Community Columns

It's already time to send my little baby off to college?

Dropping a child off at college is bittersweet.

When they place a newborn in your arms, they tell you that the time together will be brief. Although you have moments of doubt, usually at 3 a.m., these stages pass quickly.

You worry when you drop them off at preschool. Is she ready? Is she too young? Did she cry when I left? What if she didn't cry? Doesn't she miss me?

You worry about kindergarten. This is "real" school. Will she be teased, or will she excel? The other kids look so big! Backpacks! Lunches!

You worry about middle school. Look at those (gasp) teenagers. Some of them have (gasp) breasts! You worry about high school. Look at how those kids dress! Some of them (gasp) drive cars!

And then they are packing to move to college. My daughter laughs. "Mother, you have spent 18 years prepping me for this." I thought I had spent 18 years loving and hugging and nurturing. Was it really all just a preparation for separation?

Yet, she is wise. A parent's greatest dream is to raise independent, successful young adults. She is on her way. Somehow, all of that didn't adequately prepare me for the reality of her moving into a dorm.

My daughter is in a very old dorm. The children (oops, I mean students; or are they truly young adults?) are allowed to paint the walls. Think of it as a four-story canvas of indoor graffiti. Scrawled in 2-foot-tall lime green letters outside my daughter's room, the message proclaims: "We don't have time for sex." I suppose the content of the message is fine, but I'm not sure about the delivery.

I flashed back to my first day in a dorm, some 3,000 miles from home. Feeling overwhelmed, I escaped a welcome party to seek solitude in the dorm room. But my roommate had decided to lose her virginity that day. I certainly hadn't anticipated being sexiled, and retreated, abashed, back to the party.

A colleague of mine shared with me via an e-mail: "I hope your child is settling into MIT well. My son checked into his dorm yesterday. His roommate went out with his dad and bought a 37-inch high-def, flat-panel TV to go with the Xbox, TiVo and DVD collection. I think I would prefer my son have a dope-smoking roommate. He'd be better able to make smart decisions in that arena."

Deep breath.

The path to adulthood is treacherous. I have taught my daughter values. I know that Modesto High's International Baccalaureate program has prepared her well academically. I suppose this is a lot like that first day of preschool. The kid knows she is loved, and really, it is all up to her.

I'm going to go cry now.

Masson is a Modesto physician and mother of three. E-mail her at columns@modbee.com.

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