My daughter is my firstborn, she has been my sidekick since she was born. For several years it was just her and I and we struggled but together we could tackle anything. From the day she was born, we conquered massive challenges. There were illnesses, broken bones, shattered pelvises, and multiple house moves. We overcame it all! Our challenges built a bond that would not become unglued.
We even made it through her teen (and preteen) years! There were so many eye rolls…I am actually shocked her eyes did not stay that way. We survived door slamming, sneaking out, boys, parties, bullying, social media, and so much more. I like to think that we actually thrived through our survival, we learned that the struggles only made us stronger. There were moments that I did not think we would make it through the day but then I had a hot bath, a night of sleep, and then the sun came out the next day. And with that sun came a clear head and fewer emotions.
What I was not ready for was the level of grief I would feel in sending her off to college.
She always knew she wanted to go away to college. She applied to 19 colleges (and got into all of them). Not one of those colleges was in Charleston. I truly tried to encourage her to fly high and shoot for big goals. I even encouraged her to apply for her two dream schools in California! Luckily, she decided that North Carolina housed her dream school.
The day we packed up the car and headed north was full of excitement, cursing, tears, and laughs. We were full of all the emotions which meant there were plenty of times that we took that angst out on each other. My rational side knows that this is normal, but my grieving mama side wanted to call this whole college thing off!
My daughter is incredibly independent. When it came to choosing a college she had her spreadsheet and knew exactly what she was looking for. She knew what her dorm needed and had her checklist. She chose her dorm because it was the honors dorm and she wanted to participate in the honors college activities. She had completed all the necessary research so once we arrived at move-in day I was really just the muscles.
When I walked into her dorm I realized that the floors were co-ed. How did I miss this detail?? I think I was so caught up in the choosing of the school, the financial aid side, the high school graduation, and the getting ready for college that I totally missed that she was on a CO-ED FLOOR!! At that moment I almost withdrew her from college.
Due to COVID restrictions, we were only given two hours in her dorm room to get her settled. The amount of time that it takes to unpack a bed in a bag, hang a shower curtain, and decorate about 100 square feet should take way less than two hours but I definitely made the most out of those 120 minutes. I made and unmade her bed just to make it take longer! When it was time to leave I did everything I could to not cry. My emotions got the better of me – it was a combination of being so proud of her and being so sad that I would not see her for a month.
Once my husband pried me out of the dormitory I made the executive decision that there was no way I could go back home. We ended up checking into a bed and breakfast about an hour away. I believe an hour is long enough to not look like a total helicopter mom yet short enough that if she needed me I could quickly be there. My heart felt a little empty, I had left a piece of it in the mountains. I needed time to process, to cry, and to feel my emotions before I went home to mother our youngest child.
Six weeks later and I am surviving, she is thriving. I have seen her three times. Once for a family weekend, and twice because she came home for weekends. I know her trips home will become less frequent as she adjusts to college life so I am fully taking advantage of them now.
I have made peace with the process of grieving. It is okay to feel sad that I do not see my daughter on a daily basis. Her texts and phone calls are less frequent with each passing week and I know that this is because she is filling her schedule with classes, soccer practices, games, friends, and a boy! (I have also learned that my research will be much more thorough of my son’s dorm choice when it is time for him to head off to college!)