With two sons in college and another working his way in that direction, I should have acquired some real insights into parenting college students, wisdom that only a mother in my position could have gained. Instead, I have learned some very basic truths about life with college students.
Filthy Dorm Rooms
College dorm rooms never get cleaned, never. So when a parent has not actually set foot in their child’s dorm room since move-in day, a very unpleasant and foul surprise awaits. I have real trouble resisting the urge to straighten, so it is best if I just stay away. On move-out day I come prepared with garbage bags and old clothes; until then I meet my kids at the Starbucks in their college towns.
Junior Semester Abroad
College students can go overseas and figure out all sorts of things that they never could when they were at home. While I am happy to answer the myriad of mundane questions my college kids pose (is khaki a color or a white, how long can pizza sit out without going bad, can my roommates and I use the family Netflix) it is nice to see what they can do for themselves when stranded on foreign shores and forced to cope.
Even kids who are grown can go through seismic changes, changes beyond recognition. I thought the high school years were when our kids transformed. In that, I was sorely mistaken.
Things get broken, lost, stolen or ruined faster in a college dorm faster than anyplace else on Earth. All that careful dorm shopping parents do each summer is strewn across floors, accidentally thrown out with the trash or used of purposes other than it was intended. No use getting frustrated and angry, just buy less, or nothing next year.
Do not shop and buy everything your college students might need at one of the big box stores. We shop because it gives us the feeling of helping them in this major life transition. It is easy to forget that they can have what they really need delivered to their door. I arrived at my kid’s schools in May only to discover that many of those “must have” purchases were still in the packages under their beds.
Thanks for Thanksgiving
No matter how much kids were dying to get back to school in September, no matter how sick of their mess we parents were, or how sick of our rules the kids were….everyone is happy to be back together for Thanksgiving. Whether it is the brevity of the holiday or the fact that it is impossible not to be happy about a celebration that centers on nothing but food, college students are relieved to be back in their own beds and parents are thrilled to have them there.
When freshmen return to college after their first Thanksgiving, many discover for the first time that they really are where they belong. That first fall semester can be intimidating, particularly for kids who go away to school without friends. But returning after the first break, many college students realize that they truly have new friends and a new place to call home.
In December college students will call home unhappy, and their pain grips at parent’s heart. There will be no particular obvious reason for this malaise. This is when, as a parent, you remind yourself that the nights are long, the days are short and in many places bitterly cold. Fall semester may have been fun but exams are at hand. All attention is focused on getting home for the holidays, but a mountain of studying and hard work stands in their way. Is it any wonder college kids feel a little down?
Year’s Up for College Students
Come the end of spring, college students are perfectly capable of moving out of their dorms on their own, as one of my children has categorically proved this. But why would they, when parents are so willing to help? The manager of one son’s dorm, who has been in that position since 1973, gave me an earful as he saw me carrying my son’s belongings to my car, “I watched your generation grown up and now I have watched your generation bring up their own kids,” he scolded me. “You ruined them, spoiled them rotten…why did you do that?” I didn’t feel empowered to speak for my entire generation so I shrugged my shoulders and managed to drop everything piled in my arms to the ground. The answer to this question is surely another post.
What have you learned from your college students?