There. I said it. And I’m not sorry. I don’t want my kids to go back to college because I love having them around. Although I know that based on most conversations I’ve had with friends and all the parenting articles I’ve read online lately, I’m in what feels like a teeny, tiny minority, but I don’t care.
It’s how I feel. And here’s why…
See, with both of my daughters in college now, winter break means something very different than it did when they were young. It’s not the nine or ten-day break it used to be, when the only difference in the day-to-day was the lack of school and prepping lunches. Now that they’re both in college, this chunk of time at home is really the only one we get with everybody under one roof, with the exception of summer when everyone’s working every day.
This year, winter break means that Dave and I have a full house again, with half-empty suitcases littering the bedrooms like landmines, twice as much laundry, ten times the chaos, and a revolving front door that hasn’t closed in four weeks. And I’m gonna be honest, I’m loving every second of it.
Yeah, that’s right, I’m loving it. And I don’t want it to end. Which is why I’m secretly wishing that my girls could just dump their bags back in their bureaus, move back into their rooms for good, and be right across the hall every morning when I wake up. And even though I know exactly how ridiculous and sappy and unrealistic that sounds, a big part of me is totally serious.
Now I know having kids in the house after they’ve been away and on their own can be a pretty clunky adjustment on both sides. I mean, once everybody gets used to doing their own thing their own way—without having to answer to anyone—it can be a challenge when you have to start considering other people again. And it was no different in our house.
After we got over the initial shock and sadness of both of our kids being away at school, we settled into a rhythm and learned to adapt to a different kind of life. And it did get easier. We got used to the house being exactly the way we left it when we came home at the end of the day. (And I’m not gonna lie, it was niiiiiiiiice.) We got used to the washing machine being set on extra-small and the grocery bill being double digits instead of in the hundreds. We got comfy coming and going without having to consider anyone but ourselves. And, after a while, we even learned to find the peace inside the quietude.
Then, about six minutes after our kids came home on break, I realized how willing I was to give up all the freedom and simple living just to have them home. With all the noise. And all their crap. And the constant flow of friends in and out of the house. Because when they came back, they came back as different people. Now they had a new appreciation for us as parents and as people because they experienced the other side of what it’s like to manage their own lives.
It was like, all of a sudden, they appreciated my cooking a little more and how clean the house was compared to a dorm room and how crisp their laundry looked in a neat little pile at the foot of their bed. They were asking to go for runs together and grab coffee and come with me when I did errands. And they were super-grateful to have Dave around to troubleshoot all their tech issues. And (wait for it…) they even seemed to love each other a little more.
And even though we still had expectations, like letting us know where they were going and when they’d be home and who they’d be with, they never really pushed back. It’s like they enjoyed having someone checking in on them again.
Sure, there were periods of boredom, even though they both found part-time work while they were on break. And yeah, there were plenty of moments when we got up in each other’s grills, although they were few and far between compared to the old days when we were living together every day. And even though the girls still needed their space to do their thing, they didn’t need as much as I thought they would.
So while I know there are a lot of parents out there who are totally over having their kids home, I’m just not one of them. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. Because I don’t mind picking up after them or waking them up in time for lunch or sharing my car because that feeling of having them home is just too good. Same goes for all the extra laundry and cooking and cleaning—it gives me a renewed sense of purpose as a mom that I’ve been missing.
At the end of the day, I just love taking care of my kids, which is the only point I’m really trying to make. I’m not judging anyone for being ready to drop their kids off curbside at the airport. And I’m not shaming anybody who wants their freedom back. I’m just saying that even though I know my daughters ultimately belong at school, I’m not ready for them to leave. It’s as simple as that.
Because although we’ve each learned how to be apart and on our own, we all have a deeper appreciation for each other now, and I love that. I’m also hyper aware that there’s going to come a time when they’re not going to come home like this anymore. And I’m more than fine with pushing that off for as long as possible.