How To Take Your Daughter to College | The Man Coach

How to take your daughter to College | The Man Coach

Okay Dad,

It’s that time of the year.

We're going to load up cars and trucks and carry our college-bound away from the nest for another year. For me, it’s year number two and I’m not looking forward to it anymore than I did last year. Blah.

I sure wish someone would have prepared me for what was coming. After my experience with taking my little girl off to school, I knew that I would have to help others find their way a little easier and so, here we are.

The process of packing up, as you know, isn’t all that bad. Heck, who am I kidding? It was ALL that bad. From watching the room empty out, to seeing her favorite things go out the door to the truck, it was all bad. I took the photo in her room for this blog the day we left, just after all of her things were taken out of the room. I was holding back tears already.

The drive to the school was different. There was lots of time to reminisce and think about her growing up. In my first gym, I wore her in a little cradle close to my chest when she was a baby. She grew up with me taking care of her. It can’t be that she was going to be gone for a year. My son was asleep in the other side while my wife drove in my daughters car. I only cried 10-12 times on the trip, trying to hide it from my sleeping son and behind my favorite sunglasses. I could tell someone should have prepared me for this.

When we arrived, a group of college kids came out and helped us unload. We were in the dorm and setting up in no time.

We met the roommate, made of list of items needed, took a few quick trips to Target. All of this can be expected on day one. We need to get emergency items before we leave our girl all alone in the big world. We ate out as a family that night, and we even stayed in a hotel the first night near campus. But she stayed in the dorm, ouch. They knew what they were doing, making us gently break away and making her feel at home.

By the next morning, I was visibly shaken. I fought it hard, and started playing brain mechanic to pull my emotions in. We walked outside the dorm, took a few pictures and hugged “see ya soon.” My throat had a lump in it the size of a small volcano. All I could say is “I love you. Call me if you need anything. Be careful when out. I love you my angel.”

As we walked away she smiled and waved. Now down to 3, we got in the car and headed out. The ride home was filled with lots of silence.

Deep inside, I am going to be honest. I was acting like a sniffling idiot. This was the hardest thing I had ever done.

I have pulled tobacco in 106 degree weather, worked 15 hours on a freight dock, poured concrete on top of buildings, and sparred world martial arts champions and fighters. I had 43 full contact fights and have ruptured my achilles tendon. Not even close.

What the heck? You spend all of this time getting attached and then they pull out your heart and leave you a sniffling mess on the floor? Pretty much.

But guess what? She texted me. I answered back. We talked. We FaceTimed. After just a few days, she wanted to talk to us. Here is why I think she did, and your exclusive advice from The Man Coach for anyone who is taking their daughter off to college.

1.) You are not the only sniffling idiot walking around. There are a lot of US. If you see a guy who you know is going through it, please talk to him. We need to avoid letting the team fall into depression. I went into her room at least 10 times the first week, smelled her pillow, peeked in the closet. I looked at the things hanging on her wall. I went into her bathroom where all of her little rubber duckies still sit. I sighed a lot, and moped around the gym. Several guys, especially my good friend Harold, noticed it. He was compassionate about it. It was a tough time. I was not myself. Accept it. The first 2 weeks are not easy.

2.) She knows you love her, but this is part of the grand plan. Would you rather her leave and get married out of the house? It happens, but I can’t speak with any authority on that topic. WHEW. And guess what, she loves you back. Just give her a little space.

3.) DO NOT TRY TO CONTROL HER. We saw it. Parents who were still trying to do every little thing for the kids. They are in College. Let her go, but be standing close by if she needs something heavy carried. That is your job. Give her that feeling of independence she wants, but also let her know you are right there if she needs you.  Controlling her will only lead to her pulling away and we do not want that!

4.) Send her little notes each day. I typically sent something short. “I love you, kid!” or “Have a good day!” was enough. I had to know that she knew I was thinking about her without her feeling smothered. It was tough to stay at a distance, but I am so glad I did.

5.) Concentrate more on your spouse or other children if you have them. Eventually, it is going to be back to just you and your spouse if married. Work on spending time trying to reconnect with her, and be sure any other children at home get a little extra attention.

The time passed and I spent more time with my wife and son, anxiously awaiting my daughter's weekends at home. I missed a lot of things I was used to, and took for granted when I had it.  Sunday night pizza night, movies together, time playing with the dogs, being able to sneak in her room as she falls asleep for a kiss on the head. It was tough, but I just kept check on her to be sure she was happy and healthy. 

I talked to other men who were going through the same thing, including my neighbor at work. His daughter graduated with mine, and I saw him in the parking lot soon after they left.

“How are you holding up?” I asked. “Not good,” he said. "Feels like the house is empty. It is real quiet around there, and something isn’t right, you know?”

Yep. I know. We talked awhile giving each other a little “manly" support and then went on to work. As I walked into the gym, I knew that I felt what he was feeling. It was nice to know that I wasn't alone. He was not himself, and neither was I, and that is okay.

It ’s okay to be sad, to miss her, and to show it. It’s okay when someone asks how you're doing to be honest and say, “Not good! I'm missing my daughter but she is loving it at school and that’s what matters."

About 2 weeks into the year, I got a call on a Thursday night. Of course with caller ID I knew it was her. “Daddy! Can we have pizza? If you can order it they will deliver it right to the dorm. We are really hungry and that would be great, I’m starving!”

To this day no one knows this, but I could barely hold back the tears and smiles at the same time. She needs me and she always will, even though for now it's just for a quick meal in the dorm room.

Pepperoni it is.

-Allen Branch


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