Give me a second to get a coffee (or maybe something a little stronger), a box of tissues and perhaps some chocolate. It’s not easy but I’m here to talk about College move-in, the inevitable trip to drop my son to College aka Uni.
A week ago was move-in day for us–a day that up until a couple of years ago was not in my future.
I wrote those two paragraphs two weeks ago. And I still can’t bring myself to write about it. Actually I thought writing about it would help. The bottom line is that nothing can prepare you for dropping your son (or daughter) to College (aka Uni). Even if you’re prepared for it because you’ve grown up knowing that it is inevitable–which it’s not when you live in metropolitan Sydney–it’s still hard. Just saying.
Let me back it up a little. I did not want I took myself through a number of months of self therapy–I set up a Pinterest board on Graduation lunch ideas, ploughed myself into menu planning, decoration shopping and coming up with different drafts for an invitation.
Oh yes, I had custom M&Ms, specially made cookies, everything themed in his College colours–even put coloured beach balls in the pool. Yep, I did all that.
Graduation came and went and I can proudly say I survived. It wasn’t at all sad because he was ready to spread his wings and fly; he was ready for school to be over.
With that summer was upon us. Hooray! We had holidays planned including a mother and son (and his girlfriend!) trip back to Australia and the holidays between finishing school and starting Uni has to be one of the best of your life so I wanted them to be enjoyed.
But now fast forward three months and just like that he’s gone. While a quiet soul, the house is empty. The dogs are acting weird, my daughter misses her brother (so much more than she ever thought she would), my husband stalks him and I’m still in shock.
I thought I was going to be OK. I’m fine, I’m totally fine I kept telling myself. Until I wasn’t.
Shopping–a new form of nesting I never thought I’d get to experience
But it wasn’t all bad. College move in is like you’re nesting all over again.
There was a bit of a process in getting my son ready. Did you know this moving to College caper is a whole industry? And it’s not small. At Berkeley alone there were 6,000 new kids moving into dorms at the start of this school year. 6,000. That’s a lot of new sheets (they need a special size sheet–twin xl–so you can’t just bring them from home) and towels and dustbusters (portable vacuum cleaners) to buy.
Bed Bath & Beyond is all geared up for this time of year. You set up an appointment, it has lists of all the Colleges and what the requirements are and it might surprise you to know that they’re not necessarily sanctioned by the Uni and it’s just BBB’s opinion of what the kids might need. Ok, it might also be its opinion of what the kids should bring or its opinion on what would make parents feel better that their kids bring (ie said dustbuster).
There’s a whole program at BBB where you pick what you want then they look up the nearest store to your Uni and the items get put away over there for you to collect when you move in. It’s called Pack and Go. It’s quite genius. Theory is you then don’t need to lug it half way across the country you can get it there.
Steep learning curve
That might work well for some parents but this mum got a little confused. Firstly I tried to trick the system. My son went online and chose everything then we went to the store with the list and asked for it to be set aside at our soon-to-be nearest store. Uh, no. Turns out we needed barcodes and if the stock wasn’t instore you couldn’t order it online and have it sent there. (That doesn’t make sense does it? It’s not just me?). Anyway, after going around the store we finally got all the things we thought we needed, bought some stuff to take home so we could organise it and/or wash it. (Don’t you just love organising stuff?).
But then I forgot that I ordered a mattress protector to be picked up at our new store, I thought I didn’t get it at our current store and ordered it online to come here to the house. No problems, we can just return the mattress protector at the new store. Next.
We also forgot to add the fan we’d set aside at the old store. So I called the new store (are you keeping up?) and asked them to put the fan aside with the rest of our “Pack and Go”. No, turns out you must call the old store so it can call the new store and see if it’s in stock then set up a whole new Pack and Go order. Even though I looked online first and saw that the new store had it in stock. You can’t go direct to the source, that’s not the system. Oops. OK, well not my problem at least I didn’t go into the store and could do it all over the phone.
Dorm decorating: another industry I never thought was in my future
We bought some cute things to decorate his dorm–a new rug, some neon lights from Urban and a movie poster from home–all things to make his new home feel like home.
This is where I take you aside and tell you that the decorating thing is real–it is on for young and old. These dorms are decked out all pretty and cosy and there is no leaving anything out. It could be more the girls but if you check out Pottery Barn Dorm you’ll see exactly what I mean.
But let me give you a small tip–dorms do NOT look like this. I repeat they do NOT look like this. Nor this. Nor this. They might look more like this. See? It’s a whole industry here! It’s locker decorating on a whole ‘nother level.
Transition from the Dining Room pile to the Car
As if having his whole new dorm packed up in the Dining Room wasn’t bad enough we had to get it all car ready and move-in ready.
And that’s when it started to get real.
Despite asking time to stay still for just a while it refused to do it. Not quite sure how we got there but next thing you know it was the night before it was time to leave. We went to one of our favourite sushi places–he’s not going to get good LA sushi on a student’s budget–and that’s when it hit me. Tomorrow we’d be driving up in the car and I won’t be able to stop time. He won’t be coming back with us. A few tears at dinner–I wasn’t proud of that. And with that we went home to throw me over the edge. Yes, we went home and watched Toy Story 3. You know? The one where Andy goes off to College. Yep, that one. More tears and time for bed. An early start, a last breakfast, an emotional farewell to the dogs and packing the car.
On the road
Packing the car didn’t seem so bad, even our last breakfast wasn’t as bad as dinner the night before. Saying goodbye to the dogs–who did not have a clue what was going on except that they knew something wasn’t quite right–was hard.
Part of my self-imposed therapy was documenting every moment on an Instagram story. Apart from making some friends cry I was the only one who thought it would be a good thing to do–that’s code for the two in the back didn’t appreciate it AT ALL.
Still we sang, we slept, we got way frustrated with the bad driving and it was all good.
Fast forward to actual College move-in
The logistical process itself is actually painless. We drove up, got to stop in a drop-off zone for 20 minutes and unloaded the car. The kids went and got a huge trolley on wheels and we loaded it up with the well-packed contents of his new dorm (yes, I did an outstanding job as a mother), Mr H parks the car nearby (also painless) and up we went.
There was loud music playing, cheerleaders doing their stuff, stands with free stuff and the vibe was very upbeat. That’s right folks, they’ve done this before and they know how to do it.
Unpacking everything in his room was also painless.
Special shoutout to the man at the new BBB store for clarifying that the mattress protector goes on the mattress (don’t want any bed bugs) and then the topper goes on and then you’ll need another thing to go on top of the mattress topper to keep it in place otherwise my baby boy might have been subjected to the possibility of a beg bug creeping up from the mattress, over the mattress topper and through the sheet. It’s OK, disaster averted.
My son is fortunate to have two mothers to unpack everything for him (the other being his younger sister) and one Dad who can set him up his own wireless network as rumour was the wireless network was a bit hit & miss due to the sheer volume of devices trying to suck every last Snapchat from their mates all across the country embarking on the same journey. Oh and work too of course.
Best mum in the world
I mean, seriously, I’d thought of everything. We had hooks for the trophy (stuffed animal deer type trophy not sports trophy), velcro strips, push pins, everything you could possibly need to put everything away and up in its new home. Except a bloody tool kit to put the fan together. (We may or may not have smirked at the fact that, well, who the $%&* needs a toolkit in their dorm?). And I didn’t think about the batteries for the remote either. I mean seriously, shouldn’t they come with batteries?
So, like a good move-in family it was back to Bed Bath & Beyond. We could’ve gone back to Target which was way closer but we had bought a storage stand and there was no room anywhere in that small dorm to put it so back it went too. (Lucky we resisted the sofa as pictured on Pottery Barn Dorm). We did alright with only one return.
Still, I give myself a 9.93 out of a possible 10 for move-in organisation. If only every task I had was self-imposed therapy then perhaps I’d be a 9.93 at life too.
Drumroll, we’re actually going to have to say goodbye
We’ve delayed the inevitable long enough. It’s actually time to say goodbye. Like leaches we busily worked arranging and re-arranging all that we’d unpacked, reluctant to say the job was done.
One last check of the network, making sure the screws were tightly fixed onto so the fan doesn’t fly away and decapitate someone (highly unlikely PS) and that the nightlight on the toilet seat germ-safe thing I’d bought fits OK. There was nothing left to do. Yes it’s a thing and yes I bought it and yes I even put it in, couldn’t just skim past that one could you?
His two roommates were starting to get disgruntled (their parents were long gone) so I guess it wastTime to exit stage left.
Why do I actually have to say goodbye? Why can’t we just pretend we went through that whole process and he can just come home with us? (Why do I have to feel like this?). There’s plenty of room in the car. I’ll never really know if he was as sad and melancholy about the whole thing as we were. But into the hallway we went for our final hugs. I run back … one more, just one more hug! (I’ve started you haven’t I? You’re doing it aren’t you? You’re feeling a little sad. Did I see a tear? I’m sorry, really I am.)
It’s just such a strange, horrible feeling. I wasn’t OK.
Cue Green Day’s Time of My Life
You see, where I come from your son or daughter graduates from school, you are terrified about Schoolies week and whether they’d get alcohol poisoning or get themselves in trouble, then they come back and you bitch and moan about the house not being a hotel, yell at them to do something other than party the whole time then wait to find out which course they’d got into at which uni. And then before you know it they’re off–somewhere between 12 and 20 contact hours a week, working part time somewhere and yes, still treating the house like a hotel.
They’re not supposed to be moving away.
But he is. And it’s great for him. You know I’ve talked about how hard the whole College application process can be here. So he earnt it. And this really is a turning point for him. It is.
Two weeks later
And so here I am two weeks later. Is it only two weeks? How is it that three months goes past faster than you can order a glass of rose yet two weeks crawls by with the second hand slowly ticking in the background determined to take its sweet time?
I’m not OK. Don’t tell me it will be OK–although I’m sure it will be. I have no choice but for it to be OK. And what an amazing experience Mr 18 is going through. And while I’m being totally self indulgent by wallowing in my own self pity I stop and think of a friend whose daughter was in a serious car accident before graduation and she hasn’t even woken up yet.
So, I’ll pick myself off the ground, see if ordering another glass of rose will speed time along a bit and hope but not hope that the next four years flies by as fast as the last four have flown by.
And yes …. of course I’ll be OK.
xx It Started in LA xx
Yep, tear in the eye. I’m going to enjoy the 10 years ahead of me and camp back to Australia for high school 😉