College Drop-Off Blues?
Lean into it.
My daughter has a countdown app on her phone telling her, down to the last second, how long until she moves into her college apartment.
As the time nears, she gets more excited, while for me, the sense of dread creeps from the back of my mind to the front.
I’ve been through this twice before.
The first time we drove away and left a child behind, I was expecting the massive flood of emotion. My sister-in-law had warned me about it. She said to plan on wandering around the house weeping for at least a week. She said I would continue to call up the stairs at dinner-time. She said I would check the clock to see when my daughter was due home. She was right.
The drop-off of daughter number two wasn’t as dramatic. By then, I knew they have a way of returning often, with laundry. Plus my girls were rooming together. There’s comfort in knowing the fights your child’s going to have with her roommate will follow a long-standing tradition and be well rehearsed.
Those daughters left for college and a couple of years later they got married. Two daughters married, five months apart — I don’t recommend that— it was crazy making.
College kids come and go. Remember when your were toddlers and they would reject your help and cling to you, in turns. Your young unmarried adults have a way of needing you, or at least a twin bed to sleep on. You never know when they’ll be back. Tip: Don’t be too quick to renovate.
Leaving my kids at college and marrying them off were happy, anticipated experiences. I thought I was mentally prepared. My life is full; I have multiple interests, two other children and for heaven’s sake they’re only three hours away.
And even though I didn’t curl up into a ball and hide in a corner, forgetting to eat (I never forget to eat), while clutching a stray sock, it was an emotional shock every time.
After four leave-takings, two were fake (college) and two were for realsies (marriage), I’m somewhat of an expert on the blues that comes with any significant, albeit pleasant, life change.
As daughter number three prepares to fly the coop, I’m getting prepared for my next trip on the emotional roller-coaster.
4 Healthy ways to cope with kids leaving home
Make it an out-of-body experience.
It’s easier to ride a wave of emotion if you can step away from it and look back as an observer. Like PMS, you can cope with rocky emotions when you see them coming. Acknowledge that this is real, its natural, and you will get past it.
The first time I was taken by surprise and thought I was losing my marbles. I expected to be nostalgic, maybe a little sad. What I didn’t see coming was the malaise. Literal, physical slow-motion. I know now to give myself a solid week of moving around like I’m in molasses. It passes. Schedule plenty of random Pinterest searching, Netflix episodes, and mystery novels — or whatever escapism works best for you.
Seek out friends.
Even better if they’ve been through their own child drop-off. You can cry together and then laugh your heads off at how silly you feel. If she’s come out on the other end, she can tell you about the fun you’re about to have. The joy of welcoming them home for vacations and the relief when they take the avalanche that is the ‘returning college student’ back to school.
Be proactive about this. Make specific dates to specific restaurants and events. Get it on the calendar before moving day. If this is your only child, last child out or you are single, being with people is vital. And you probably won’t want to go. You will drag your feet, think up excuses to cancel and shake your fist at me for making you commit to Thai food. Then you will go and feel 100 years better.
The biggest danger of even the mildest case of the blues is that we want to be alone. It’s a lie, don’t succumb.
Pull up your sleeves.
Projects are restorative. Something big, audacious and physically or mentally sweaty will work wonders. In turn, I’ve started a new job, written a novel, redecorated my office (aka. child number one’s old room) and taken a long trip with my husband.
Again, don’t be surprised if it feels like you’re moving through molasses. Just keep going.
When you can deal, try doing a deep clean or declutter. After my second daughter’s wedding I realized the kids hadn’t used our wall of art supplies in a long time. It was taking up half the laundry room and I got an urge to reclaim the space.
It was like an archaeological dig through my children’s creative past. I was having a great time, until I came to a box filled with little polymer doll heads. My girls spent months making clay dolls. These strange little relics of their childhood pricked my heart.
Then I opened a bin full of my son’s oil paintings. When he was 10 years old he had an obsession with Bob Ross and his happy little trees. He painted dozens of landscapes.
I came unhinged looking at the paintings. I sat in the middle of this mess sobbing and laughing uncontrollably.
It was cathartic. I highly recommend you have a good, ugly cry as soon as possible.
Change of scenery.
Leave home if you can swing it. A vacation would be ideal.
But since we’re talking about college and weddings I understand if you are dead broke. Been there.
Consider less expensive options.
Do you have a family member that you can visit?
An elderly relative that could use some love and attention?
A cousin that makes you snort with laughter?
At the very least, get out of the house and enjoy your town, go on a hike or take a day trip.
Endings are also beginnings
The day before my daughter’s wedding a friend asked how I was doing. “Ok, I think. I’m kind of numb.” I answered.
She nodded in sympathy and offered this profound thought “A daughter getting married is the most wonderful thing and at the same time the most horrible thing in the world.”
I think the word is bittersweet.
Like it’s namesake chocolate, a bittersweet moment is best if it’s savored and allowed to melt naturally.