Well, we did it—Alex is off to college! He moved into his dorm on Thursday and classes started yesterday. How did it go, you ask?

It was a whirlwind—enough that I *almost* didn’t have time to get sad. There were the final attempts to bubble-wrap him before he left (“Do you want knee pads for your skateboard?”), the parting shots of hard-earned knowledge (“No one empties the lint screen in the dorm dryer!” “Buy more blue books than you think you’ll need!”), which though useful may have been overshadowed by new information (the Spanish textbook cost the same as a sweet, fully loaded brand-new cruiser bike). We met the roommate, unpacked the dorm room, made a bunch of new parent friends at our hotel, which we referred to as the parents’ dorm. And then in the blink of an eye we were standing outside his dorm, hugging him and telling him we missed him already.

Some changes come quickly; others take longer. Yesterday he texted asking permission to go to a concert in November. I debated telling him he can now choose to be in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” phase but decided I don’t want to turn off the information spigot—I’m sure he’ll figure that out pretty quickly anyway. Speaking of figuring things out, here are some things we learned along the way:

  • With so much focus on getting his stuff ready, I almost forgot that we had to pack too, so there I was doing my own laundry at 10pm the night before we left.
  • Don’t buy books until after the first class. No matter what the really helpful guy in the bookstore says, lots of items listed in the syllabus aren’t required, so you just have the hassle of returning them.
  • Teach your student about ISBN numbers, since you need the ISBN number to comparison shop for books.
  • If you’re moving your student in and have a car, make the obligatory Target/Walmart/Costco/other trip to a store location that’s on the opposite side of town from campus. Everyone is trying to buy the same stuff so the closer you are to campus, the more likely that it will be sold out.
  • To the above point, plan that you’re going to make that shopping trip because there will be something you didn’t plan for. In our case it was a stepstool because the dorm beds are so high off the ground. And again, hundreds if not thousands of families were looking for that same item.

Perhaps the hardest part of the drop-off experience is reminding yourself to be happy that your student wants to hang out with his roommate and new friends rather than you. The university had various parent activities and information sessions on Friday and Saturday morning, and we had researched some restaurants and activities to check out if we had time to ourselves. So we were able to keep busy (distracted) with some adventures of our own when Alex was off doing his thing. And much as we enjoyed seeing him settle into his new world, probably the best part of the weekend was when he said to us after Sunday brunch, “I’m glad you stayed until Sunday instead of leaving yesterday.”