, Salem, MA


September 23, 2013

Column: College sendoffs get easier


That wall calendar sat in her desk all year. (OK, maybe my captions were a bit sappy.) The notecards and stamps were returned in May untouched. (Nobody writes letters home anymore, but I hadn’t wanted to believe it!) As for the kite — well, there’s probably no reasonable explanation for why I thought she needed to pack that. Of course, it was never flown. Let’s just say moms act a bit crazy when a child leaves the nest. Instead of viewing my daughter as a grown woman, I guess I was remembering her at age 12. (Hey, it happens!)

Experts recommend taking a hands-off, “here if you need me” approach when it comes to college students. So after my send-offs, I resisted calling my daughter and she didn’t call me. I knew she was OK, though, because I could hear her voice in our house while she was “hanging out” with her brother on Skype. It was almost as if she were home. Almost.

Seeing your child in her dorm room on Skype for the first time conjures up many other firsts — first time strapping her into a car seat, first tooth, first steps, first grade, first cross-country meet, first time driving. ... It’s impossible to imagine life apart from someone who’s consumed your life so passionately for so long, enhancing it with so many milestones. Having made it through freshman- and sophomore-year send-offs, though, I can tell you confidently that they get easier.

Sophomore year, I still helped my daughter pack but backed way off on my suggestions about what to bring. This year, her junior year, I no longer concerned myself with all those details she’s responsible for. If she doesn’t have the laundry detergent, the multivitamins or the lint roller, she’ll survive. We both will! (But I have to admit, her losing her eyeglasses and having her computer crash just a few days before send-off did get my rotors turning somewhat.)


Mary Alice Cookson is associate editor of Boston Parents Paper and a Beverly-based columnist. She welcomes comments at

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