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My Son Is Off to College

Nguoi Viet, Commentary, Jami Farkas Posted: Aug 23, 2008

For months, Ive been making lists.

Order graduation announcements. Plan menu for graduation party. Rent tuxedo for the prom. Send in deposit for college housing. Schedule college-required doctor appointment. Mail in immunization history to school health center. Find a really good checklist of what to take to college.

Theres only one thing I didnt plan.

Just how Im going to say goodbye to my son when we drop him off at his dorm for the first time Sunday.

I realize Im not the only mom facing this dilemma this back-to-school season. I know now to invest in Kleenex stock. I expect to cry a river on Sunday, and I wont be alone. I am just a statistic, one of hundreds of thousands of mothers who will share this experience.

But shared pain doesnt make the pain any easier.

I opened the e-mail from my friend Janet.

Im home just got back from visiting Emma in her new room. Debbie burst into tears after bravely saying goodbye and walking away we saw Emma go into the dorm and gone. It was like the first day of kindergarten all over. I cried too, and Im not an emotional person!!

Well, Janet will have her day in another week when her oldest moves off to college. I bet shell cry. I will still be crying for my loss, her loss, the loss of all moms like us.

Yes, my son is 18 and well over 6 feet tall. As he constantly reminds me, he is an adult. He is old enough to date. Old enough to choose between John McCain and Barack Obama. Old enough to die in Iraq. Old enough for almost everything.

But hell always be my baby.

Lots of details have blurred in the past 18 years. I dont remember all the cute little things he did, or all the bad little things he did. But the day he was born all eight pounds and 20 inches of him will never escape my memory.

I remember the songs we used to sing together from the Barney cassette tape we played in the car. I remember him playing with his toy football helmets and announcing make-believe games, which gave him the start toward his college major: broadcast journalism. I remember the first day of kindergarten, watching him line up outside the classroom, a head taller than the rest of the class, like he still is today. I remember driving around town to sign him up for T-ball, seeking out every league that would take a 5-year-old who desperately wanted to play back when the minimum age was 6.

You look like a big kid, the president of the league said, watching my son cry when the woman at the registration table at the very last town we could go to told him he wasnt old enough. You can play.
And so began an odyssey of youth sports, of baseball and of basketball, of my sons activities that Im going to miss. My life for the past 18 years has been intertwined with his. My friends, like Janet, are the parents of the players he played with through the years.

I said goodbye, bravely, on the final day of the high school basketball season this winter when his team unexpectedly lost in the playoffs. I said goodbye, bravely, on the final day of the high school baseball season this spring, when his team unexpectedly lost in the playoffs. I said goodbye, not quite as bravely, on the day of high school graduation in June, the day he said hello to the world.

I will wake up Monday morning to an entirely new world order, one that will look eerily familiar but just wont be the same.

Ill do the usual stuff. Prepare my husbands ironing, etc., for the work week ahead. Sit down at my desk to check my e-mail and read the latest headlines. And Ill look to our 12-year-old son for a big hug.

The oldest one stopped hugging a while back.

And then Ill probably forget and go into the room of the now-college student and look for him. His bed will be made, the first sign that he isnt here anymore. Making his bed isnt high on the priority list. Ill glance around at the pennants on the wall, the poster from a family vacation to Seattle, the pictures of him when he was little. Then Ill probably cry.

Again. If I have any tears left.

But until then, I still have work to do. I have more lists to make, lots to do, more to worry about. Does he have enough new socks? Will he know how to do his laundry? Who is going to cut his hair?

Will he know how to take the campus bus to get downtown? Did I remember to make a first-aid kit?

For now, Im going to immerse myself in the details, in the lists. And if you are like me, with a child going off to college, I share with you the research I have done. And I share my tears.

What to pack

Some advice for the freshman on what to take to college.

Stuff to wear:

-Comfortable clothes and shoes you can go to class in. One or two dressy outfits and shoes for more formal affairs
-Work-out clothes and shoes, bathing suit
-Light jacket
-Heavy coat, mittens, hat and scarf (if youre going to a campus with a colder climate).
Better yet: Grab that when you go home for Thanksgiving or have Mom send it. You dont need it yet.
-Slippers (for hanging out in the residence hall)

Stuff for the dorm room:

Dont plan on taking too much stuff and this list sounds like a lot. The rooms arent very big. Not all halls have elevators, so its better to pack a lot of smaller boxes that one person can handle instead of a few big heavy ones.
-Comforter/bedspread, pillow, bed linens (be sure to know what size bed youll have most are twin XL)
-Clothes hangers, Coffee mug, Drinking cups, dishes and silverware for snacks
-Poster putty for hanging up decorations
-Plastic containers with tight lids for storing snacks, detergent, etc.
-Salt and pepper shakers
-Headphones/ear buds (so your music doesnt bother your roommate or neighbors)
-Digital music player
-Cell phone chargers
-Power strip approved by the housing office
-Desk lamp or bed lamp
-TV/DVD player (theres usually a common area TV if you dont bring one)
-Stereo, fan, hair dryer, alarm clock, blanket
-Small refrigerator/microwave (check with college for restrictions)
-Crates or stacking containers, paper towels, glass cleaner, sewing kit, scissors, safety pins, message board for your door.

Stuff to clean up with:

Keep in mind that youll be sharing your bathroom and laundry facilities with other students.
-Shower shoes
-Towels, washcloths
-Shaving cream and razors
-Small bucket for carrying shower things
-Facial tissues
-Toilet paper
-Laundry basket/bag
-Laundry detergent
-Dryer sheets
-Roll of quarters
-Cold medicine
-First-aid kit

Stuff for studying:

You can get this stuff once youre on campus, but it can sometimes be cheaper to buy it during the back-to-school sales of off-campus stores.
-Flash drive
-Binders, folders
-Writing utensils
-Day planner

Stuff thats good to have:
Think about your daily activities and hobbies and bring what you need with you.
-Access to money (i.e. bank account, bank card, credit card, etc.)
-Umbrella, key ring, flashlight, camera, batteries, sports/recreation equipment, pre-paid calling card, snacks for your room

Stuff not to bring:

As for what NOT to bring, you should contact your housing office or check the school Web site and ask about the rules and regulations within the residence halls. Some schools dont allow things like these:
-Halogen bulbs and/or lamps
-Hotplates, skillets, toasters, toaster ovens
-Air conditioners
-Extension cords
-Pets, waterbeds, nail picture hangers

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