At all the pre-Christmas concerts, parties, and craft fairs, I ran into multiple mothers of my son’s former classmates. They all said things like, “I saw yours is home already! I’m so jealous, I have to wait a couple more days,” and “Isn’t it so nice to have the kids home!”
That last one sounds like it should have a question mark, but it was always rhetorical. It was a statement because, of course, moms miss their kids who have been off at college the last few months, and therefore, are obviously over-the-moon in every way to have them home again.
Except some of us aren’t. Some of us have raised personality types that simply don’t mesh well with our own. Whether we are too different or too alike, or in my case, a bizarre and infuriating combination of both, we struggle to live in the same household.
You know those people, who when asked the standard, “How are you?,” seriously struggle to reply, “Good,” and tell you about their dog’s explosive diarrhea instead? Well, I am on the edge of being one of them. So, when I was questioned about my excitement for my college son’s month at home, the too ‘real,’ awkward-at-small-talk person that I am, could never muster the socially appropriate, “Yes, It’s so wonderful,” that was my duty. I went with saying things more like, “Great to see him, really missed his jokes, but living with him? Not so much!”
Some were shocked at my response, especially those who launched their last baby and whose children were all scattered far and wide. Others gave me a knowing smile and admitted it wasn’t all sunshine and roses at their house either. And one thanked me for saying what she had always felt but found it taboo to say out loud.
I had this idea, as I am guessing most parents do, that being out there on their own would provide the wake-up call needed to make these near-adults appreciate all we did for them their entire prior lives. They should arrive home with a new-found understanding of all things adultish and responsible. Umm, well, no. Instead, all the motherly, “put your laundry, trash, and dishes where they belong” rules are more annoying than ever and their compulsion to follow them is zero since we technically aren’t ‘in charge’ of them anymore.
To top it off, all those months the college kids have been off figuring out life sans mom and dad, a new rhythm that does not include them has developed back at home as well. This is particularly true in households with younger siblings. Every new year brings changes as kids grow up. Who uses which bedroom or bathroom (and when) might change. The amount of food that needs cooking, what gets watched on TV, and the general daily routine can all become a little different. When the college kid returns, it is like randomly throwing a loud gong into the middle of the music. They aren’t in on the new rhythm and it throws everybody else off-key.
So, we can easily explain why we are all a bit ready to strangle our college kids after they have been back in our home for a couple of weeks, but we still feel like it is a reprehensible way to feel. But here’s the deal, it’s widely accepted that toddlers are difficult, demanding ridiculous creatures who push us to the brink of insanity but are simultaneously loved beyond all else and the reason we breathe.
Since everyone accepts that truth, why can’t I miss my college kid like crazy and love to see him, but still be thankful that he isn’t here tornado-izing the downstairs bathroom and saying hilarious things to his 7-year-old brother that SHOULD NOT be repeated by a child of that age?
Well I can, and I will!
That friend who thanked me for being honest and letting her know she wasn’t alone in being less than ecstatic about her sons’ visits home said, “I always thought that high school seniors turning into big jerks was God’s way of keeping us from being miserably sad forever when they leave, but most people are horrified when I say that!”
While I don’t believe that is exactly the case, there is still something about it that rings true. We are designed to leave our parents as adults. Our kids are made to become separate individuals and a transformation like that is bound to be accompanied by strife. Drastic changes are rarely comfortable.
These teens cannot exert their independence by doing precisely what and being exactly who their parents raised them to be, and their search for independence will likely require a little bit of trying out the opposite! So instead of worrying that you’ve failed at the parenting gig, remember you’ve probably just raised a self-reliant, confident person who will think for him or herself at all costs.
Crystal Foose is a mother of seven children ranging in age from 4-19 living out in the middle of nowhere, Colorado. She is a Christian, but not the really nice kind who are good at it and she aims to hone the craft of giving advice without pretending she has this whole motherhood thing figured out. You can find more from her at www.facebook.com/sosomomcom. Foose