Saturday was a big day and I’m not talking about American Pharaoh’s upset up in Saratoga. No, it was the first day of my oldest son’s adult life – he is officially a college freshman. Yesterday was Drop Off day, which might be better named Jump off a Cliff Day because that’s what I felt like doing after waiting in endless lines on a hot afternoon.
How come no one told me about the clusterf*ck involved with getting your kid situated in a dorm room? I suspect it is part of an overall conspiracy of silence involving parenting situations such as childbirth, potty training and your child’s impersonation of Satan during puberty. Come on, more experienced parents, you need to share this information! For the uninitiated, let me tell you what it was like…
First, you’re assigned a specific drop off time, which is silly because it truly means nothing. If you’re like me, you dutifully arrive 5 minutes early (forgoing that gas stop in favor of promptness) to join the already inordinately long line of vehicles trying to reach the promised land of “Student sign in.” After approximately 30 minutes, you reach your first destination, park your car, race to use the bathroom and wait patiently as your child queues to receive their dorm keys.
Step two involves driving to another parking area, one I ultimately referred to as the “holding pen,” where you park near other parents with children with the same dormitory assignment. This is where you have an opportunity to meet other annoyed parents and discuss the odds of getting your children unpacked before their graduation day arrives. After about an hour, and numerous parents complaining to the keepers of the gate, we were finally released to go wait in our cars for the final line step – drop off.
This part of the process is made much more exciting if your gas gauge indicates that your miles-to-go-to-zero is clicking down at the speed of light, or so it seems to be when contrasted with the rate of speed in which the line moves. If you’re lucky, a nice university cop will let you advance when he correctly detects panic in your voice as you ask him how far it is to the nearest gas station. Now things get fun.
You pull to the curb and are immediately approached by an enthusiastic group of students who happily take the remaining possessions out of your car (everything other than the refrigerator already unloaded and hauled on foot by your children as they try to hasten the process) and place them into wheeled bins to deliver to your child’s room. There are brief conversations (Student: “Do you know where you’re going?” Parent: “Yes, the f*ck out of here.” and “I love your Bernie sticker!” said by the young woman in charge of UHart’s Students for Bernie Facebook page) and then you park your car in the third parking lot of the day and finally enter the room where your child will be living.
And then, it gets real. You see your child unpacking the things they found most important to bring along on their college adventure – books, electronics, that tea kettle you gave them as a birthday gift. You take in their surroundings so you can imagine them there when your home feels off-balance and empty without them. You walk back to your car and know beyond a doubt that the original cord cutting 18+ years ago was just the first of many. And you let go.