December 2, 2014

I Survived the First Year of College

I have written and re-written this essay a half dozen times. Kate finished her first year of college in May. Now that she's firmly invested in her second year, I almost didn't write it. But I can still remember the day we moved her in like it was yesterday.... packing up the car the night before, the house in shambles, getting on the road at dawn, stopping at McDonalds for pancakes, her sister crying not so silently as we waited in the car, all of us crying at different times during the drive into Boston. And then in a blur of unpacking, it was over. We rode home in silence wiping away the last of our tears. 

During the first couple of months, I was in denial. Having my children sleep under the same roof makes me happy. I would cry at odd times during the day. David and I would stare at one another, speechless. We've always been a close family, choosing to do things as a group versus going off on our own. Gone were the nightly rounds of good-nights whispered between the girls' rooms, the laughter and teasing sisters revel in, the four place settings at the dinner table. Days were quiet and the nights were sometimes deafeningly silent.

I know I am not the first parent to have gone through this. I know I should be happy that I have done at least part of my jobI've prepared her to head out into the world and stand on her own. I know I should be excited that she will get to experience all of the great and wonderful things college will teach her. I know this is what's supposed to happen. But knowing it doesn't keep it from hurting.

My girls are my best friends and now I was letting one of them go. Kate and I run hot and cold. She can make me laugh on a dime, help guide me through a mini-crisis with her level-headed advice, and talk and talk and talk, which I sometimes desperately need just to get out of my own head. Amanda and I are lukewarm. We get each other and often agree on just about everything. She has a calming spirit that soothes me. We're introverted extrovertswe're quiet, and then sometimes loud and obnoxious. These girls balance my world.

I am grateful that she is only 80 miles away and not 800. We can get her home in an hour and a half and she takes advantage of it every chance she gets, especially this time of year. She loves Christmas and she misses the snow, the woods, her room, the decorations, and of course her dogs! And I guess us, too. She was just home over Thanksgiving break and it's during these times that I feel at peace once again.

Just as I was settling in to this new normal, rumors started to circulate (as they usually do) that upperclassmen wouldn't have housing for next year. One of her friends started apartment hunting and asked Kate if she was interested in sharing. The first time I heard of this my heart sank. I was just getting used to her being awayhoused in a nice security-protected dorm on campus. I couldn't talk about it. I didn't even want to address it. I passed this latest challenge on to her father. He tends to be more rational than emotional, while I tend to lead with my emotions in situations like this. He played go-between for a while; I silently crunched the numbers. After viewing one disappointing apartment after another proved that we wouldn't have to deal with this until next year, a spot opened up in a beautiful (safe) building just down the street. Her friend would sign the lease December 1st. We gave Kate the okay that she could move in in January.

We've dropped her off at her dorm room for the last time. We plan to start moving her belongings into her apartment in mid-December, then finish up in January before she heads back to school again. The decorating plan is in full swing and I still need to find a deskall in the midst of holiday shopping and Amanda's college application process.

Yes, I get to do this all over again next year times two. And I'll do my best to survive this, too.


Janine said...

Loved this. I'm just behind you and I'm dreading this transition. Why can't they stay little? I hope I can make it to the other side when it's my turn.


hollysharon said...

This reminds me so much of my stepdaughter. She moved away last year for school & stayed in residence. Her dad had the hardest time with it. He was so sad & even cried on a few occasions, he misses her so much. Then this year for 2nd year, she as well moved into an apartment with a room mate, seems like alot of 2nd year students do this. Now she needs to buy her own groceries, and take transportation to college instead of just walking across campus, so there are extra challenges. Last year she didn't have a job during school, this year she started a part time job, so even more changes. Her dad has held up better during 2nd year, though she had to miss Thanksgiving with us, and because of her part time job, she is only coming home for 5 days mid Dec, and is actually going to miss Xmas here in town. Luckily my own daughter is taking a college program at the college here in town so I don't have to go thru what he's going thru. Of course he is happy for her, and my step daughter has changed & matured so much since last year.

Karen said...

I'm not sure who had the harder time-- my daughter or me. We were both thrilled when she got in to her college of choice and then we both panicked when reality set in. I tried to keep it together for her sake when I moved her in but then she started crying. She comes home as often as she can and the crying has subsided but those first few weeks were tough. I'm still muddling through.

Sara said...

I loved this essay. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm dreading being in your shoes, but I know that we can't keep them small forever.

Kimberly Merritt said...

Hello! I'm so glad you all liked the post. I know it's a difficult transition to make as a parent. I've gone through it two times and I have one more to go....I think I may just have to enroll myself!

Kimberly Merritt said...

hollysharon, I feel for your husband. Mine was cool as a cucumber talking me down from the ceiling until the day came. I think he was being strong for me--then it was my turn. My best to you and your family.

liv said...

Thank you for the glimpse into your phase of oldest is 14 so I can imagine feeling the way you do in a few more years. We have 2 girls and 2 boys and I can't imagine one being gone from under our roof but I do want to prepare for it!
Take care and Merry Christmas,

Kimberly Merritt said...

Hello Liv. They grow up so fast! I'm sure you're enjoying them as much as you possibly can. Thank you for your post and have a very, Merry Christmas.

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