The Proud Phase

Having to sell your kidney on the black market to pay for tuition aside, there’s no greater feeling as a parent than when your kid gets accepted to college—and even more so if they got into their first choice. You get a sweatshirt! You get a pendant! You get a bumper sticker! In other words, reality has not yet sunk in, so you’re blissfully unaware of what’s to come, while your neighbor—who you’ve spoken with on two occasions, and one was about his dog’s waste on your lawn—waits until dark to put the UPenn flag you gave him at the bottom of his trash bin.

The Planning Phase

Just as the sadness begins to creep in, your brain overcompensates by making you a more fastidious planner than Anna Wintour’s personal assistant. You read every article ever written on easing the transition, take up Mandarin Chinese because one time in the third grade your child expressed interest in becoming a translator, and crowdsource your entire network to win the “Best Decorated Dorm” contest you read about in Reader’s Digest. Those who have gone before you smile and nod, but they know the fall from this stage is going to rival Sally Field’s infamous gravesite scene in Steel Magnolias. “I wanna know WHY!”

The Get the Fuck Out Phase

The psyche is a fascinating thing, and it will do anything to protect itself, including convincing you, for even just a short period, that your child is the devil’s spawn and you want nothing more than for them to get a summer job in their college town and GTFO.

The Near-Instant Regret of the GTFO Phase

Signs of this phase include Kardashian-level crying, excessive clinginess, incessant apologizing, and closeted smoking and whiskey drinking.

The Flashbacks Phase

The most pathetic of all stages, this involves you sprawled out on the floor looking at baby pictures, mandating the re-creation of some of them in the current day, and insisting that every family member watch home videos while eating popcorn that’s been salted with your own tears.

The “You’re Not Prepared” Phase

This one often strikes in the middle of the night. “My child doesn’t know that red socks with white socks make pink socks!” You drag your poor, tired, and possibly hungover college-bound child out of bed to show them how to iron clothes and poach an egg, while watching Jim Cramer’s tips on how to avoid crushing college debt.

The Irrational Phase

This one is hard to witness for those around you. The begging. The pleading. “Maybe we didn’t talk long enough about the idea of a gap year. I’ll bake cookies!” You’re not in your right mind, so you begin to throw out desperate and blatantly false statistics. “Ninety-nine percent of college students get herpes by wearing short-shorts.” “You don’t even know self-defense, and I heard there’s a serial killer on the loose in [insert college town].” Your other family members take you away because, by now, a crowd of neighbors has gathered to see this spectacle, which inevitably takes place on the front lawn.


It’s going down for real. You know you have to let go. You do your thing. You drive the overpacked car with your healthy mom snacks, decorate the dorm, go out to dinner, and say your goodbyes while digging your fingernails into your palms so as not to embarrass your “baby.” You could swear that just yesterday, you felt that tiny hand in yours, doing that instinctual finger squeeze. You drive away, looking in the rearview mirror, letting a part of your heart go—and you just hope some of that whiskey is left at home.