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There’s Life After Drop Off Day: Visiting My Son at College

We are visiting our baby at college for the first time since he left home.

As we get closer to the school, Dan and I get quiet as we anticipate this reunion. We pull onto the campus and stop at our son’s dorm to pick him up before we go to our hotel.

I hug him too hard and kiss his face. Dan hugs him too hard and kisses his face.

He tolerates the affection. Maybe he even likes it.

It’s a big football weekend so our hotel is jam-packed with fans. We meet the different alumni groups: fathers and sons, best friends who never miss a game, families like us. People return decades after graduation, decked out in college swag. It’s a happy time and everyone is smiling and chatting with strangers. My college experience did not include a football team, so this scene is foreign to me, but I’m charmed and delighted by everyone’s stories.

We check in and step into the elevator. It’s only been a few minutes since we reunited with our baby. Naturally, I have a lot of questions. I need an update on everything. I’m not asking anything private or personal, just the current version of the old after school barrage of questions: Who do you eat lunch with? Do you have a lot of work? Are you making friends? How’s the roommate? That’s what I do, even though I’ve read articles on this great site called yourteenmag.com about giving them space.

We’re sharing the elevator with a 35-year-old college alum and his friend. After hearing a few of my questions, this guy starts talking about how I am giving him PTSD. He is remembering his mom’s visits and shivers at the memory of being assaulted by questions he didn’t want to answer. He’s ranting to his friend, or to no one at all. We get off the elevator on the same floor and he’s still ranting. No one is even listening to him, but he can’t let go of what he’s just witnessed: Me.

My husband and son crack up. They have never heard anything funnier than that big dude’s observations of me and my resemblance to “Every Mom.”

After many years of parenting, I’ve learned that joining them is the best approach. Their uncontained laughter at my expense stings, but I laugh.

We settle into our room, have a lovely evening together, and start planning for game day. The forecast calls for rain. We collect everything we’ll need, including rain ponchos. I’m not that interested in sitting on bleachers in the rain so I’m already strategizing my escape plan. The day starts out with drizzle and soon turns into a downpour. We’ve paid too much money for tickets to abandon our plans, so we will go to the game. We look for our son in the student section to no avail.

For three hours we stand (because everyone stands the whole game). We are soaked, frozen, tired, and happy. Big 10 football is quite an experience. And winning isn’t bad. (Honestly, I doubt I would have stayed the whole game if we weren’t winning.)

We meet some of our son’s friends. He gives us a tour of his favorite spots. The lake. The cafeteria. The student union. The gym. The library. My husband and I are so impressed with the campus. We both want to redo our college years there.

The end of a perfect weekend comes too soon.

I hug my son goodbye for too long. My husband hugs him goodbye for too long.

Then we get in the car and wave goodbye. Somehow, it’s all okay. Just two months ago, we left him at the same spot from where we drove off—both Dan and I sobbing, really sobbing. I’m not sure how, but in the blink of an eye, we’ve all adjusted to our new normal.

Susan Borison

Susan Borison, mother of five, is the founder and editor of Your Teen Media. Because parenting teenagers is humbling and shouldn’t be tackled alone.