What Having a Kid Away at College is Truly Like

It’s getting real, isn’t it? The final rounds of exams, concerts, games, and banquets, followed by the biggie: high school graduation. As the reality of sending your child off to college sets in, you might be wondering what it’s going to be like, considering that for weeks you’ve already been crying at the drop of a hat (and not just graduation caps—any hat will do).

Take it from a couple of moms who’ve been there: That first college year is hard to describe and changes from day-to-day, but the feeling is not totally unfamiliar. In fact, it rings a number of bells. Depending on where and when you run into us, we might describe it one of these ten ways:

college girls

Have a Kid Away at College? Ten Things You’ll Feel

1. Having a kid at college is getting fired.

Your job was to get this kid to college. After 17 years of steady employment (which we would describe as a “fast paced high pressure environment” beginning with junior year straight through packing the car for campus), your services are no longer needed. Just. Like. That. No severance, no plaque, no cake, no nothing.

2. Having a kid at college is a kitchen after a power outage.

You haven’t figured out how to grocery shop for a house short of one voracious eater, so your refrigerator has a shelf of expired yogurt, the orange juice has gone tart because you can’t remember to buy it by half-gallon instead of the gallon, and the fruit flies number in the hundreds because they have plenty of brown bananas to nest in. (On the plus side, your younger kids’ science experiments are ready to go.)

3. Having a kid at college is coming to terms with your inner Miss Havisham.

The temptation is strong, especially at first, to enshrine your child’s room, visiting from time to time to perch on the edge of the bed for one-sided conversations as the cobwebs collect. Eventually you’ll realize this is all a tad too Dickensian. You’ll throw off your veil to grab the vacuum and heavy-duty trash bags (and if you’re smart, rubber gloves).

4. Having a kid at college is needing a fix.

You said you wouldn’t. You promised. You meant it this time and maybe even truly believed you could do it. But you take a big gulp, and try to hold back the stammer when you call anyway, because your heart can’t take not hearing the sound of his voice.

5. Having a kid at college is a “Spot the Difference” quiz.

There’s nothing more discomfiting than a good long look at your college kid’s changing face. Is that a new haircut? Does she wear her glasses all day now? Where did he get that shirt? Is he filling out? Since when does her skin look so good? SOMETHING’S DIFFERENT BUT WHAT IS IT?

6. Having a kid at college is learning a new language.

You keep hearing the word “visit” as if it has something to do with the time you spend with your own child. You can’t say it and you sure can’t think it, so instead you talk about going to “see” your heart of hearts at college because it’s time to pay your child a “see” and, after all, the fall colors are beautiful this time of year for a campus “see.”

[More on how to have the best Family Weekend or college “visit” here.]

7. Having a kid at college is climbing into a time machine set to FRESHMAN YEAR.

It all comes back to you: funny stories about dormmates; how terrified you were of a certain professor; the shock and awe of first-time life on your own. Sometimes you even forget you’re wearing progressive lenses and accidentally knock them off your face as you wipe away a nostalgic tear.

8. Having a kid at college is standing on top of a mountain waiting for a smoke signal, only you’re staring at a tiny arrow waiting for your kid to open a Snapchat.

You didn’t fool anybody when you spent six hours learning how to snap because you knew how much your kid would “miss seeing the dog.” All you’ll get out of it is a lesson in just how long 24 hours can feel. Snapchat Tutorial Lesson One: “Snapchat servers will carry your Snap for 24 hours after you post each Snap.”

9. Eventually, having a kid at college is your growing up, too.

One day, you go to check your child’s Facebook status, but somehow instead you keep your clicks to your own friends. You’ve finally realized that you don’t have to run round-the-clock surveillance, which gives you some extra time to consider the surprising idea of seeing your friends in person.

10. Finally, having a kid at college is

a series of pulls toward and pushes away, then an eventual coming together with wisdom, maturity, and a new-found intelligence neither one of you learned in university classes: of knowing that along with a lifetime of shared memories, you share the excitement of discovering who you are apart from each other.


High School Graduation: 15 Things Moms Need to Know Now

Dear Parent of Newly Admitted College Student

Advice from Moms: The Art of the “Blurt Text” 

About Alexandra Rosas

Alexandra Rosas is Co-Producer of the Listen To Your Mother Show/Milwaukee. A first-generation American who writes cultural memoir and humor, Alexandra performs as a national storyteller with The Moth and was the 2013 Milwaukee Moth Grand StorySLAM champion.

She has been named a BlogHer Voice of the Year four years running and has been published in several anthologies. She is a regular contributor to Milwaukee Public Radio, Huffington Post, Purple Clover, and was recently named the National Gold Award recipient by Parenting Media Association for her MetroParent Milwaukee column, MomLogic. A Babble Top 100 Mom Blogger and featured on TodayParents as one of 2015’s Funniest Parents on Facebook, you can follow Alexandra on Facebook, her blog Good Day, Regular People, or twitter. She lives with her family in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

Read more posts by Alexandra

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