Advice to a Daughter Leaving for College

narrative by jonny lindner

by Rob Colfax

Here, let me get that suitcase for you. You know, your mother and I are going to miss you around here. I think she wishes you’d picked a school closer to home but I know you can’t grow up that way. Nobody can learn to be independent under Mom’s eye all the time, huh?

So I want you to study hard and do well – oh, I know, you will, no question in my mind at all about that. But try to live a little too, eh? I mean, get yourself out a bit. See the sights. Explore the town. Stay out past your bedtime. Date guys your mother wouldn’t approve of.

Not ones I wouldn’t approve of, mind you, but you know what I mean. Not like that boy on the motorcycle you brought home last year. Or that boy with the green spiked hair. Or the one who always wore black and kept getting chased out of the cemetery by the police. Or that boy that got put on probation for selling – what was it? Well, anyway, don’t go out with people like that, of course, but you know. It’s OK if they’re not an honor student or going into pre-med or whatever your mother told you.

Why, if your mother had only gone out with boys her mother liked, she’d never have married me and you wouldn’t be here. So you see, you can’t always listen to mothers. Sometimes you have to listen and then use your own common sense. You’ve got common sense.


Oh, well, of course I listened to my parents. They’re the ones who told me to marry your mom and not that other girl, ha ha. Hmm? Oh, I don’t remember her name. That was a long time ago and we only went out once or twice.

What? Well, no, I wouldn’t marry someone after just being out once or twice but – look, it was nearly eighteen years ago, OK? I really can’t think of her name. What? Your mother said I used to go out with who?

Oh, Hilda Pickett. Maybe. I might have gone out with her once or twice. She’s the one who lives over in the trailer park, isn’t she? Yeah, I think I know who you’re talking about. She’s got a whole pack of kids now. I think she’s on her third husband – no, wait, I guess it’s the second one that she remarried.

What? No, who’s Tiffany Branscomb? Oh, she was in your graduating class? OK. Oh, she’s one of Hilda’s kids? The one her first husband adopted. I see. Well, how about that. Your mom said what? Why, no, I don’t think you look like Tiffany Branscomb at all. Well, I mean, after you mentioned that she was in your class, I remembered seeing her at your graduation. No, you don’t look anything alike. I wonder why your mother would say something like that.

I’ll let you in on something: your mother can be moody sometimes. Have you noticed? She gets in these moods where she says things she doesn’t mean. I think she’s going through The Change. But shh – don’t tell her I said so. Why, she talks completely out of her head sometimes. One Sunday she told Reverend Parrish she thought we needed marriage counseling, can you believe that?

Well, I’m not going to burden you with all that. I just want you to get out in the world and see some things, you know, have a good time while you’re still young. Once you get out of school, you know, it’s all downhill from there. There’s no time to do all the things you wanted to. So you should take the time now, while you’re young and able and not having to worry about what your hormonally unbalanced spouse thinks.

Do at least one fun thing, just for you, every day. Eat ice cream. Roll down a hill of uncut grass. Soak in the tub for an hour and a half. Drink coffee after dinner, even though you know it’ll keep you awake all night. It’s OK, you won’t have to listen to anyone telling you how you knew better than to do that. Go ahead.

Go to the grocery store without a list – and after dark – sometimes. Leave your sweater at home if you don’t feel like wearing it. Draw cartoons in the notebook you’re supposed to be studying for exams. Watch a stupid movie with no plot. Sing under someone’s window.

Just don’t get caught if you try that last one, ha ha. What? Oh, she must have been joking. I’ve never been arrested before in my life. She said what? OK, well, yes, I did speak with a police officer. He was looking for a lost dog in the neighborhood. Asked me if I’d seen it. So I went along to try to help him find it. That’s right. Your mother’s got the story all wrong again. You’d think as many times as she’s told that one, she’d get it right eventually. Anyway, that was a long time ago.

That’s another good piece of advice I should give you: don’t believe everything you hear, ha ha.

Well, it looks like you’re nearly packed up to go, there. Got everything you need? Gee, that car sure is loaded down – did you leave us anything? If we have to share a blanket, we’ll need marriage counseling for sure, ha ha. Got your CDs all packed? All your computer stuff? Books? Clothes? A roadmap to find your way home now and then?

Now here, take this money for gas, and don’t tell your mother I gave it to you. Check the oil once a week, like I showed you. Don’t depend on some quick-lube place to do it; they’ll charge you for it whether you need it or not. And make sure there’s no one around when you do it. Why? Well, because if people see you with the hood up, they think you’re having car trouble and you’ll have some slick-talking fella who thinks he’s a mechanic trying to help you out. Gotta watch out for those types, you know. Can’t trust ’em.

She said what? I did not work in a garage to put myself through school. I don’t know where she gets this stuff. Well, it was a gas station. It did have a garage, but I didn’t do any of that, I just pumped gas for people. They did that back then, you know, gas stations weren’t always self-service. We even washed the windshield. That was how I got to talk to your mother the first time. I cleaned the windshield for her, and she went and complained to the manager that I was looking down her blouse. Might have been the only story she ever told right, ha ha. But enough about that – you be careful, now, and call us often. And hey – don’t forget to have some fun.


© Copyright 2003 by Rob Colfax. Republished 2007, 2013, 2015.

Artwork: “Narrative” by Jonny Lindner via Pixabay. Licensed CC0 1.0 Universal.

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