My college kids headed back over the weekend, and I may be in the minority here, but there were no tearful driveway goodbyes, emotional breakdowns, or extended sessions of weeping affection. In my case, there were just some thankful goofy smiles and quick hugs, and I maybe displayed just a wee bit too much joy while tossing their clean laundry bags into the trunk.
They. Are. Outta. Here!
Recently, I wrote a very tongue in cheek column about the huge amount of chaotic disruption a household experiences when college kids come home for the holidays, and while many expressed their complete agreement with it (and found it hilariously relatable), there were a few whose responses had me a bit dumbfounded. Called an “angry and sad” mother who “I feel sorry for,” by several readers, I quickly reassessed the piece, and questioned if perhaps I was harboring some monumental ingratitude about my healthy kids coming home for Christmas (and bringing their filthy clothes and gigantic appetites with them).
See, I was of course overjoyed to have them home for the holidays. I actually did feel all the feels having all my kids around my dinner table, emptying my pantry faster than a raccoon at a midnight buffet, and using no fewer than five towels per shower. They were home, and it was as if all was right in the world, but that doesn’t mean that home is where they still belong anymore.
The disruptions to my routine (and that of my younger still-at-home kids) was more than we could bear a few times, and towards the end of the holiday break, I will admit my own children started to feel like long-lost familial company that had outstayed their welcome.
And guess what? That is normal and healthy, and not some feeling that others needs to shame me for feeling.
Because children outgrowing your home is a GOOD thing.
It’s not surprising that in a child obsessed helicopter parent world, the one where we have made our children the number one sole focus of our lives, that when they leave our homes we feel a great sense of loss and despair. What do I do now? What is my life? Will they ever come back? Those are all questions we ask ourselves as we mull over all the lasts in young adulthood, and unfortunately, often we unwillingly continue to ask them when our college kids head back to school after break. But those are not the questions we should be asking ourselves, and thoughts of sadness and loss are not the ones we should we feeling when our independent kids confidently head back to their college lives.
Instead of wallowing in all the “lasts,” it’s important as college parents to teach ourselves to practice plenty of positive self talk about all the “firsts.” Rather than saying, “It was so great to have them home but I am so sad they have to go back,” try, “It was so great to have them home and I am so excited to see all the fun, new life experiences this new semester has in store for them!”
We actually did have a wonderful holiday break together, even with the empty gas tanks, empty bank accounts, and midnight kitchen raids leaving my sanity and patience to the raccoons, but it’s ok to want them to go back to their lives, and for me to want to go back to mine. Adjusting these past few years to my quickly emptying nest hasn’t been easy, but it slowly and almost unnoticeably has been happening whether I wanted it to or not. And it’s leaving me with a new and quite comfortable “new normal” in my home-one that doesn’t include all of my kids living in it forever and ever.
And that’s a very good thing.