College Countdown

Our oldest is off to college in a few days, and I thought I’d share this handy timeline on how to prepare for this upcoming event.

3 months out: Rent a storage unit to house and hoard your billboard-sized Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons for dorm shopping later.

Actual size is California King.
Actual size is California King.

2 months out: Get a tattoo with the words, “I know we didn’t do it like this when I went to college.” Sure, sounds painful but repeating that phrase a bajillion times is far more so.

6 weeks: Begin your To-Go pile. This is a pile of all of the stuff that’s going to be packed up for college. Mostly this heap will consist of Command Strips, phone chargers, and gift cards.

1 month: Start dorm shopping. If you have a girl, this will entail thousands of dollars, hundreds of stores and dozens of Pinterest boards. If you have a boy, just stop by a military surplus store for standard issue barracks bedding, and you’re all set.

3 weeks out: Explain what shower shoes and a caddy is and why it’s needed. Related: consider iodine soap.

2 weeks: Have a cooking lesson. And a laundry lesson. And cleaning.

1 week, 6 days: Up the meal plan, buy disposable underwear and get immunizations up to date.

1 week out: Buy stamps. Then realize it’s 2014 and your child probably has no concept of the U.S. Postal Service and considers that black box on the front curb as the pole where we tie balloons when there’s a party.

The night before: Try to compose a letter to your child for him to open after you leave. It should of course convey how much you love him and how much you’ll miss him, but if possible try to describe the impossible thoughts that don’t fit into standard word form. The complete and utter awe of who they have become, and who they are still yet to be, and somehow you were lucky enough to be a participating witness to that miracle. Explain that there were moments when they were younger your mind would look to this day, but never did you think the thing you wanted for them most could hurt quite this much. That while your head is swelling with the pride you feel from achieving this milestone, your heart is breaking at the same rate. Not out of sadness, but from the wisdom and life experience to know it’s always harder for the one left on the pier waving goodbye as the other departs for the journey of a lifetime.

The day of: Unpack, set up—take a picture of the decorated, organized room because it will never look like that again.

Paste on the biggest smile, swallow the lump, blink back the tears and try not to break his ribs when hugging him.

Fall apart when safely away from the pier.

©2014 Tracey Henry


  1. I’m reading this at my work desk this morning, and choking back the tears.
    So much love to our SubD family, and much luck to that boy who can’t possibly be going to college already. Where have all the years gone??

  2. The hardest thing I ever had to do was to kiss Mikey goodbye and away drive away from Gettysburg College. It was also a moment of realization that this is the source of one of the greatest joys in life, to see my son becoming who he was created to be and to have been graced to have witnessed every minute.

    Congratulations and good luck Stevie.

    I love you,
    You favorite aunt

  3. So sad, so much left unsaid, so much left undone, my beautiful child, so much love, so much pride, so much happiness, it’s just too much to contain. Cry, laugh, hug, pray, hug again and thank the Lord for this child! Take care of yourself and enjoy everything, Stevie, we love you.

  4. At the one month mark, you were on the money, literally, for girls! We leave in four days and there is still shopping to be done! I was good until I go to the part about the night before….still crying!

  5. The wonder and awe of your child’s birth, returns in a flurry; a swelling tickle in your throat, a welling dam behind your eyes, the prickling of your limbs and lastly, the swell and drop of your heart. If you’re lucky, you get to feel that a couple times. It’s overwhelming, thrilling and heartbreaking all at once. Watching a child arrive and letting him go to become the man he was meant to be is painful. But in the best way.

    Hugs and kisses to the lucky ones. PI can see you from my pier, over here, by the way.

    Rumplestiltskin, are you wearing black socks to mow the lawn again?

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