move in day

Sending Your Child To College: Everything You Need to Know You Will Learn on Move-In Day

Dear Neurotic Parent,

Here’s the deal.

You are going to move your precious child into a college dorm room soon and you’re going to feel ALL the emotions.  You’re going to spend a lot of money at Walmart. You are going to face obstacles and unexpected challenges.  You’re going to replay a montage of memories in your mind and heart and it’s gonna nearly destroy you one minute and make you beam with pride the next.

Don’t worry, everything you (and your child) needs to learn about college you will learn on move-in day.

1. Everything will be more expensive than you first believe.

I spent approximately $48 on Command Strips and handed over my life savings for the curtain panels, but hey, the offspring of my womb was going to be living on her own and I’ll be darned if her room doesn’t look cute.

2. Things rarely go as planned.  

You will use those 48 dollars’ worth of Command Strips to hang everything that stands still onto the sterile white walls. Unfortunately, most things will crash to the floor within 20 minutes. Don’t worry, you can rehang them.  And if they fall more than 3 times they were not meant to occupy that particular space.

3. Most of what your child will learn will be outside the classroom.

For example, an innocently purchased $17 shelf from the before mentioned Walmart. (If you haven’t yet realized, budget a mortgage payment for purchases.  A bathmat here, an extension cord there, and an occasional must-have sign will eat up any disposable income you thought you might have this month.)  Bye Felicia!   Anyway back to our educational adventure:

We decided a bookshelf was needed next to the bed. For coffee mugs and the Keurig ( Obvious necessities: HELLO, caffeine saves lives.) We searched Hobby Lobby and the local antique stores to no avail. We again found ourselves at Walmart. Scene 5, take 5.

Sure enough, in the Home section we stumbled across the perfect shelf. We had measured the space, ya’ll.  This thing was perfect.  And it was gray which was our colorway.  Done.

Until we tried to hoist the box into our blue cart.

We found ourselves mumbling things like “how could a $17 shelf weigh this much?” and “aren’t there materials that would be better suited and more lightweight, like what the wall shelf earlier purchased from Hobby Lobby is made of some sort of plastic wood-look-alike. But no matter, it was what it was.  And it was heavy as a 100-year oak.

4. You will find beauty in unexpected places.

In the chaos of the day and the days to come, look around. Find a local flea market or antique shop. Meet someone new and share a conversation. You’re both going to need to widen your circle to get through all this transition.

5. You don’t always have to know what you are doing.

It’s ok to call your own mom, a friend, anyone.  It takes a village.

At 4:13pm after I had attempted to hang those $#%^@! curtains and failed once again I declared them my nemesis and called my mother. “Mom do you have access to Pinterest?” She did in fact and recommended adding gorilla glue to my arsenal and to pay the $50 repainting fee at the end of the year.  It looks like another trip to Walmart is in the near future.

6. Embrace the adventure.  Improvise if you have to.

In life you may come across unforeseen obstacles and challenges.  For example, on move-in day the parking lot adjacent to your student’s residence hall may be undergoing unwarranted repainting.  There may be men in hardhats and barricades preventing you from gaining any proximity to your destination.  You are tired. You have a trunk full of Walmart purchases.

As you stare in disbelief at your obstacle, your mind searches for plan B.  The noxious smell of new pavement may temporarily impair your thought process, but simply carry your Dominos pizza across the asphalt wasteland, up the stairs for the 37th time and allow your thoughts to readjust as you consume said pizza on the floor, slurping caffeinated beverages and hatching a new plan.

On such floor, I began tapping my fingers together, and my daughter and I realize that we had packed a bike for commuting about campus. Perhaps we could utilize these extra wheels to move that 100 year old oak Walmart shelf. BINGO. We headed downstairs.

Of course it couldn’t be that simple. As soon as we had procured the bike the sky opened up and began to dump rain on us as if we had broken some cardinal rule of furniture moving. Rain pelted my face as I opened my trunk, hoisted out the shelf,  bungeed it to her bike rack. My daughter shot across the newly dried pavement…her bike teetering under the girth of the shelf.

The plan worked.

We built that shelf together, Chinese and pictoral directions and all. (Always remember to pack a tool box.)

Indeed it matches the décor perfectly. We are not yet sure how this behemoth shelf will be moved out of the position it is currently in, but we are darn proud of our handiwork. And yes, I did make my daughter raise her right hand and solemnly swear that she would never sell said shelf. It could sit in the corner of her garage for all I care, but I want to see that $17 investment every time I visit her. For eternity.

7. Tears are part of the process.

There will be a moment during move-in day that will cause you to duck into the small, concrete dorm bathroom and sob. It will be ugly. You can do it quietly, I promise.  The crying will come on suddenly and unexpectedly.  Perhaps your child glances up and you and you see the same face that peered over her backpack at 7 years old in that elementary school hallway.  Or maybe you’ll be eating pizza and watching an episode of Gilmore Girls because your limbs ache from all the lifting and hanging of things and you’ll feel older than you believe yourself to be.  Or most probable, the tears will come for no apparent reason at all other than the fact that you once decorated the crib in her nursery and now you are pushing her Ikea couch across the tile floors.

8. Eventually you have to leave.

Get a hotel room for the first night and then maybe sleep on your student’s futon until you run out of underwear. Buy some more at Walmart if you have to…but eventually you still got to go, hon. This begins the cycle of leaving- she will leave home, you will leave her dorm/apartment/house. Rinse and repeat. You guys are in a hello/goodbye cycle which pretty much lasts the rest of your natural lives.

9. Trust the process

This new terrain is kinda like that mammoth wooden Walmart shelf balancing on the back of the bicycle in the rain. It’s awkward.  Before you know it, your child will be riding away. She may wobble a little at first. Or a lot.   You’ll get back in your car.  A montage of all the years of her life will again play in your mind and heart.  But onward to both of you.  You survived move-in day and are now armed with just about everything you need to know.  Just keep repeating the lessons.


A Neurotic Mom of a College Student

Creds: Shelby, Sophomore, Georgia College Class of 2019

PS: the information in this post is all true. There have been no name changes or embellishments. I have alibis, witnesses, and receipts to back up my claims. (Also, the check-out lady at Walmart can confirm my underwear purchase.)




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