It’s Fall, so I’m in Gratitude Mode.
The stores are already bloated with pre-lit Christmas trees and glossy wrapping paper, but I’m shielding my eyes from those harbingers of holiday stress and choosing only to look at the fall-colored table decor, daydreaming about enjoying turkey and stuffing with my kids who will soon be joining us for Thanksgiving.
When your kids are in college, there always seems to be something you can complain about. The astronomical costs of tuition and housing, overpriced textbooks, student stress levels, and the pressures for them to find an internship or a job. The “real world” is looming, almost as scary to them as the newly escaped, but still knife-wielding Michael Myers.
However, my now mostly quiet empty nest affords me plenty of time to ponder the pretty wonderful things about having college-aged kids.
So, here’s what I’ll be toasting to this Thanksgiving:
1. A son who now actually cares about, and takes responsibility for, a clean bathroom. Sharing a small restroom with three other young men has wholly opened my son’s eyes to the necessities of regularly scrubbing surfaces, picking up wet towels off the floor, and using bleach wipes on the daily. This is a truly delightful and life-altering development for me.
2. Never again being asked to help with any kind of homework, application, or project. Let that sink in for a glorious minute, college parents. No more late-night runs to the drug store to buy a poster board. No more “Can you read this and see if there are any mistakes?” And if either one of my children ever foolishly even contemplated asking me a question about business calc or neuroimaging, they know all they’d get in response is a hearty chuckle as I sip my Pinot Grigio.
3. Lowered car insurance. Both my kids do not currently have a car at school, so we’re certainly thankful for shelling out less money for insurance and gas. That may change temporarily in the future, but for right now, it’s certainly a pleasant reality, and they’ll be off our books soon!
4. Venmo. Oh, how I love me some Venmo. If you’ve never used it, it’s basically a digital wallet, and without kids in college, I probably never would have even tried it. Now, I think it should be federal law that everyone be required to have it. So fast and easy, it’s yet another thing that makes me feel like I’m living in an episode of The Jetsons.
5. SnapChat. While I’m singing the praises of apps, I must include my trusty pal SnapChat. Yep, I admit I thought it was horrible way back when, and the updated version still annoys me at times, but it is hands-down the best source of POL (proof of life) for my son who’s not a real big communicator. Send a pet Snap, and within an hour, get back a selfie, or a half-selfie (“helfie”?). Guaranteed. Developers of this app, I now love you.
6. My dog. Not only is she the best lure for those SnapChats, with an empty nest, she’s essentially my favorite hangout buddy. We exercise together, have deep conversations, and commiserate when it’s a little too quiet. She also forces me to vacuum frequently, which otherwise might get overlooked. Because Netflix.
7. Kids who cook for themselves when they come home. And I’m not just talking about boxed mac and cheese or frozen pizzas. They actually look at cooking websites and Pinterest and go grocery shopping and make REAL meals that include vegetables I never dreamed they’d look forward to eating. For all you Moms who are still hiding veggies in your kids’ food – there is HOPE!
8. The requests for birthday gifts have ended. When my kids were young, the gift ideas and suggestions started being thrown out months before their actual birthdays. Lists were made, minds were changed many times over, and top picks fluctuated daily based on Disney Channel commercials. Now, I guess the realization has sunk deeply into my kids’ brains: “My parents work hard and pay a whole lotta cash for us to go to college. I’ll just be quiet over here and if any gift comes my way, I’ll be super hype about it.”
9. Kids who truly care about the world. Their perspectives have expanded exponentially. I now learn new things from them every time we have an extended conversation. I adore that they are concerned about important global issues. That they discuss topics with a long-range outlook and are no longer simply about this week or this month. When the news of the world is so often distressing, I think about this generation of young adults and how they are already passionately working to find solutions to our problems.
10. They say Thank You to us much more frequently now. As they’ve moved out further into the world, and met more people and heard more stories, they are verbally grateful for our love, sacrifices and acceptance. While not always thrilled with our actions, our kids understand the logic behind our decisions, and they move on quickly, knowing life is full of ups and downs, and they have it pretty darn good.
So, if you are lucky enough to be gathered around a table this Thanksgiving with your college student, focus with pride on how far they – and you – have come.
The kids are alright, so enjoy that piece of pie.