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New Schooled: A Novice Mom Moves Her Firstborn to College

Frustrated Under Stress

The fever set in. My husband was sick, and my son Logan was due to check into his college dorm the next day during New Student Orientation. These days, being sick with anything is the new leprosy, although our family has kept a pre-covid mindset—meaning we don’t worry about it. Fortunately, I felt healthy to help my kid off to college, one of my most significant life events. I mean, my firstborn is eighteen years old and leaving the nest, and this was a big deal.

Dave felt run over by a truck, but he would be ok at home by himself with the healthy meals and a slew of vitamins I prepared for him. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling very compassionate. “Really, Dave, you had to get sick this week?” He answered with a groan. “You should’ve taken your vitamins and quit running yourself ragged.” I said with frustration. Nothing like kicking a loved one when they’re down. With mixed emotions, I was truly excited for Logan, but I felt sad thinking about how our younger son Dillon was going to miss his best buddy.

Chocolate Gives You Wisdom

A bite of chocolate calmed my overwhelmed heart as I went through the recommended dorm items list. My poor child had to endure my last-minute tips and scare tactics such as reminding him to brush his teeth, shave and cut his nails or else people will think he’s creepy. As a minimalist, Logan only wanted to bring essentials, and I held back the urge to bring a mini rug cleaner, a small plant, cute artwork, word signs, and extra pillows. If only I had a girl. My friend’s daughter’s Instagram post inspired me to buy a bedside pouch holder thingy in black, and I followed the list to bring a few extension cords, bathroom caddy, a small amount of school supplies, laundry detergent, laundry bag, and bedding. At least Logan was going to school locally, down in San Diego.

Elementary, My Dear

Making sure Dave was clear of Covid, we said goodbyes as he sleepily waved. Within a half hour, we arrived on campus with shouts from the yellow-shirted PLNU welcome crew. My stomach churned. I looked at Logan as his life flashed before my eyes as I remembered dropping him off at kindergarten with tears in my eyes, literally considering this moment. I had a feeling time would fly at a warped speed. It did.

“I feel so nervous. What the heck—how is it that college—it’s finally here?” I said. He understood my shock, and we both laughed to take the edge off as we walked to the check-in table. I had a similar feeling at Six Flags clicking myself into the harness on the craziest X2 roller coaster ride—there was no turning back now.

We went through the check-in drill: First, I received my guest pass badge with the itinerary on the back while they led Logan into a room as I gasped at the beautiful ocean view. Then it was time for the quick next steps: Photo ID, check! All you can eat dining pass, check! Finance table-check! Health table-check! Dorm room key-check! Finally, we drove to the dorm room to move in. Down, down the road, toward the stunning Pacific ocean. Logan was going to love surfing the premier breaks within walking distance below.

Room With a View

Lucky Kid

Teams of yellow shirts escorted us to an upfront parking spot. So far, our check-in experience was seemless and easy. As we opened our door, the students chanted a welcome song and offered to carry our gear to the room, which turned my terror into relief.

We grabbed all the gear in one load with help while I worried at how few items we had compared to the other students with their parent’s over-stuffed SUV’s. Up one flight of stairs, we took an immediate left into the large room with 4 single beds in front of a million dollar white-water wave view. By the way, the waves were looking pretty good. This was an overflow room because the typical double rooms were filled. As the first ones to arrive, Logan got first dibs on his bed choice-the one with the best view and a nearby dresser.


We made his bed and organized his items. And then we realized how novice we were. In came the roommates with their parents. Thankfully, they were all cool, and they were also like college dorm pros, bringing in: Costco sized amounts of top ramen, snacks, drinks, and laundry detergent, plus a microwave, refrigerator, closet organizing system, vacuum, rug, duster, plastic storage tubs, desk organizer, foldable bike, water purifying system, more food, tea pot, lights, fans, shoes, side dresser, pencil organizer, and on and on. We were severely unprepared. Logan said, “Man, I really need to step-up my food game, and uh… yeah, I guess we should probably get some more stuff that I’ll need.”

We walked down the hall to check out the other rooms. A mom frantically unzipped four Ikea bags full of supplies. I commented how cool those bags were as I only had seen the Ikea duffle style bags. “Oh, these are great, you get ‘em online… I already went through one son’s dorm move-in. See…” She showed me the backpack straps and revealed all the many uses their family gets out of them. Yeah, apparently I don’t get out much.

Down the hall and inside the rooms, moms ordered kids, “Open the box… put the fan together, make the bed… where do you want the plant? Oh good, all of your 20 shoes fit in the organizer.” I had never known about bed risers with electrical outlets. I guess dorm life is why Bed, Bath and Beyond stores were created. Common conversations were, “Do you have a computer, I-Pad, or both? What’s your major? Are you a tea or coffee drinker?”

Hit the Target

In times like this, I wish God created me Type-A. Dave balances me out that way, but I had to stick to my gifts. I am good at laughing, so Logan and I joked as we drove to the local Target, where I discovered my people, who were also unprepared. Aisle by aisle we chuckled while we harmoniously filled our carts with similar items such as a plastic side table with drawers, desk lamp, clip-on bedside light, fan, desk organizer, paper towels, a few tupperwares to hold cafeteria snacks to refrigerate in the room.

Our Firstborn is Always the Guinea Pig

Next time, I’ll be more prepared to be the mom of my dreams. It’s sort of fun to be clueless though, to discover and laugh our way through awkward moments. I remember moving into my college dorm, and I never imagined what it would be like on the flip side. These freshmen all seemed to appreciate their parent’s help with the move-in process, nonetheless they were ready to be set free. The excitement of new student orientation was finally over. Not only do all of us helicopter parents have the rough reality of living more hands-off so that our college students can thrive, but we have to adapt our home lives to fill the void. Sigh. Life is a learning process, so eventually we’ll get it. “Keep it moving forward,” I say. The best is yet to come.

PS: Dave felt better within a day, and I never got sick. Logan has three outstanding roomies. Dillon remains at home and is getting annoyed that he is the center of our attention. Parenting is a never-ending challenge!

Smiles make everything better, including an undecorated room!

4 thoughts on “New Schooled: A Novice Mom Moves Her Firstborn to College”

  1. Thanks for sharing this story because This would totally be me. Praying he has an awesome year! My husband Will be dropping our oldest in France to get settled for school because he is fluent in French.

  2. Oh Shannon! I felt the same way! We could only bring so much across the Country to PSU main campus. Target then Wal Mart then grocery store. I felt so new and dumb. She got the necessities but it was definitely a learning experience for both of us. I hate the fact that she’s so far away and us parents & her sisters miss her terribly. It’s a lot different in our household these days.
    Your post made me tear up. It’s so true every word you said. Thank you for sharing. I’m not alone. I remember the 1st day of Kinder too with Logan and it truly seems like a blink of an eye and off they go. 🤦‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🥰 I am so proud of all of our kids (adults)!!!!! Go get em Logan!!! Good job mom and dad! 😊

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