Dropping your first born off at college is a surreal experience. In a lot of ways it is like reliving the first day of kindergarten. And in a lot of ways, it is not. I have run through pretty much every emotion this summer.

wwmomandcalCal and I in his dorm room on move in day.Pride, that’s definitely there as I watched my child graduate from high school and realized he is a young adult.

Sadness, as I realized he doesn’t need to rely on me as much as he used to.

Excitement, because I was 18 and I know he is embarking on some of the best years of his life and he has so much potential to change the world.

Fear, because I remember how immortal I thought I was in my late teens, early 20s.

Anger, who is this person who knows everything and thinks I know nothing?

Happiness, because I did it; I actually raised someone to adulthood.

Panic, because I can’t go back. Did I do enough, did I do it right? Is he ready?

I cried a lot this summer. I cried because I was going to miss the little boy I had loved and protected for 19 years – the one whose lunch I made every day and the one whom I tucked in at night. The little boy who, every night until last night, I made sure was in that bed before I fell asleep, even if I was no longer tucking him in. How do I drop him off on campus and just stop worrying and protecting? How does a mother make that leap?

We pulled onto campus on move-in day and the house party across the street from the dorm was in full swing. My heart sank when I saw the “Moms you had them for 18 years, it’s our turn now” and “You honk, we drink” signs that were being flashed. Had I prepared him for this? Would the morals and values I tried to instill in him be any defense against this Sodom and Gomorrah?

He wouldn’t let me help him unpack or set up his room. This was unthinkable to me. Didn’t he want my help and advice? Didn’t he need me?

“Mom, I can do it; it’s my room, you guys can go.”

That’s when I realized how to make that leap; it is a leap of faith.

I left campus a little unsettled and told myself I needed to give him the space to begin his independence. As much as I wanted to, I would not call, text or email him, at least not this first week.

And then it happened. He called me. He called me to tell me about what he did his first night on campus, the fun stuff and the awkward moments, and I heard that little boy’s voice. He wasn’t gone after all.

(Branger, a member of Divine Mercy Parish, South Milwaukee, is mother to Cal, a graduate of Divine Mercy Parish School, South Milwaukee, and St. Thomas More High School, Milwaukee. He is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater.)