How To Send Your Daughter to College, in 12 Easy Steps (a knitter’s version)

my little grey shawl

my little grey shawl, still in progress

1. Go to a trunk show approximately 250 miles from home. This is for work, not properly part of dropping your daughter off at college. You made this commitment before you fully realized that it was the same week you’d need to take your daughter to college, because you, madam, are A Really Poor Planner. Bask in a sinking sense of failure in the evenings and knit on your little grey shawl.

2. Complete the trunk show. Feel happy and exhausted, like you do after every trunk show. Drive another 120 miles from trunk show to your best friend’s house. The drive takes you through the small town where you grew up, which always makes you a little sad. It’s a sad place for a lot of reasons, some personal, some economic. This doesn’t help. Being at your best friend’s place helps some, though, because your best friend is one of the most incredible people in the universe, known or unknown. Spend the night drinking really excellent whiskey and talking about life. Knit on your little grey shawl.

3. Meet up with your family to drive to the college. This is much more challenging than it sounds, due to the mysteries of GPS and the intricacies of downtown Hartford, but manage it anyway in the end, complete with much cursing and some high- end familial tension. Good, good stuff. In the car, knit on your little grey shawl.

4. Drive to the college, another 2 hours from your best friend’s house. Conceal anxiety with butt jokes and pop culture references. Buy snacks in a gas station in northern Massachusetts, and be sure to act like a complete ass while at it. The phrase, “Don’t steal string cheese,” should be uttered repeatedly, and at top volume, for maximum efficacy. Spend the rest of the drive laughing, and stupidly drop stitches in your little grey shawl.

5. Check into hotel at college town and while you’re at it, check the urge to provide a helpful last- minute lecture on living with snow. You child is not interested in your experiences with living in snow, or living through New England winters. Your child will definitely lose an appendage to frostbite this winter. Your Baltimore- reared child considers a t- shirt and a hoodie “layering”. Count all of her lovely, freezable bits and silently bid them farewell. Wonder which piece of your perfect, perfect baby will not come home to you in the spring. Resist the urge to weep quietly in the bathroom. Instead, plot out the dense, claustrophobia- inducing sweaters you will make for your child this winter as you knit on your little grey shawl.

6. Spend dinner discussing news, gossip, anything but the future. Talk about goat cheese, and how there is never too much of it. Watch her hands, and think about how much you’ve always loved them. Don’t cry. Don’t even want to cry. Leave your little grey shawl in its bag, and just look at her.

7. Go through the next day in a haze: it’s all so much to do. It’s all just so much, really. Unloading, finding her room, unpacking, watching all of the other families and the ways they do the things which you are doing. Pick up her books from the bookstore. Take the inevitable trip to the store, buy her things. Buy her things to hold her other things, and find yourself looking at these things and wondering how they’ll fit into her new life, her new future. Feel proud, nervous, and amazed. This is real. How did time move so quickly? Your little grey shawl sits in its bag, unattended: there’s just no time for knitting.

8. Have dinner again, early this time. You’ve done all of the things; there’s nothing left to do but eat, so that’s what you’ll do. Find somewhere relatively quiet. This time you’ll talk about real things: home. Friends. Family. The harder things. It’s okay, because you’ll break it up with laughing, but this is definitely a Much More Serious Meal, an actual dinner together. It’ll be a little while before you eat together again. Make the most of it.

9. Head back to her dorm room. You’ve finally got the hang of the place now- you could find her room in a hurry if you needed, which makes you feel safe, and also silly, because you’ll never need to find her room in any rush. Keeping this piece of knowledge tucked in your back pocket- mapping out the routes to where she will be- settles you somehow. You can feel yourself drawing an invisible map in your mind, in your heart. Knit on your little grey shawl, and think about the ties that bind without restricting.

10. Then it will be there: the goodbye. It isn’t as awful as you thought it would be. You find that you don’t want to cry: it really is just a goodbye, after all. And for all your fear, all the dread and worry and horrible crushing doubts, it really is all right. She will be all right. You as a family will be all right. And even if you’re like me, and you don’t have any frame of reference for this moment, if in your experience when a child leaves home they never really speak to their parents again and you don’t know how to do this thing and it causes you horrible anxiety because you really don’t know what comes next and you’re really just doing this all on faith it turns out that in the now, in the here and the this and the right then, it really is okay. It’s okay. She’s going to be just fine. The moment is there, and you hug, and you take a few pictures and you tell her you love her and you leave her there in the room, her room, to get on with her new adventure, and that is exciting stuff. Go back to your hotel room and sit in wonder. This is real life, and it really happened. Sit with your shock and knit on your little grey shawl.

11. Life goes on. And it’s weird for a while: everything is different, quieter, a little emptier. There will be a hole where she was, and you can’t miss it. You don’t know exactly what to do with yourself for a while. Revert to your twentysomething self for a time: stop wearing pants in the evenings, stay up late, have kettle corn and ice cream for dinner. Mourn the loss of being a live- in parent. It’s okay to be a little sad. Spend evenings devouring The Twilight Zone and knit mindlessly, aimlessly on your little grey shawl.

12. Start looking forward to whatever it is that comes next. Begin to train your dogs new tricks. Go out a bit more. Text your kid. Set whole new routines, decide you hate them, start different ones. Play with it. Your daughter is on a bright new adventure, and will come home with stories. Decide that she won’t be the only one. Knit on your little grey shawl until you’re almost out yarn, and wonder what comes next.

  One thought on “How To Send Your Daughter to College, in 12 Easy Steps (a knitter’s version)

  1. September 18, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I obviously should have learned how to knit. My anxieties could have gone through the yarn instead of my body and mind!! At least I did what you did and decided that my kids wouldn’t be the only ones with stories – becoming new people as they do is a smart idea 🙂

    • September 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      I’m so looking forward to hearing all of her stories, and the thought of having nothing but, “Well, we’ve just… been here,” to say in response is too awful to be thought. There’s a whole world out there! 🙂

  2. September 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I promise she won’t get frostbite! It’s cold up here in the northeast, but children of knitters don’t get frostbitten 😛

    • September 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      Oh, we know we’re being silly. It’s just that with we’re both native New Englanders, so we WORRY. We know it can happen, it just doesn’t, really. And heaven knows, this poor kid will end up with more knitted goods than any college kid will ever, ever need. She’ll probably leave most of it in her room/ give half of it to her friends, but god knows, she’s never lacked for hats and scarves. 🙂

  3. September 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Having dropped my daughter off in Western MA a few weeks ago, I am completely in tune with this post. The only advice I have to offer is it that it is good we are knitters and the USPS will deliver the warm things we make for our girls as they confront real winters for the first time. Also, why is it that we go to college when we are 18 and not when we are old enough to really get something out of it. Yes, I am jealous and so hope she can share some of what she learns and explores. Trying very hard to have something more to offer her than “Yep, we’ve been here…”

  4. Gail
    September 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Dear Sarah,
    I love you.
    It is hard and it is never the same.
    It took me twenty years to finally accept she was never coming home again… not really.

    Again, I love you.

  5. September 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    I’m much closer to the daughter-leaving-for-college experience than the mom-dropping-daughter-off, and so wanted to reassure you that she will miss you as much as you miss her, and she will love exploring and making friends and starting her own life, and she will remember everything you’ve told her because you’ve taught her well. No matter how much she might love her new life, home will always be HOME and everything that means, and nothing can replace that.

  6. Michelle Lisenbee
    September 19, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Every one of your posts make me feel more blessed to know you.

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