Remember bringing your baby home – those first few days of feeling simultaneously elated and exhausted? Remember feeling overwhelmed, excited, delighted, and a little apprehensive? It’s an emotional time. But I’m not talking about bringing your new baby home from the hospital. I’m talking about bringing your baby home from college.
At first glance, it might seem like there is a tremendous difference between an infant and a 19-year-old, but there are actually several ways that having your kid home from college is a lot like having a new baby. If this will be your first summer as a college mom, here’s a heads up.
When Your “Baby” is Home From College
1. They sleep all the time (except at night).
I admit that with my first baby, I was fairly naive. I had no idea how much newborns sleep. I had imagined that we would spend our days reading together, singing songs, playing, bonding. Eventually that was the case, but for the first several weeks, most of the time my son just slept – at least during the daylight hours. Nighttime was a different story.
The same is true for a college student home for the summer. Especially in those first few days. You might be looking forward to hanging out, catching up, and spending time with your child. But it will seem like all he wants to do is sleep. He will not wake up until late-morning. He will sprawl out on your coach all afternoon. You will wonder how it is possible for one person to sleep so much. Then the sun will go down, and he will suddenly have boundless energy. He will go out. He will play video games and watch movies half the night. He will fix late night snacks and play his music well after you’e gone to bed. The good news is that, unlike with an infant, you don’t have to be up with your big kid. On the other hand, you never had to wait up and wonder where your baby was at 1:00 a.m.
2. When they aren’t sleeping, they’re eating.
Yep. Pretty much. Just like your baby used to cry out from his crib for a feeding, your newly home college student will stick his head in the refrigerator or cry out from the couch, “Mom! What have we got to eat?”
Of course when a baby cries to be fed, there’s nothing for it but to meet his need. With your big kid, it’s up to you whether or not you rush to his assistance or let him fend for himself. But in those first few days, I can’t resist the urge to baby my big kid just a bit.
3. People will stop by to see your new arrival.
Grandparents, neighbors, family friends. Everyone is excited to welcome your college student home. Unfortunately this time around they aren’t likely to bring gifts or casseroles, but it’s still nice knowing that everyone is happy about your child’s return. Well, almost everyone…
4. There will be sibling jealousy.
Remember how everyone was so delighted with the new baby – except the old baby? Oh, at first he’s cute and sweet, and having a baby in the house is exciting. But it doesn’t take long for brother or sister to figure out that suddenly someone else is getting a lot of attention or taking their things or making too much noise.
The same thing will happen now even though your kids are big. For the last several months, your oldest remaining child has gotten used to being number one. The oldest. The controller of the remote. The king of the couch. The big cheese. Now the prodigal son (or daughter) has returned, and expects to return to the old pecking order. Your other kids might have missed their big sibling, but now all they can think about is how he is hogging the couch, and he ate the last of the good cereal.
5. You won’t know what to do with yourself?
He’s napping. Should you nap? Should you clean? Should you just stare at him in awe and wonder, so deeply grateful that he’s there? Again, in those first few days, there’s no harm in savoring his return. But if he wakes up and catches you staring, try to play if off like you were looking for the remote.
The first few days with your child at home are strange and wonderful, but just like when you first brought him home as a baby, eventually you will adjust. You’ll get into a routine. A groove. Eventually you won’t even remember what life was like without him around.
And then it will be August, and you’ll have to say goodbye all over again.
Such is the joy and agony of parenting. No matter how wonderful home is. No matter how much you love having him with you. Whether he’s 19 days old or 19 years old, you know that eventually he will leave you, and the best you can do is a make the most of the time you have – and maybe look forward to getting your couch back.
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