My Son is Going to College, This Will NOT be a Summer of Buying and Packing

This summer will be the second time I have gotten a teen off to college. I am determined to make it different. Two years ago, my daughter spent the summer (and endless Amazon orders) prepping for her first dorm room experience.

She needed everything. She made a list. She watched YouTube videos that walked students through a dorm room. She decided exactly what she would put in her room, whether it was a hanging mirror, the classic plastic Target drawers, a jewelry rack, or the refrigerator that SHE volunteered to bring on our eleven hour drive in a rental car packed to the gills.

My son’s summer before college will be a do-over for mom. (Photo credit: Sydney Clarke)

My daughter was so organized about her last summer at home

She cleared out her closets and took every single item from her dresser at home, perhaps in the case that she should never return again. Summer was busy with many “last” dinners with high school friends, goodbye walks with friends, last and really final walks and dinners with friends, important “last time” parties, and finally the exit. I could have slept for a week after dropping her. I missed her every day, but I did not really miss that summer.

My freneticism in response to her freneticism outweighed the lazy days of July and August that I love. There were no beach reads, no long walks together, no bonding with the two siblings before departure…even the family dog was ignored. I broke a good deal of my “Just relax and it will all work out” code and instead let my firstborn take charge, even though I rolled my eyes a few times when she turned away.

My son’s approach to his last summer at home was a do-over for me

The summer do-over is likely more possible this year because this is my son and that was my daughter. I try to avoid stereotyping and gender typecasting, but seriously, if the shoe fits…If summer is not spent frenetically rushing around and marking off to-do lists, then maybe summer can be what I hope it will be: slow summer days, a summer job, beach trips, and barbecues. I want to see lots of my kids, (separate and together) and many of their friends.

I want to revel in my daughter and my son. I want to hold long earnest conversations with my daughter, shorter snippets of important, sweet moments with my son. I want to go on runs with my daughter even though I can’t go quite as far and play tennis with my son, even though I won’t be able to return his hits.

I want to spend quality time with my kids

I want to laugh when both kids team up on me and mock my mothering skills. I will keep groceries coming, because I know that the college meal plan will soon take over parenting for me, and even though I complain about it.

I want to make food and have my kids chowing down at home at a moment’s notice. I hope that we can have the loud music parties while the kids do the dishes, a time I will always remember from my childhood home.

Oh my god, I am even tempted to get a puppy so they really want to stay around the house with two dogs, food, and casual “not a problem” me. I will keep summer “summer” and avoid the freak out of college preparations. It.will.all.get.done.

I want to get a chance to do things differently with my son this summer

We don’t often get a chance to get a do-over, but I am banking on one this summer. This time, I want to spend less time on the prep and just have confidence that our son will head off to college with the basics that he needs to get started. He will have extra long twin sheets, a handful of khakis, gym clothes, and the ever growing treasure trove of second hand t-shirts.

He will deliberate over which of the necessary 32 hoodie sweatshirts he should pack, remember one set of toiletries (and bemoan that he still doesn’t really need to shave), and his backpack and computer. He will have socks, lots of socks, and enough underwear to get him through a week (or two!) without laundry.

He will have a raincoat because I will insist, and maybe one piece of memorabilia from home in case he needs a reminder. He can of course scroll through billions of photos on his phone and watch videos of his beloved pooch being a goofball. That will be it!

This will NOT be a summer of buying, running and packing

Beyond that, no major Target run, the UPS man and I will not be on a first name basis all summer, and I will have faith that should something urgently arise, either the good old US Postal system will pull through, or my intelligent son can jump on the train or in a car or even walk to a place where he finds the merchandise that he needs.

Two years ago when I sent my daughter to college, a summer of pack-up made sense, even though I didn’t love it. We are both rule followers, and if there were tasks at hand, then we were ready. Somewhere out there, suggestions were made on how to prepare for college, and we agreed. We didn’t know any differently! Her first-born, Virgo self wanted to make lists and check them off.

She needed to be in charge of every decision and attack her move to a college dorm with confidence. I let her channel her momentum and rolled with it, merely stacking Amazon boxes in a designated area in the house for her, never opening anything that had her name on it. I made sure to have plenty of large blue IKEA bags at the ready.

This time around I will not be as frenetic

This time, I may have more say in the matter. I can make sure that if my son is not uptight about the pack up (he won’t be), it can wait. I will worry less about how many jugs of laundry detergent he has, and I will not go crazy on Amazon finding every “must have” for the college dorm that he will only live in for one year. I will put my foot down on offering to bring the refrigerator, and suggest that he offer to bring something a bit smaller and easier to pack, maybe even something that can be useful each year, like a portable speaker?

He will be fine. And if he forgets something really important, I can make a heroic, in-person delivery on Parents’ Weekend.

For now, I am going to remember that I am the parent and I want to establish a freneticism-free summer and soak up every last minute with my son.

More Great Reading:

6 Reasons Why Moms Cry When They Leave Their Kids at College

About Sydney Clarke

Sydney Clarke started to write “for real” after her life took a turn and she found she was no longer correcting essays and creating lesson plans for her students. She currently has a bank of essays about her new life, her son’s imminent departure to college, and her daughter’s second year away at school. When she isn’t writing or working her new job, she walks the dog and dreads the arrival of another dinner hour with nothing in the fridge. A great pair of clogs always cheers her up.

Read more posts by Sydney

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