If we wouldn't have taught her how to walk, then she wouldn't have been able to leave.

But the day came last week when our daughter, Claire, flew the coop, leaving for college.

Our day started by packing our vehicles for the big move and ended with the three of us reduced to a sobbing heap in the middle of a parking lot as it was time for Claire to go her way and Mom and Dad to go theirs.

In between there were orientation programs, meals, meeting the new roommate, meeting the new roommate's parents and a lot of sweating. Between the crying and the heat and humidity, we're all lucky we didn't dehydrate.

I retreated to the student center whenever possible to sit in air conditioning while waiting for the inevitable goodbye.

We have been gearing up for this day for most of the summer, and we knew it would tough to say goodbye, but there's no preparation for the reality of it.

For most of the day, I could tell Claire was feeling the effects of the whirlwind of activity. She was quiet and apprehensive, and although there was plenty of time during the day to stop and catch your breath, it is a lot to take in.

Most kids grow up with bedrooms to themselves, and not only do they have a place to take refuge, most kids have rooms with all the comforts of a small apartment.

But when you move to college, you get a roommate, usually a stranger, and you live in a room for two that would make one person claustrophobic.

For a person who is used to long showers, sharing facilities can be a challenge.

There are a lot fewer showers than people in college dorms, so those sharing lessons we learned in kindergarten are needed.

There is little privacy on campus, and everything is foreign in the beginning.

Meals are taken together, classes are new, the buildings are new, and most of the people are new. It's all a learning experience in college.

And all this newness is one of the greatest growing up experiences a person can have.

As my wife said as we pulled away from campus, "Claire will probably do better than we do."

There is some truth to that.

It still seems odd that she is gone. Her bedroom empty and clean and there are times I am alone at home when I know she used to be around.

Even our dog has lied down in front of Claire's bedroom door waiting for her to come out.

If life is about adjustments, then this is one of the bigger ones. And it will take time, but it will become the norm.

Next year, Claire will go back to college, and we will know what that feels like. She will know what to expect when she heads back, and it will be less stressful and dramatic.

She doesn't understand it yet, but after she settles in, being at college will be more normal to her than being home and having to get readjusted to Mom and Dad.

There is always something going on in college, and you meet people who will become lifelong friends.

You also learn to be self-sufficient and start to grow into the person you become as an adult.

When Claire graduates, her mom and I will look back on the tearful goodbye and the girl we dropped off, and the young woman she has become.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.