Move-in Day: Dropping a First-Born Child off at UGA

Sending off a child to college is a rite of passage not just for students, but for us mothers learning to let go.

The farther I drove from Athens Wednesday night, the more I felt like I was abandoning an essential organ of my body.

I knew the day was coming when I would drop my daughter, Michelle, at the University of Georgia. In case I forgot, there was a Facebook reminder for me. Ever a dutiful mother, I invested energy and dollars into buying appropriate bedding, storage bins and other items to equip her room at . Spotting a brand-new carpet remnant in a dumpster on my street, I lugged it out, let it dry out on my driveway, and put it in the minivan to haul from Decatur to Athens.

But on Wednesday morning, when we took a last look around to figure out whether we were forgetting anything, even Michelle was a bit misty. She's never lived permanently anywhere else other than our modest two-story home in Decatur. She was going off to share a room not much bigger than her own bedroom with a girl she'd never even met as part of the University of Georgia's largest freshman class in history.

This was supposed to be one of the high achievements of a parent's career. My beautiful, smart, mature daughter managed to get into a competitive college with a scholarship and 16 hours of advanced credit, thanks to her excellent publilc school, Decatur High School. She's opened a banking account, has her ID, a Bulldog Bucks account and a meal plan.

So why can't I stop worrying? Will she remember to take her medicine? Will she remember to empty the dehumidifiers in her room in a dorm notorious for having moisture issues? Will she ever water the potted plants I bought for the room? Will she lose her cell phone?Will the alarm clocks she has be sufficient to wake her up in time for class? Will she fall out of her loft bed? Will she miss me?

And the big one, will she ever need me again? Are 5,499 other mothers feeling the same way I am?

I'd anticipated a more exhausting afternoon of hauling items into the dorm, but to my surprise and delight, a horde of UGA students showed up and hauled everything we'd packed in mama's minivan into my daughter's room. I prayed there'd be room for her roommate.

Some things were a relief. Michelle's roommate, Ngoc, seemed to be a very nice and smart young woman. Their room is equipped with a microwave and fridge, but no television. The dorm location and ambiance are warmly collegiate. My sister reminds me that when we went to college, our mother kept in contact with us through letters and phone calls, the latter scrupulously limited because they were long-distance and therefor expensive. With cell phones, Facebook and internet, I'll be able to keep in contact all I want. The trouble is, my wants right now feel like a growing kudzu vine.

As move-in day wore on, I kept trying to delay my departure. I swear I didn't forget my purse and cell phone in her room on purpose, but Freud might disagree.

The hug, the picture, the kiss, and as I was driving home, I tried not to notice the irony of all the sad country songs about lost love. Punching up another station, Bob Marley came on, and I felt a little better. Maybe everthing IS gonna be all right?

Here's hoping that she'll clean the dorm room more often than she cleaned her bedroom.  

Mria August 11, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Great piece, Diane! Very honest and heartfelt. And a reality for many, many parents every fall.
Laura August 11, 2011 at 09:40 PM
I still call my mom regularly and need her for child-rearing advice & wisdom weekly -- she'll still need you forever!


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