Beyond Backpacks: From Kindergarten to College Drop Off

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I cried the day my husband and I dropped our son off to kindergarten. I also cried at his college drop off day. A span of 13 years of parenting should make a difference in learning how to adjust to change. I should be able to handle these transitions better because I’m used to it. But, I’m not. First days never get easier.

The planning, anticipation, and first days of kindergarten and college drop off share far more similarities than differences for me. The days leading up to the first day of kindergarten and college drop paralleled one another with the same explosive feelings from each unique life transition.

As a kindergarten mom, I was just a bit younger and perhaps a little bit more naïve. And now I’m just a little older and perhaps wiser…and little bit shorter than my son. But preparing for both first days feels exactly the same now as it did all those years ago.

Checking Off the Lists

Kindergarten Prep

The summer before kindergarten, I spent hours making sure we had all the right supplies to send with him. I didn’t know if he needed all 64 colors of crayons, but I bought them anyway. I purchased the perfect Batman backpack and loaded it with all the necessary supplies just to make sure he was adequately equipped for a successful year. His eagerness to wear his cool new swag was matched with my anxious anticipation to make sure he was going to be okay.

Walking to Kindergarten
College Drop Off Packing

The summer before college drop off, I downloaded the dorm supply list. I shopped meticulously for all the essentials, and the optional items, as well as the not so necessary but it will make me feel better if he has them items. Did he really need an air purifier? Maybe. Maybe not. And even though I was pretty sure he might not ever use the extra set of bathroom rugs and shower curtain I purchased for his bathroom dorm suite, I bought them just…in…case. Knowing he had what I thought he needed gave me a little bit of peace to settle the chaotic wave of emotions I was feeling.

Inhaling the Summer Lasts

The summer before OUr days changed

The summer before kindergarten, we made sure to get in all the final activities before school officially began. We went to parks and museums, took extra time riding bikes, ate ice cream, and spent hours having the most fun together. We took in all the LASTS before our days changed forever. The entire summer, I felt the days whisking away and I just wanted time to SLOOOOOW down. I knew the day was looming…the first day of kindergarten. I was filled with bittersweet anticipation. I felt so proud of my little boy, yet so incredibly sad that my baby was growing up. How would I ever handle not seeing him all day long?

The Summer Before Our lives changed

The summer before college drop off, we took a trip together to New York City, because I felt that once he moved away, things would be different. Our lives would be changed forever. We went to Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, took a bicycle tour of Brooklyn, ate all the pizza, and had the most fun a mother and son could possibly have in four days. I tried my best to be in the moment. I was NOT ready to think about him leaving, but he was very ready for his move and I was so happy about that. But my heart felt completely shattered all at the same time. How would I possibly handle not seeing him for weeks…perhaps months?

Filling Their Bellies and Replenishing Their Spirits

Kindergarten Lunches

Before kindergarten, I found just the right Spiderman lunch box. I packed it with all his favorite foods, snacks, treats, and made plans to hide a special note he could read each day during lunch. These little notes of encouragement would include reminders to have fun, to be a kind friend, and to do well on his spelling tests. Some days I would even include a math riddle to solve.

College Meal Plans

The summer before college, I chose a meal plan based on how much I thought he would need to eat. And then I added a little extra cash for other places on campus for special days. I could not imagine him being hungry or not having enough choices beyond the endless list of places. Before he left, I already had college care packages filled with treats, snacks, and special notes reminding him to do his best, be kind to others, and to do well on his papers and tests. I made sure to pack him encouraging books to help guide him through hard days.

Sending Them Off

KIndergarten First Day

The first day of kindergarten eventually came. I embraced my son, holding onto his dependence while watching his little independent spirit walk into a room filled with new faces, new beginnings, and new adventures. As much as I wanted to stay, the kindergarten teacher reminded us that for the next several hours, she’s in charge. She’ll take great care of our son…but now it’s time for us to leave. My heart beamed for his excitement and hurt with my realization of the time passing quickly before us.

College Drop Off Day

The countdown was over. The dreaded college drop off day was happening. It was eventually time to move into the college dorms and make the move so far from our home. I think we packed everything, and a little more. The move-in day was swift and fast and as much as I wanted to give him one more hug or see him one more night, he was already meeting new faces and making new plans with people that were not us. I’m letting go now. It’s the one goal in my life I was not quite ready to accomplish. He was ready. I will be…eventually.

College Drop Off

College Drop Off: Letting Them Fly

Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or your last college drop off, or any of the transitions in between that our kids experience, one thing is certain. Change is an inevitable part of life and parenting. When they grow, we grow. They change. We change. And hopefully they become all we ever imagined them to be, and even more of who they were always destined to be. It’s their time now to experience life through their own lens. Fly birdie fly.

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Let’s Connect

Did you recently experience a college drop off or are you a recent empty nester? How would you compare to the first days of kindergarten? Comment below and be sure to subscribe to Beautifully Between and be a part of the community.

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