RENEE ORDWAY

The pangs of seeing a daughter off to college

Posted Sept. 23, 2011, at 6:08 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 25, 2011, at 10:20 a.m.

OK. I’ll just say it. I cried all the way from our driveway in Bangor to the University of Maine at Farmington a few weeks ago when we dropped off our daughter for her freshman year of college.

I had not anticipated it. I am not an easy weeper. I thought perhaps I might shed a tear or two on the way home. But her brother dragged his 15-year-old butt out of bed at 7 that morning and they hugged goodbye in the driveway and — well, that was it for me.

I wept silently all the way.

She is all grown up — confident and smart — and tired of me.

I am very proud of her.

I can remember calling some of the other moms when she was in second grade and afraid she wasn’t making friends quickly enough.

Her school principal told me that she mostly stood on the sidelines as the other kids played together.

I was terrified she felt left out.

I remember the feeling in my stomach when she sat on the bench during Little League games and was convinced no one recognized her talent as a basketball player in middle school.

Last Sunday she posted on Facebook that she and a friend had just helped place 3,000 flags on the campus green in remembrance of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

I recently read bunches of notes from fellow counselors at the camp she worked at this past summer. They talked of her patience, her understanding, her unique ability of acceptance and problem-solving.

My daughter was not the smartest in her class. She was not the best field hockey player, basketball player or softball player.

She worked hard. She got good grades and she did some volunteer work in her community.

She’s not going to Harvard or Yale or Columbia — though I personally think they would be lucky to have her.

There was a time, I guess, when she was little, that I thought those were the things we should strive for. That being on the best Little League team was important, that having the most friends was important, that having the most fun and well-equipped house in the neighborhood was important.

It is an easy trap for any parent to fall into.

We left her a few weeks ago in a dorm room at the University of Maine at Farmington. I unpacked some of her bags. I filled her bureau with her clothes. I made up her bed.

At one point I said, “I guess it’s time for us to be leaving.” She shrugged and indicated maybe or maybe not. She was nervous. I was nervous.

It was a major milestone that we both recognized.

That she had some difficulty with friends in the second grade didn’t matter. That she wasn’t the star basketball player in the sixth grade didn’t matter, that she got a C in French during the third quarter in the seventh grade didn’t matter.

She was standing in a dorm room with another girl she had never met and they were sizing each other up and figuring out how exactly they were going to live together in this small space.

And somehow she was prepared for that. It wasn’t my doing or her father’s doing. It was just her own process of growing up.

So I cried. I miss knowing she’s in the bed upstairs every night. I think she misses my cooking.

We’ve reconciled with this new normal that we have. She has grown up so very much. What I didn’t realize was just how much I would have to grow up to endure it.

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