There’s hope after your college kid withdraws and comes home. My daughter is proof.
The day after Thanksgiving break was a disaster. My college freshman melted down in a big way and didn’t go back to finish the semester. It was like she was on a nauseating amusement park ride that she couldn’t get off no matter how hard she tried. She spent the next two weeks at home mourning the loss of what she thought was her dream program, her new friends, and what had been her home since we dropped her off at the end of August.
She slept a lot during the day, ate in her room like she was still in a dorm (empty Ramen containers, anyone?) and left everything from her dorm piled on her floor so that it became a challenge to get past her doorway. Even our cat was afraid to go in.
Around the middle of December, after a lot of sleeping late and Netflix binge watching, she got into a slightly better frame of mind and emailed someone at the local college she would be transferring to. She made an appointment for the beginning of January to meet with an advisor, and spent the rest of the month catching up with her high school friends who were home on winter break. Now and then she’d join us for dinner and even began to chat with family members about what classes she might be interested in taking, majors that newly appealed to her, and mentioned she might get a job now that she’s home.
The end of December came and went. Her room was still a nightmare, she talked about getting a job but hadn’t done more than chatted with a friend who might be able to see about trying to get her a job, and there was no action on the getting-ready-to-start-a-new-college front – or so I thought. I caught myself being the nagging mom type, asking her things like, “So, have you looked through the course bulletin to see what classes you might be interested in?” hoping she wouldn’t roll her eyes too loudly at me.
Then one day, soon after New Year’s, when I got home from work, my daughter greeted me at the door all excited to tell me about the courses she selected with her advisor, and about the interview she had set up at a local restaurant for the following day. She offered to make dinner, and picked up her siblings from their activities. Who was this kid? I guess having a shower available to you that you don’t have to share with 23 other girls and a house full of food and pets was helping a little. Even if she does still have to do her own laundry.
Next, she received a call that she got the job as a hostess and her course schedule populated so that all of her classes have a late starting time, with no classes on Fridays – nice! All I remember was that when I was a freshman, I certainly had an 8:00 am Geology lab on Fridays. Just saying.
It’s the middle of January and I can start to put my heart back in place now, as these past few weeks and months have brought me within inches of losing my shit altogether. We found a formula that works – I remind my daughter about what she needs to do when I just can’t stand it anymore that she hasn’t taken care of ‘adulting’ things, like taking out the garbage or making herself a dentist appointment, and then she doesn’t do it …until the very last-minute. So, then I completely stop reminding her about what she needs to do and, miraculously, she manages just fine. Less is more, I’m learning. Maybe you have one of these at home, too.
She is registered for classes and got a job. Breathe. Balancing my urge to help and do everything for my daughter with knowing that she has to become independent and that I have let her do things at her pace wasn’t, and isn’t, easy. My husband must be really tired of telling me to “back off.” I have to get better at listening.
This week she got her parking sticker and books, and had a friend give her a campus tour so she knows where all her classes are. She’s looking forward to buying flannel pjs and a lanyard for her new ID with her new school’s name on them. She starts training for her new job tomorrow and her beautiful smile is back.
Sometimes things work out. Fortunately, this was one of those things. Her roller coaster ride has come to a safe stop and it’s time to climb out. Here’s to a successful semester ahead, filled with new sights, new courses, new friends and new possibilities…and a new outlook for me.
It’s great having her back home. I’m hoping she cleans her room sometime before she graduates.
Randee Bonagura is an elementary school administrator by day, mom and stepmom of 4 girls by night. She reads, writes, crafts and plays clarinet in a local ensemble, and adopts way too many rescue kittens in her spare time. She lives in New York with her husband. Follow her at Just Ask Randee.