The First College Move-in Is Only the First of Many

It’s that time of year, and my social media feeds are full of photos. The faces and locations change, but almost to a one, they are essentially the same. Carloads of bins and boxes; packing mayhem and the ubiquitous blue bags; 18-year-olds looking eager, looking anxious, looking impatient; moms and dads looking proud, looking emotional, looking sweaty; the blank walls of dorm room ‘before’ shots followed by curated ‘after’ shots of lofted beds, pristine comforters, mini-fridges, and organized desk spaces.  

College drop-off season is in full swing, and I love it. I love the promise. I love the excitement. I love that I can view it all through the comfortable lens of a ‘been there done that’ mom — a mom who knows what these first-time college parents haven’t yet grasped. Your moving days have just begun. 

car loaded with college things
When you have a young adult, move-in and out days come in rapid succession.

Parents of college students: your moving days have just begun

This is just the first of so many times you will move your teens. There are the ensuing four years of in and out of college dorms and apartments. The move-out days when you find yourself confronted with how the shiny newness and organization of September has morphed into May’s tangled mess of hangers, old notebooks, half-filled containers of shampoo, socks missing their mates, and at least a month’s worth of laundry.  

By August, you’ve made order out of chaos, and the cycle begins anew until that final drive home with a diploma and graduation robe sitting on top of the pile in the back of the car. You think you’re done. You’re not.

Then come those hazy early twenty-something years when they spring from apartment to apartment to home and back again while they figure out their next steps. By the time they’re twenty-five, you could move them quicker than it takes to say “Rubbermaid Storage Container.” 

Oh, I know, I know. This is when you tell me that not every kid does this. That your kid took off without a backward look as they traveled down their long-planned path to their future. And that is fantastic, more power to them.  

Our young adults can get help moving from friends, but this mom wants to be involved

Oh, I know, I know. This is when you tell me that these kids can darn well find some friends and a U-Haul and move themselves. (This is usually followed with “my parents never helped me move!”) Of course, you’re right; they can and should manage their own moves. But every rule has an exception, and even the most jaded and hard-hearted among us usually has a soft spot for a kid asking “mom, can you help?”    

Because sometimes, what was originally the perfect post-grad housing situation paired nicely with the perfect post-grad job turns upside down right amid the worst rental market in decades. Less than a year after you waved a cheery goodbye and launched your child off to live their life, you’ve got a newly-minted adult already worried about where they will live when the lease runs out. 

So, you field the texts, listen, advise, and when the new housing is finally secured, yeah, you help them move. (Ok, look, indulge me, if you have a firm “I don’t do moves” policy, then my hat is off to you. I’m a sucker, what can I say?) 

Because with every box of pans and dishes you pack and unpack, every time you dismantle and rebuild the bed, or gingerly carry the TV, every time you make a last-minute run to Target, you’re watching your son or daughter move literally, yes, but also metaphorically to their next landing pad. 

Old dorm decor gives way to newer decorations

The collage of high school memories in their freshman dorm room has given way to a few framed photos of college friends and family. The caddy they carried to the dorm showers is long gone, the number of college t-shirts is now outnumbered by ‘work outfits,’ carefully hung in new closets, and one day you find yourself moving a collection of spices to their new kitchen, wondering when the child who only ate buttered pasta for years developed a taste for cumin and coriander.  

And, along the way, there are reminders of moves gone by. During my daughter’s last move, I found, lying forgotten in the bottom of a bin, the first aid kit I put together for her five years ago before she started college. It will surprise no one it was basically untouched. It’s like an archaeological dig.  

It won’t always be like this. Someday she’ll land somewhere and stay longer than a year or two. Someday she’ll hang a picture on the wall with nails, wire, and a level instead of Command Strips. Someday she’ll have furniture that matches, and her books will be nestled in a bookcase that isn’t made of particle board rather than stored in my basement. 

But in the meantime, life is long, and life is messy, and life is uncertain. And if the one thing I can do to provide some consistency is to help her move, then sign me up…at least until my knees say otherwise! 

More Great Reading:

Don’t Forget About Moving Out of the Dorm as You Help Your Teen Move In

About Katie Collins

Katie Collins, a native Mainer who has called New Hampshire home for the past 32 years, has been a contributing writer to Grown and Flown since 2017. A nonprofit development professional by day, Katie also has over 30 years of experience in community and professional theater and in 2013 was awarded the NH Theater Award for Lead Actress in a Drama or Comedy. . When not working, writing or acting, she enjoys road trips and adventures with her wife and visits from her talented daughter, a college admissions counselor.

Read more posts by Katie

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