A Mom’s Reflections Before College Move-In Day

The days of summer slipped through my fingers like sand. In June, it felt like relief: relief that she had made it, relief that I had made it. Soon, it became mild irritation at the sight of her lounging around, making no effort to assist those of us who continued to juggle the usual daily demands. 

A mom’s thoughts before she moves her daughter to college. (Photo Credit: Jen Norton)

Then it turned into low-grade panic, as her move-in date loomed and her one-way ticket to New York was purchased. I began searching the recesses of my mind to reassure myself that we had made enough memories together, and that she had received enough life lessons to survive and thrive in the real world. I exhumed long-forgotten college and New York experiences, trying to imagine a day in her new life. 

I gave her advice for college at every opportunity

I dispensed pearls of wisdom at every opportunity. I made suggestions for joint outings and meaningful bonding activities that we could still do in the time remaining. But her eyes were trained on the horizon, her thoughts were with the future, and her schedule was packed with outings that were not with me.  

The internet sensed my anxiety and my social media feeds began offering me advice on the 10 things I should say, or the 15 things I shouldn’t say, to my college-bound child. Helpful articles gathered the 20 dorm room essentials that would make her college life perfect. 

None of the lists could address my chief concern; that this quiet, reserved child who was difficult to read even in person would now be 2,900 miles away. I decided to invest in coats (which hadn’t been of much use to us in California). Coats would protect her from the slings and arrows of the world, or at least the first snow. I ordered three for good measure.

My two girls would soon be a broken set

It dawned on me slowly that with my first-born out of the nest, I would soon have a broken set–a sound without an echo, a fork without a spoon. My two children—both girls, just 22 months apart—had in many ways become an inseparable duo in my mind and in my heart.  But now, to whose banter would I listen to learn the latest school gossip? How would I probe one to get the secrets of the other? What would I do at a BOGO sale?

Eventually, the packing project could not be put off any longer, nor the division of property between two sisters who shared everything. After much bartering, trading, and yelling, the belongings were sorted and next-day deliveries were ordered to fill any gaps in the now-two sets of makeup and fashion accessories.

Clear-eyed and decisive, my daughter methodically packed two large bags and a roll aboard without further ado, as though she were going on a long holiday. As though she had planned the packing for a long time. Or, as though she was ready.

Maybe my daughter was not as unsentimental as I thought

At one point during the packing she sat at her desk, bent over something small in her hands.  I called from the hallway, curious as to what she was doing. She explained that she was finally filling her locket, one that we had given her when she was in grade school. 

I had always wondered what this unsentimental and pragmatic child (who took after me) would put in there. I walked closer to examine what she was holding. It was the tiniest printout of a photo of our family, and she was carefully snipping its corners to make it fit. 

I bit my lip and smiled.

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