We Still Want to Ask Our College Kids, ‘How Was School Today?’

I’m forty-seven years old, and I just got off the phone with my mom. We still talk almost every day, and even though most days our conversations are filled with the boring comings and goings of a regular work day — both hers and mine, I still find it important to catch up with her. After all these years of being my mom, she still wants to hear about my day.

college student reading
I will always want to know about my kids’ days at school, regardless of how old they are. (Twenty20 @mreyz)

We always want to ask our teens, “How was school today?”

From that first day of kindergarten, when our little ones proudly march off the bus and run into our arms, we moms have been asking, “How was your day!? What did you do in school today?” And then we dutifully continue to ask it, and ask it, and ask it for the next 12 or so years, and we anticipate the answers just as eagerly as we did that very first day of school. 

Some days we get energetic and even well-thought essay-like responses and some days? Well, if you’re raising a high schooler right now and you ask them, “What did you do in school today? I want to hear all about your day!” you’d be hard pressed not to get an eye roll in return, and a deep sigh that is code for, stay out of my life, K? 

But once in blue moon, those teenagers open up and talk about the day’s drama or lack thereof. We, moms, savor those conversations like a hot cup of coffee, probably because they’re few and far between, but mostly because we know they have an end date — college.

Yep, college happens, and although there are plenty of tech tools available that allow for us to constantly be in direct contact with our kids (which is both a curse and a blessing,) the day-to-day, face-to-face conversations ultimately come to an end when the kids move out. Sharing statuses on social media isn’t the same (although I’ve grown accustomed to using a social media post as proof of life), Snapchat isn’t the same, and text threads just do not give us that feeling we get when we hear our kid’s voice.

As much as we may desire to hear their voices every day, the sheer distance and their newfound independence prevent that from happening. Often several days and weeks go by without voice-to-voice contact, replaced only with a few needy texts that say things like, “I need laundry money,” and “How much cold medicine do I take?”

Adjusting to not hearing my son’s voice every day was one of the biggest emotional hurdles I had to get over when he went away to college. It took a lot of self-talk to remind myself that this is the normal progression of life, and not talking to my child daily is actually what we want to happen as parents. 

Of course, he didn’t understand why I needed to hear his voice every day or why I wanted to hear about his days, even if they were boring and uneventful. He thought it was all silly that we had to “connect” daily, and eventually, I had to succumb to my new reality of having one fewer child to keep up with daily.

Being left out of our young adults’ lives is a natural progression.

Slowly being left out of his life and having day after day after day come to an end with the realization that I hadn’t talked to him in days was uncomfortable and encouraging at the same time. He was busy doing the college thing while I was busy waiting and wanting to hear the daily dish on all of his college things. That is an emotional switch that first-time college parents must learn to turn off.

I desperately still wanted to hear about his day, about how all of his days went. Still, the reality is that our lives will continue to grow further apart, both physically and emotionally, and I will not be afforded such a blessing.

Perhaps in my case, the separation is more extreme because we are mother/son, and maybe it’s wishful thinking that he would want to talk to me every day in the same way I talk to my mom. But we are mother/son, and the old saying,  “A son is a son until he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life,” may just be the case, but sadly in my case, it’s really, “A son is a son until he goes to college.”

My son is a college senior now, and although we speak only once a week on the phone, as he grows into real adulthood, the conversations have become deeper and longer, and I appreciate them so much. I also have a college sophomore. We rarely speak on the phone, but I figured out a sneaky way to keep the daily connection going — a Snapchat streak. Hey, it may not be a voice call to cherish or any real update on his day, but for now, a silly picture with a filter is all I get.

At this point, I’ll take it.

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About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

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