That is something I said 30 years ago, when I was a freshman in college. Today, I am saying it as a first-time mom of a college freshman. Of course, I was warned that I would have breakdowns as Shelby’s high school graduation approached. I am not a person that cries easily, so of course I flew through that time without shedding a tear. I think it was due to being extremely busy getting things ready for graduation and the graduation party being held at our house. Then came orientation at Iowa State University. I may have gotten a little teary eyed thinking about how this new experience will change our family dynamic, but once again no tears were shed. We were told at orientation, that we should say our good byes to our college bound student before arriving at move in day. Being a person that tries to follow directions that I am given, I took Shelby aside a couple of days before move in and shed my tears as she patted me on the back to comfort me, stating that this is what she has worked for her entire life. She was happy, did not have any tears, and was ready for the new adventure that was awaiting her. Whew! My mission was complete, the good-byes were said and we can now get her moved in without crying.
Move in day came. It was a whole family adventure. We loaded up the Suburban and climbed in early that morning to move her in. We arrived fairly early to campus and didn’t have to wait in line to unload the SUV. We had 5 students from the Move in Crew help us lug everything up to the 3rd floor. We got her room set up and even met her roommate and suite mates. We hung out for awhile and went out for supper. We were having fun, but that was to change very quickly. Terry and Zach both hugged Shelby and said their good-byes. It was my turn and I was holding my own, but as I hugged Shelby, I felt her tremor. The fear of what lied ahead had just hit her. She started crying and I had to go. That is not a good way for a mom to part from her first born. The little girl that was a preemie. The little girl that was diagnosed with a rare birth defect of her brain (bilateral peri-ventricular heterotopia). The little girl that I was an advocate for during her years at Fairfield Community School District. I was leaving that little girl to fend for herself in a strange new place and I couldn’t stay to help her.
As we left her dorm, I started crying. We stopped at Dairy Queen and I was still crying. I cried the whole 2 ½ hours home, not touching the chocolate malt that I had gotten in Ames. (To those that don’t know me well, that is a bunch of crying, if I couldn’t even drink my chocolate malt.) To my surprise, Shelby and I texted each other all of the way home. Shelby was never one to use her cell phone (most of her high school career, it stayed in her backpack turned off) and if a smart phone wasn’t a requirement for school, she would still have her flip phone. The next few days were tough, with many texts back and forth, but no physical calls. We both knew that if we were to hear each other’s voices, it wouldn’t be good. Through the semester, we texted each other good morning every morning, every day at lunch to see how our days were going, and then in the evenings to find out how we survived the day and to say good night. Shelby came home 4 times during the semester, each time taking her back became easier. Neither one of us would cry, we knew that it was something that had to be done, especially for her to accomplish her goal in life.
Terry drove up to get Shelby after her finals were over. When I saw her, I could see she had changed. She had grown from the little girl that I left in the dorm in August, to a young woman that knew her place in the world and what her purpose in life was. We both survived her first semester. She and I both grew. As we delivered her back to ISU for her second semester, I left knowing that I had done everything I could in her first 18 years of life to prepare her for this adventure. I left looking up to my daughter for all that she has accomplished in her life, all the hardships that she has overcome (many on her own, with great perseverance), and all the great things that she will accomplish in the future.