their rooms weren’t decorated. They had a simple bed with a blanket tucked in and their belongings all fit into the drawers. One girl was from Pakistan. Another on the floor was from Singapore. With our East Coast girls, the story was a bit different.

Surrounded by the Calvary, six parents and three girls in total, we began building our "Home for the Habitat," stringing lights, hanging picture collages, assembling shelves, and organizing clothes. Minutes turned into hours and hours into night. Inquisitively kids came from far and wide to see if the movie character "Elf" had really moved into the room next door.

When we were ready to leave the next day, I didn’t anticipate tears. After all, my daughter had been across the country from me for a full year after we moved to California while she finished high school. There weren’t any tears left for me. I was cried out. Now, she would be on the same coast, a mere car ride away. Pulling from the curb I flew out of the car for one last hug. Looking at my daughter, the tears streamed down her face. In that moment, I wished that I could remove the pain that preceded her growth.

“Excuse me ma’am, it’s time to move your car now.”

We had to leave. I looked at my husband and saw the tears welling up in his eyes as well.

“I’m worried about her” was all that he said.

I looked over and waved as the car pulled away from the curb.

“I know,” I said.

My first inclination was to jump out and take her home. Knowing that I couldn’t, I pulled my seat belt and prepared for our long journey home.

“It’s all in the journey,” I said out loud, "for all of us." 

For more parenting stories with Wendy visit her at www.lifewithwendy.com

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