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Posted on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 11 a.m.

Feeling mixed emotions as daughters head off to college

By Theresa Bassett

The day is before us. The day when I drive my daughters off to school to start their freshman and sophomore years at college. It seems like they were just 2 and 3 years old, babbling in the back seat of my Jeep, tucked safely in their car seats. Little legs dangling over the seat, a pacifier for one and a lovey for the other. Where, oh where did the time go?

This is not a story about becoming empty-nesters. My partner and I still have our four sons at home, one in high school, one in middle school and two in elementary. Our daughters leaving doesn't mean that our hands on parenting is over. Far from it.

But our two little girls are leaving and we are going to miss them immensely. We are lucky in that we have the kind of relationship with our daughters that we enjoy one another's company. They ask us to go to movies, love having their friends over to the house and enjoy hanging out with us.

The summer has been a good one. It was a time of reflection for the daughter who had just spent the year away and we loved every minute of it. My oldest wasn’t always certain that she wanted to live away from home. This was mainly due to the fact that she has younger siblings and at that time, the baby was only 3. She missed her younger sibs terribly.

I really encouraged her to go away and live in the dorm even though staying home would save money. The years of living in the dorm are short numbered. Generally kids are there for their freshman and sophomore years, maybe longer if they become a resident adviser. There is really just a two-year window and then it passes you by.

And living in the dorms is like a playpen for young adults. There is a little bit of oversight and checks and balances that aren't there later on as apartment living is on the horizon.

My oldest came home to visit often and I think she thought her school more of a commuter school! She would stay all week at school and then often come home on the weekends but I was thrilled that she had the experience of living in the dorm.

The roommate situation had a lot to do with her wanting to come home as it wasn’t the best match but it was a learning experience and I think she handled it was a lot of grace or as much grace as an 18-year-old can muster.

She wasn’t planning on staying in the dorm this fall until her younger sister decided to go to the same school and they decided to room together. Sharing a room for the first time in their lives is going to be interesting but they go into it knowing one another's foibles, quirks and habits.

My younger daughter has been busy planning the room and gathering all that she needs. She is very excited. This buying blitz can be expensive…rugs, lamps, gadgets and random stuff to help organize a small space.

The dorms have not changed at all since I was in college some 30 years ago. Different school, same room. Cinder block walls, 2 loftable beds, 2 desks, 2 chairs and a closet. I actually think this is a good place to start as they can only move up in the world. It looks pretty much like a jail cell. Oh, but then there is a window.

Tomorrow morning, we will leave at the crack of dawn. The car should be loaded tonight after the heat wave dissipates. We will arrive, get both girls checked in, and then I am going to disappear with my 3 younger boys for a while as the girls get themselves organized and settled.

I am excited for them both. They are the best of friends. They will argue but they will find they love each other's company. This time they have together harkens back to kindergarten and first grade when they were in the multi-grade classroom. They both were able to do their own thing but they always knew what the other was doing.

I will head back home without my girls. I will be dealing with the mixed emotions of knowing that my young adults are growing, which is a good thing but at the same time, wishing that they wouldn’t grow up so fast. We are thankful that they have become the young women that they are and would have been concerned if we hadn't done our best to make sure that they were independent and competent enough to handle this next stage of development.

Happy, sad, excited, nervous ... so many feelings. It will hit me hardest when we sit down to dinner and there will be two empty chairs at the big, round, oak dinner table.

It will be a happy day when we all sit down together again.

Theresa Bassett is a parent to six. Passions are kids, adoption, transracial and alternative families. Reach her at