Practical “Open When” Envelopes For Moms and Dads of College Kids

Last summer I’ll admit I got Pinterest envy and made an armload of Open When envelopes for my daughter. Open When You’re Stressed. Open When You Need Pizza. Open When You Have a Wardrobe Malfunction. I lovingly filled each envelope with tchotchkes from CVS and Dollar Tree, and a Pizza Hut gift card because that’s the only pizza place in her college town. I boxed them up and left them for her on her bed at college drop-off and couldn’t wait to get texts from her as she opened them throughout the year.  I hoped she’d have as much fun opening them as I had making them.

Open when letters for moms
My Open When envelopes for moms would totally be Pinterest-worthy.

No texts came the first time she got sick and could have opened the envelope with Ramen and Ricolas. No call to say, “Thanks Mom for the lavender spritz and peppermint face mask.” No picture of her eating a cold slice with pepperoni. When she came home for the semester break, I asked her if she happened to open any of the envelopes.

Not only had she not opened any, she didn’t even seem to know what I was talking about! You know, the big box that was on the middle of your bed, literally tied with a bow, that I worked really hard to make special for you? Pinterest was not my friend anymore. No where did it say that kids won’t necessarily open them!

So, seriously, I could have put all that energy into making Open When envelopes for someone who would appreciate it, someone who could really use envelopes full of tchotchkes “just because.” Someone like me. Or you. I should have made envelopes for myself and my friends who sent their kids to college with Open When envelopes that they also may have forgotten about.

My Open When envelopes for moms would totally be Pinterest-worthy. Try not to be jealous:

Open When You Actually Have the House to Yourself. Inside would be a split of Pinot and Season 1 of The Handmaids Tale on DVD. And Junior Mints. Cheers! Enjoy this time alone – it took at least 18 years for this day to come.

Open When You Find Yourself Reminiscing About Your College Days. Inside would be a calling card, a box of Kraft Mac-N-Cheese and Aqua Net. And that’s all we needed. But we’d never get them in an Open When package because there was no Pinterest in the Dark Ages. And no real internet. So here ya’ go.

Open When You Check the Parent Portal After Midterms. Inside would be a packet of Advil, a magnifying glass, colored pencils and a Mandala book to get you through the unexpected. Breathe in, breathe out. It will be OK.

Open When Your Kid Calls, Complaining that Something or Other is Your Fault. Inside would be a postcard of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii so you can visualize your happy place, a timer so you can count to ten before you speak, and a gift card for a massage. For you. For after you tell them you are sorry they feel that way, you’re doing your best, and hang up.

Open When Your Find My iPhone Shows Your Kid Hasn’t Moved in 3 Days. Inside would be a plane ticket, a train ticket and an Uber gift card so you can get to their dorm ASAP only to find out they lost their phone and so they haven’t used it in 3 days. After you find their phone shoved against the wall behind their bed and all is well, you go back home and hope there are some better Open When envelopes still waiting for you.

And because of Pinterest there could very well be more envelopes to open.

Open When You Need Cake has a box of Betty Crocker Double Chocolate Cake and Chocolate frosting inside. Because sometimes we just need cake to get through the day when we know our kid in college is having a tough day or when they did something awesome and we want to celebrate, too.

Open the Night Before Your Kid Comes Home has your password for Pea Pod and a note reminding you to order a tractor-trailer full of groceries ASAP. There are also some soothing tea bags in there because you know you won’t sleep a wink, and a good book to read while you drink your tea.

Open When Your Kid Goes Back has a gift card to Merry Maids so you can see the floors in your house again after all the duffel bags, shoes and electronics return to school. There is also a small back of Kleenex, and a calendar with the date circled in red for when they will be home again.

As for the Open When Envelopes for Moms (and Dads), you can put them in a box, tie it with a bow, and place it on your bed or send them to a friend. I bet it will get noticed and enjoyed all year-long, and Pinterest can be my friend again. Maybe your kid will come home at the end of the semester, or at the end of the year, as mine did, and bring home their box of sealed Open Whens, along with the rest of their dorm paraphernalia.

You might get to sit with your kid at the kitchen counter, as I did, as they finally open each envelope with you. Enjoy the combination of smiles and looks of shock as they peek inside at the package of cockamamies for when they felt like getting a tattoo, the bag of confetti for when they accomplished something special, and obligatory roll of duct tape, because duct tape solves everything


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About Randee Bonagura

Randee Bonagura has two Grown and Flying daughters and is an elementary school administrator on Long Island. She stewards a Little Free Library, plays clarinet in a local ensemble, and loves to read and travel.

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