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Guyon: The Drop Off

In the days leading up to when my eldest child headed off to college last month, other parents kept saying it would feel like when I dropped him off on the first day of kindergarten. But now that I've gone through it, I can honestly say, “Mmm… not really."When our kids are five, the first day of school is like gently setting them down in a little wading pool surrounded by people paid to basically keep them alive, with the reassurance that in just a few hours you'll be able to scoop them up and hear all about their exciting day full of fat crayons, alphabet games, snacks and recess.

College is the polar opposite. Though my son is technically an adult now, leaving him at his dorm felt as if I were somehow chucking him into the middle of a vast forbidding ocean, without his human life-vest – that would be me - to keep him from sinking.
It felt like I was abandoning him – while anxiously hoping he'd figure out how to survive academic maelstroms, peer pressure sharks and party culture tsunamis.

I was certain he'd forget to eat, sleep or wear a jacket; he'd lose all his books on the first day or get lost in some giant building on campus, never to be seen again.

As I walked to my car after a quick hug goodbye, I imagined getting a call from campus police the next day saying "He was last seen wandering through the hallways of his dorm hugging a bean bag chair and mumbling something about 'mom's spaghetti'."

As I put my keys in the ignition, tears began streaming down my face - tears I’d held back because the dorm’s wellness program director had said during the parent orientation that we needed to be strong for our kids and tell them ‘you got this.’” We shouldn’t display our anguish that our babies were gone, out on their own, navigating the roiling sea of life alone, with nary a compass to guide their way, at the mercy of whatever creatures from the depths of humanity might rise up and mess with them.

Then, my phone pinged. It was a text from my son, saying “Can you order me some new sneakers and have them overnighted?”

Ah, that’s right. It’s not 1950 and I wasn’t leaving him alone to fend for himself until Thanksgiving.

There’s that little thing called technology that will keep us connected.

All. The. Time.

Annie Guyon works in Development at Dartmouth College and occasionally writes as a freelancer for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.
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