Michelle Martin

The blink of an eye

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

It’s amazing how fast it happens.

You pull up to the curb outside the dorm and open the back of the car. Movers toss everything into a big bin: suitcases and boxes and pillows and laundry baskets full of everything from detergent to dishes.

By the time you and your child — no longer a child really, but your child still — make it off the elevator upstairs, the bin with all of their things is at the door of the room where they will live, away from home, for the next several months.

It takes less than an hour to make the bed, fold the towels, stow empty bags away.

In our case, dropping Frank off this week, we also met his suitemates and volunteered to head to Target for cleaning supplies. It was the second Target run of the day; after three years of Caroline being in school in Boston, I can now say I know the layouts of two different Targets a thousand miles from where I live.

So Frank got back in the car, navigated us to Target and bought a broom and toilet bowl cleaner. We bought pretzels and bagels and Pop-Tarts for him, along with a couple of folders and some notebooks. Enough to get him started at least.

Then back to his dorm, where his dad and I waited downstairs while Caroline helped him carry what we bought upstairs. They came down, he hugged us goodbye, and that was it.

He went upstairs to hang out with his suitemates and get ready for the floor meeting while we drove away, first to Caroline’s apartment to rearrange furniture in the room she hadn’t lived in all summer, then to get dinner and back to our hotel.

It wouldn’t be the last time we saw Frank before we came home; we had another day in Boston, helping Caroline get situated, and we promised Frank we’d stop at Costco to get him coffee beans and a jumbo-sized box of cereal.

He would have been fine buying his own coffee and cereal. He and his roommates probably would have managed getting cleaning supplies and toilet paper, too. But letting go is hard, often harder for parents than their young adult children, who appreciate everything Mom and Dad have done and have given them, but kind of want to try it on their own for a bit.

There’ve been a lot of words written about “helicopter parents,” people who can’t help but hover and keep their kids from developing the independence they need to grow up. Some of that is probably justified, some is exaggeration. Caroline has managed her own college career with our support, but not our direction. I expect Frank will do the same.

When we left, he still had some clothes to put away, and big boxes cluttering his room. I’m sure he’ll figure out how to get them to the recycling room on his own.

We, meanwhile, will figure out how to function with only one child at home most of the time. I’m not sure Teresa knows what she’s in for.

If you think of it, offer a prayer for all the students heading off to college this fall, and for their parents too.


  • family life