Editor's Note: As the latest wave of parents delivers its progeny to dorm rooms near and far, Cog revisits this classic Sharon Brody essay about love and letting go, originally published in 2012.
So, you’re the proud owner of a college-bound child? Congratulations! What an exciting time for you and your family!
Do you remember all the fun you had helping with the college application process?
The wholesome family trips to colleges on The List at which — after traveling 400 miles via rural "highways" — your child would not exit the vehicle upon spotting a pair of students wearing Birkenstocks?
The laughter that filled the air as your child suggested it had in fact been your responsibility to provide a reminder to get that college recommendation from that nice bio teacher who is now on maternity leave in the Himalayas?
You might not be able to believe your good fortune, but there's a lot more fun where all that came from!
However, fun isn't always as easy as it looks. And that's why we're here to help. We want to guide you through a smooth transition to the college years.
Your child (hereafter referred to as The Escapee) is more ready for this big move than you might imagine. Like, OMG, you do not even have any idea just exactly how completely ready.
You, likewise, are more ready for this big move than The Escapee might imagine. If he were to ever imagine, or even spend one second acknowledging, you or your feelings or anything other than his own adolescent needs and desires, right?
Without further ado, this is how to deliver a child to college:
- Be sure to pause every five minutes during the organizing process and ask your Escapee if he's truly OK about not getting into the school where his best friend will be in the honors program. Remind your Escapee that had he been accepted you have no clue how you would have paid anyway. Ask, frequently, how his friend's parents are possibly going to afford that outrageous tuition and whether they maybe are doing this purely to show off? When he hurls the shower caddy across the room and stomps off to watch "SportsCenter," pout.
- Inform your Escapee that you know a little something about college yourself. And you remember how some people in the dorm might, for example, sit around listening to Jackson Browne albums and drinking alcohol when they should be studying or sleeping for goodness sakes. And you are confident your Escapee can resist such temptations. Follow up with, "What? What's so hilarious?"
- Suggest a 274th trip to Bed Bath & Beyond.
- Smack your forehead and bellow about the prices. "They want HOW MUCH for this 200 thread count junk?" When your Escapee vanishes from the Twin Extra Long sector, you will find him hiding among the water filtration pitchers, pounding out texts to his entourage. Your line: "I'm just trying to help."
- Go to Target instead, and promise not to complain about anything, if that's what it takes to appease The Escapee, because that's really all you care about, the happiness of your rising college freshman, and these sweet bonding moments from which lasting memories are made.
- Squeal over the 2-for-1 bedding sale, and offer to buy matching comforters for The Escapee and the roommate.
- Tell The Escapee to calm down, calm the heck down already, you were just kidding. Obviously. Matching comforters are not happening. No matter how darling they are. Duh. It was just a joke. Clearly. But you have to admit they’re adorable.
- The night before the big move, cook a special meal for the family featuring The Escapee's favorite foods. Find out moments beforehand that all the neighborhood friends are having one last pre-college summer BBQ and The Escapee says it's really really really important not to miss that. Burst into tears. Insist you're fine; far be it from you to rain on anybody's parade. Go be with your friends, you say. More ants-on-a-log for me, you chirp. Sigh, dramatically.
- Secretly tuck the favorite old stuffed animal of The Escapee into the duffel bag.
- Involve every family member in a pre-dawn fight over whether The Escapee actually needs to bring that third soccer ball.
- In an angry spurt of back-seat-rearranging to accommodate the third soccer ball, leave all three soccer balls in the yard as you pull out of the driveway.
- Choke up as you drive past the elementary school on your way out of town.
- Make sure you've chosen the proper outfit for the delivery mission, so that The Escapee will not miss the cue for this line in the script: "Is that what you are actually going to wear when we are, like, there? In front of people?"
- As you drive by the art museum on campus, cheerfully ask The Escapee if he remembers all those wonderful excursions to the art museum in your hometown when he would hold your hand and ask such thoughtful questions as you strolled from gallery to gallery. He will fix you with a blank stare and eventually mumble: "We don't even have an art museum at home. Do we?" Commence weeping. Work up to smiling bravely through your tears.
- Get lost trying to find your way to the designated unloading area near the dorm. Insist you've never seen such terrible signage in your life. Denounce the signage weakness to everyone inside the vehicle and then, once double-parked, to everyone in earshot. When The Escapee whispers at you to please please please be quiet, snap that a little empathy would be nice, being as you know what? You have had a very stressful day. In case The Escapee hasn't noticed.
- In the dorm room, in front of the new roommate and parents, address the Escapee as your Little Shmookie Doodle Bug.
- Keep puttering. Extend the chat with the R.A. by asking questions to which you don't need answers. Fuss over the placement of the fan. Linger, even though the bed is made and the closet is filled and the move-in hours are dwindling. Because... it isn’t that you are not ready to say goodbye, it’s just that you’re not sure The Escapee is ready.
- *Ask The Escapee to step outside with you for farewell photos because you don't want to cause embarrassment in front of these new friends on the off chance you might get just a little bit misty. Then stagger the length of the dorm hallway sobbing at 100 decibels.
Got all that? Success! Now that you have all the tools for a perfect experience, enjoy your college delivery mission!
To take the next step in excitement and fun, place your order now for: "How To Make the Most of College Family Weekend — Whether Your Freshman Whose Every Last Whim You Took Care Of for 18 Years Until One and a Half Months Ago Will Appear in Public with You, or Not!"
This article was originally published on August 24, 2012.