One mother’s midnight musings about three college-bound children aka stream-of-consciousness therapeutic writing:
1. Packing for college is a lot like packing for camp, just with no bug spray, self-addressed stamped envelopes, and pre-camp lice checks.
2. Girls: Ok, I need some plastic storage bins, 15 throw pillows, several picture frames….string lights….all toiletries…oh don’t forget the cubbies!!…matching duvet covers….snacks…etc etc, etc…posters….etc etc…oooh! Cute towel racks! White board markers…etc
Boys: Hey. I have my shampoo and a pillow. I think I’m good.
3. Dryer sheets come 105 to a box. I’m pretty sure that might last one of mine (who shall not be named) the entire four years of college. I am not proud of that fact.
4. Is it just me, or are there a lot of colleges in the south with orange in their school colors? What is up with that? It’s so…so…orange. It’s so loud and reeks of contrived enthusiasm. What about some understated cool, like deep magenta and midnight blue? Wouldn’t that be a little more menacing on the football field? I mean, can you imagine warring soldiers charging the battlefield in TN orange with clogging music playing on their fifes? We would all be speaking in British accents, just saying.
5. Is it bad that I have no earthly idea a) which dorm the kids are in at respective schools b) what classes they are taking c) their majors? HA, fooled you, I DO know their majors! (inner voice: um, I’m pretty sure, anyway). And dorm, schmorm, they are all just loud, military-like buildings with beds, right?! Don’t judge! (iv: oh my gosh, I’m an awful mother) No I’m not! (iv: don’t know their dorms? really?!) OMG Inner Voice, What do you want from me?? Did I mention four in college and one just graduated? There’s only so many brain cells that can survive that, so put a sock in it, iv.
6. I will continue to play the “Four Kids in College and One Living In Another Country” card as long as humanly possible. Even when they are all out of college and living in the US. It’s a very convenient hall pass for just about anything.
7. Moving into a dorm is stressful. Or thinking about it is apparently stressful, as illustrated by the following exchange:
Me: Good morning. Almost time! What is on your agenda for today?
Her: OMG, why are you always nagging me?
Me: Um, I’m not nagging, just asking (counts to 10). Oh, I forgot, did you upload that form from last week?
Her: (sigh and eye roll) NOOoo-ah.
Me: (perplexed) Really? Why? That should have been in last week.
Her: OMG WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME????
Me: (sotto voce, deep breath) This is talking, not yelling. What is happening? What in the world is going on? Ok, Is it that time of the month? (voice raising) And you may NOT talk to me in that tone!!
Her: (decibel ratchets up, a lone glass shatters) STOP YELLING AT ME!! I AM SO STRESSED!! AND ALL YOU ARE DOING IS YELLING AT ME FROM THE SECOND I WAKE UP !!
Me: (muttering) I’m pretty sure I have an old bottle of Xanax around here, where is that?
HER: SEE! YOU’RE EVEN LOOKING AT ME LIKE I’M AWFUL!! I’M SO STRESSED AND YOU AREN’T HELPING ME!!!!!!
Me: (rummaging in drawers frantically) I could have sworn I had some in case of emergencies…. Her: SEE??? YOU ARE YELLING AGAIN!!! THAT IS NOT HELPFUL!!! OMG!!!!! AGHGHHHHHHH (spins around and head explodes all over kitchen. Not really, but could have)
Me: (still rummaging futilely, whispering) Jesus take the wheel…and WHERE IS THAT BOTTLE?
8. Mom Tears can come at the most inopportune times-such as in Publix realizing there is no need to BOGO this week. Or when you walk into a spotless kid’s bathroom. Or when you see you have too many: too many laundry baskets, too many grocery bags, too many square feet, too many blank spaces on the To Do list.
9. A spotless Saturday morning kitchen is not a normal thing. It’s worth a double-take and then a gut-punching visual of ghosts of all the giggly, Netflix-loving friends who baked brownies at 2 am and distant echoes of loud teenage boys in the basement playing Fortnite. My counters are crumb-free but my house is quiet. It’s not just my own kids–it’s the ripple effect of all of the absent friends, too.
My inner voice wonders if it would be creepy to tell neighbor kids to come on over any time for brownies and Fortnite, and I wonder if I’ll be some suburban female version of Boo Radley. Nah, I think I’ll keep the brownies for myself; I never did find that old bottle…
10. I have already had several conversations with my dog. This is one step up from Tom Hanks and his relationship with his island volleyball, Wilson, so that’s not too bad. Right? And although he looks at me a little quizzically, he seems to pretty much agree with anything I say, which is a nice change of pace around here. See? Silver lining.
I miss my kids. But… how incredible that they are off on this grand adventure, the quintessential summer camp to beat all summer camps. To all the Empty Nesters out there–Cheers to Us.
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Rebecca Duran is a mother of five children– including a set of triplets– all of whom are college students or recent college graduates. Her psychology and business degrees have proved to be invaluable for her stay-at-home mom career of 23 years. She is a recent empty-nester and happily funemployed.