Since my daughter attends a local college, I thought I was missing out on the joys, and rites of passage, of the moms of a college kids who go away to school. I listen as friends chat about when they have to drive or fly their daughters back to school, I have no exciting hotel reservations to make for Parents’ Weekend since there isn’t one to attend, and I’m now not part of the sisterhood of the care package making.
But it’s OK.
Sure, there are moments when I feel like I’m not one of the cool kids because I’m not buying new mattress covers, blue IKEA bags and twin XL sheets, or packing my college kid up to go away to school this year…because she’s living in my house. Still.
And I love it.
My Daughter is Living at Home and Going to College
I’ll admit it was a huge adjustment at first – my daughter started out away at school then came home and stayed. After everyone was done asking why she didn’t go back and what was I going to do about it (love her no matter if or where she goes to school, seriously), we got into a groove. For the first few months it felt more like a groove that Elaine would dance to on Seinfeld, but now it’s more like a Marvin Gaye and Meghan Trainor thang.
My daughter waltzes in from work after her shift at the veterinary hospital and tells me all about her day – in person. I get to see the sincere smile on her face as she shares new techniques she learned (who knew there were so many ways to hold a dog?), or the worry when she wonders if she’s good enough. “Yes, you are!” I get to tell her – IRL.
Instead of hoping that she calls or texts me, or playing amateur detective using Find my Friends to track her phone and her whereabouts on a far-away campus, I just follow the trail of shoes, boots, hair rubber bands and empty cups and I know right where she is – under my roof, safe, happy and warm.
Let’s just say that when the doorbell rings at midnight, it’s usually GrubHub, and it’s not for me.
Let’s also just say I have no idea how she affords fancy burgers on a college budget, but that’s a whole other story.
One day a week, she has a few hours between classes. I’m thinking she’s probably using this time to study, nap or catch up on Insta – which is generally what she does – but then one day she surprised me. She came to my office and brought me lunch and we ate together. We chitchatted about the weather, the news, and that she really needs to get an oil change.
I got to show her off to my coworkers and she got to do what she likes to call ‘adulting.’ She made it to her next class with plenty of time to spare, and asked me to meet her for dinner on campus the following week. And I could do that, since she was nearby. At college. No plane ride, no hours and hours in the car – my kid, in our college town. Having lunch or dinner with mom. Just because. I am a lucky lady.
When she wasn’t feeling well, I could touch her forehead and check in on her – in her bedroom in my house – and not worry if she was dehydrated and left alone by her roommates. Sure, I had to try to contain her germs so that everyone else in the house didn’t get sick, but I had peace of mind as I got to lay eyes on her first-hand and could sleep at night knowing she was fine.
Are there pots and pans all over the kitchen when I wake up because she bakes cinnamon rolls or omelets at ungodly hours? Sure. Does it drive me crazy? Sure. But it also means that she makes our house smell yummy and she can orchestrate a fun a cooking night with her younger siblings – who also get to enjoy her being home when she drives them to the mall or does their hair and makeup.
When I get to see her in the morning before work and school, I get to give her a hug, and say, “Have a great day, sweetie.”
Let’s just say that it’s a zero-sum situation when she cooks – there are now no eggs in the house, and no milk, but we have happy kids.
And Spiderman pop tarts for breakfast it is.
When she comes home from a long day of classes, she asks me how my day was, even if she only half-listens to my answer because she’s busy showing me the lyrics she wrote to a new song. I get to peek into her life as I read the heartfelt words and notes she scribbled in her journal – and feel like a cool kid who was invited to be part of something special.
I think, now, if she went away to school again, I would have FOMO, but differently. I would miss seeing her every day and sharing the little things – which I understand really and truly are the big things. I wouldn’t miss the laundry pile and the complaints that I don’t have food she likes in the house (cue the fully stocked fridge), but that’s nothing compared to the hugs and girl talk with someone who one day will be grown and flown for real.
Just not today.
And that’s OK.
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Randee Bonagura is an elementary school administrator by day, mom and stepmom of 4 girls by night. She reads, writes, crafts and plays clarinet in a local ensemble, and adopts way too many rescue kittens in her spare time. She lives in New York with her husband. Follow her at https://justaskrandee.com/