How to Tell Your Daughter Goodbye at College: 50 Steps to Take

So, it’s been just over a month since you dropped your child off at college! How many checklists did you make?  How many trips to Bed Bath & Beyond?  I bet there were more than you can count.  Some of you prepared for months, other for days. Either way, you had to tell your daughter goodbye and yes, you had to come home without your child.

Suddenly, all the checklists about bed sheets and notebooks didn’t seem all that important anymore. No amount of planning could have prepared you for what you would feel in that moment: when you walked into your house and you knew it was never going to be the same.  Both you and your child had just entered a new phase of both your lives.

50 steps to tell your daughter goodbye at college

Four weeks later, as you toss your other checklists in the garbage, you realize that there was one more checklist you needed to make. It is the Mom’s Checklist.  It began at goodbye, the day you dropped off your daughter at college:

Mom’s Checklist for Telling Her Daughter Goodbye

1. Stall while standing in her dorm room, even though everything seems to be in place.

2. When dad is getting antsy to leave, and he says, “Well, I think we are about done here,” shoot him a look that could kill him instantly.

3. Think about all the things you did in college, and suddenly wish you did none of them.

4. Size up her roommate for the 10th time, and wonder if she has hidden drugs in her mattress.

5. Wonder if you could check the roommate’s mattress without looking crazy.

6. Pretend to go to the bathroom and peek into the other girls’ rooms on the floor and see if you have forgotten anything and can make another trip to the store.

7. While looking at other girls’ rooms, size up the other girls and wonder if any of them will be your daughter’s friend.

8. Worry that you daughter will not make friends even though this has never happened before in your life.

9. Worry that she will make too many friends, and fall behind on her school work (this has happened before.)

10. Finally allow your husband to pull the two of you away, and silently walk the hall towards the elevator.

11. Feel like you are “dead mom walking.”

12. Stand outside with your daughter, suddenly forgetting everything you read about what to say and what not to say.

13. Realize it doesn’t matter what you say or how many tips people gave you because nothing really matters when your heart is in your throat.

14. Hug your daughter goodbye, and remember what your friend said about not looking back at her because no good could become of it.

15. Look back at her.

16. Notice she is not looking back at you.

17. Remember she did the same thing walking into nursery school.

18. Think this is good but then again, worry it is not.

19. Project how lonely she must feel.

20. Think about all you could have said on the way home and wonder if your child knows how much you love her.

21. Wake the next morning, and remember that you daughter is no longer living in your house.

22. Go to her room, and feel like she has died. All the stuff is there but she is not.

23. Put on sad music and cry.

24. Cry some more.

25. Cry in front of the mailman.

26. Cry in front of the dry cleaner.

27. Cry in front of the dog.

28. Project onto the dog how sad the dog is.

29. Receive text from daughter about a few things she forgot at home, even though you both had all the new student checklists, checked off.

30. Receive another text five minutes later about a few more things she forgot.

31. Receive an updated text that night about one more thing she wants you to send as long as you are sending the other stuff.

32. FaceTime that night.

33. Receive ten more text messages the next day about classes, sorority rush, friends, and roommates.

34. Realize you are thankful for the first time in your life how much time she spends on her smart phone.

35. Begin to see that you have pretty much the same relationship with her as you had before she left only you don’t see her passing you, on the way to her room where she spent hours texting her friends, and not you.

36. Notice that it has been four weeks, and the text messages are still flowing.

37. Smile.

38. Know you will be ok.

39. Know she will be ok.

40. Feel relieved that you have a daughter because your friends who have sons do not receive much communication at all.

41. Look at your other daughter who will be leaving in two years and wonder if it is a crime to padlock her room, with her inside.

42. Vow to never share your thoughts for you might be padlocked inside your own room.

43. Break your vow, and send checklist to Grown and Flown.

44. Cringe when you receive a text from your college daughter complaining that she read your checklist and she was not happy that you had wondered if her roommate had drugs hidden in her mattress.

45. Tell your daughter you love her, and secretly count the days until Thanksgiving break.

46. Put down your phone, sense how quiet it is in your house since you dropped off your daughter off last August, and yet you know it is all as it should be. Life goes on.

47. Tear up your checklist. It is time.

48. Get a text message from your daughter, still at home, who is up in her room, and wants to know why her favorite jeans were not washed.

49. Know you will someday create a new checklist for her.

50. Until then, send her a map showing her where the laundry room is in the house.


6 Reasons Why Moms Cry When They Leave their Kids At College

How to Make Your Next College Care Package the Best Yet

More by Beth Mund:

Mom, Take Down That Baby Picture of Me I Look Terrible! 

A Note to Our Long Lost Teenage Daughter


About Beth Mund

I cherish my husband, our three children, and dog, Bella. Crafting stories and heartfelt writing is my passion, as is having daily, full body fits of laughter. You can follow my inspirational blog, Alternative Perspective, at and am excited about the publication of my co-authored book, Living without Fear.

Read more posts by Beth

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