Dorm Shopping With My Son, What This Boy Mom Is Packing

We told him that we would take him shopping for “school supplies” but for the first time in 13 years, he was excited about the shopping trip. A little background…I’ve always been excited about school supply shopping. It is the Amazon list I keep current, not the Christmas list. Admittedly, the experience of public school classroom lists times 4 at the local Walmart almost made me forget my joy. But when I discovered I could school shop on Amazon, well, the hallelujah chorus rang in my heart.

I only have 1 of 4 children that share this affinity with me. She is obviously my favorite child. But this oldest man-child of mine, back-to-school shopping has only caused him grief and aggravation. Until this year. Because this year we are shopping for a dorm room, not a classroom.

And after having secured several academic, talent, and community scholarships, we knew that we had the budget to buy a new laptop. Cue the genuine excitement. We drew down the cash from the college savings plan. We looked at the specs for laptops (son, this looks like a gaming computer…why are you taking a gaming computer to college??). We picked the store with the best prices. And we set out on the adventure, for the first time in 13 years of school shopping, excited together.

boy dorm shopping
For the first time in 13 years, my son was excited about a back-to-school shopping trip.

Dorm shopping with sons

What he didn’t know was that we were going to use some of the money for things like a computer bag, bed sheets, dorm life gear, cleaning supplies, and maybe a bulletin board to hang. You know, dorm essentials.

What I didn’t know was that we were going to use some of the money for sweet headphones. You know, dorm essentials. Because the deals were really good at the store, I was able to say yes to the headphones and then wave the crisp bills we still had left, enticing him to the ‘home goods aisle. That’s when we realized our agendas were very different.

“Do you want a bedspread?”


“Well, let’s get sheets. Do you care what type of sheets?”


“Color preference?”


“Do you know what size your bed is?”


“Have you thought about your bed at college?”


“Are you going to think about your bed at college?”


“What do you think about sleeping at college?”

“I’m going to bring my pillow and my sleeping bag. I stay in college dorms for camp every summer and that works fine.”

My dreams are dying. That’s ok. The day is young and the Benjamins have not wilted…yet.

“Ok,  well, what about some other furniture. Storage shelves, or containers, or bins? Would you prefer baskets or bags or drawers? Would you like them in certain colors?”


“Ok, sorry. I didn’t mean for that to be a ‘yes-no’ question. Should we get some storage options for your room?”


“Well. Where are you going to put your things?”

“In my bookbag.”

“How will you fit all your things in a book bag?”

“So far I have a laptop. Headphones. Pens. A sleeping bag. I think I can leave my clothes and the sleeping bag in my room. Everything else fits.”

My dreams have gone across the street to get coffee and Pinterest-plan my daughter’s dorm room.

“A bookbag. Do you want a new one, made for carrying laptops?”


“Ugh!!! You are going to go to college with a suitcase of clothes, a laptop, a bookbag, headphones, a sleeping bag, and a pen???  Seriously?? This is your plan???”

All this time we are walking up and down the aisles of this big box store, and I’m hoping that the consumerist vibes will spark some shopping life within him. Doesn’t every human want a throw rug???

And then he speaks the words I’ve been waiting to hear…

“There’s something I can take with me.”

“Oh yeah?” I try to play it off casually.

“What’s that?”

“A popcorn popper. Also, there was a pretty cool kayak back there.”

“Let’s go home. We are done.”

And so we left. And we haven’t returned. He goes to school in about 4 weeks. He has a laptop. He hasn’t cleaned out his backpack yet. The sleeping bag from camp is beside his door, ready to be scooped up. I’m pretty sure he lost the pens.

And then I read this article shared by “Grown and Flown”

“Don’t Overpack: 7 things college freshmen don’t need—and 10 they do”

Items 1 and 2. Laptop and mattress pad.

He wins. 

(For the record, popcorn popper and kayak were not on the list.)

Four things I’m packing for my son for college

I don’t think we will be the over-packed family rolling onto campus. I will instead be spending the next four weeks “packing” these things:

Prayer and faith. I can remember praying when he was just weeks old that I would have the courage to release him to God, that I would never shield him out of fear, but only hold over him the shield of faith. Same prayer. More faith.

It’s a summer of doing things together. His siblings are doing adventurous things together that they haven’t tried before. Our summer vacation was lazy beach days instead of packed out schedules. We are eating pizza and reminiscing on his memories from kindergarten. Making them and refreshing them, so he is full of remembrance.

Gaffs, goofs, and gambles. He wants so badly to be independent. We want so badly for him to be independent. But kind of like that shopping trip, we aren’t seeing those things the same yet. He thinks he needs later curfews and no phone limits. We think he needs a full-time job and to wake up before noon. So we are cutting the strings. And we know he is going to make mistakes. And we just hope he will trust us enough to let us in on the clean-up process.

Deep breaths. My friends a little further down this road told me, “no matter how sad you are on graduation day, he will make you crazy enough that you are ready for him to leave.”

I didn’t believe them. But they are right. Some days…when he sleeps till noon after I’ve waited up until 1 AM and still had to crawl out of bed at 6…when he says he can’t make the phone calls or write the notes because he “has plans”…when he fights doing chores because “he really doesn’t live here anymore”…I have to take a deep breath instead of telling him to go ahead and go.

And when he brings home groceries or takes his sister to a party or watches a movie with his little brother…I have to take deep breaths because the reality of missing him in our home becomes overwhelming. And when I see his trophies and yearbook and playbills, and I am overcome with pride at the accomplishments of his young life…I have to take deep breaths because I just can’t even believe I get to be his mom.

And when he is rude and crude and selfish and immature, and I wonder how in the world he is even going to survive…I have to take deep breaths because I remember that I survived that phase too. And when he comes around the corner one more time and flashes his toothy grin that makes his blue eyes sparkle and my heart melt…I have to take deep breaths because I know he won’t be appearing around my corners quite so often and I want the moment to freeze…but it won’t.

I think I am going to be able to convince him to take actual sheets for the bed and I’m going to talk the roommate into the throw rug. And I am going to pack my heart and his with the knowledge that it’s going to be ok.

We will be ok. He will be ok. All is well, all will be well, it is well with my soul.

You Might Also Want to Read: 

30 Bestselling Dorm Essentials for College Freshmen 

Easy Ways to Make a Guy’s Dorm Room Look Great 

About Leanne Burris

Rev. Leanne Burris has been serving as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church since 2003. Leanne pastors the church she planted in 2016, The Bridge UMC. She and her husband, who is also a pastor, have four children and a four-legged companion. Together they have lived on served on the gulf coast of Mississippi since 2006. The Burrises like to spend weekends together going to see action movies, being entertained by one another's adventures or talents, or watching the Saints play football. They vacation most often with Leanne's extended family at Disney or with Cliff's extended family on the family farm. Leanne says it's been a good day when she has had seafood for dinner, a good book to read, and sand in her shoes. It's a great day when those experiences are shared with others.

Read more posts by Leanne

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