October College-Related Things

Something I had realized but not entirely realized was that as soon as Rob left for college he would start being left out of things happening at home. I HAD realized we’d have one fewer plate to set out, and that he wouldn’t be taking his turn as Paul’s weekly pizza-making helper—but I hadn’t thought about things like having a visit from extended family and Rob not being in the big photo of all the kids, and him now being the only one of the kids who hasn’t met these second cousins, which is too bad because they’re about his age and they’re super funny and cool. Henry in particular was completely starstruck, but everyone liked them.

Well. This is the new stage, where What Happens To Our Family is not automatically What Happens To Him. He has his own timeline.

You know what will be very weird, I think, is that there will come a year that I will not take a picture of all five kids together for our Christmas card. This year I can still do it: Rob will come home for Thanksgiving and I will take the picture then.

Rob is not sending long chatty emails about everything going on in his life, but he is doing a good job of periodically reassuring me that he continues to breathe. A few nights ago he sent a looping video of himself singing “Doe, a deer, a female deer.” A few nights before that, it was a picture of a line in his textbook saying that Norwegian rats are from China, next to a picture of his face doing a “What the heck??”

Some of my friends have had visits from their college kids, and I am studying those visits with interest. The main complaint seems to be that the child comes home and is barely at home at all: always off visiting friends, or else sleeping. I am looking forward to hearing if any kids have been insufferable and mouthy and know-it-all in their new independence and knowledge, but that is not the sort of thing parents tend to post on Facebook so I will have to wait for in-person reports. And maybe it happens less with kids who come home more often. Maybe to get the full impact of Wise Returning College Student, the first visit can’t be until Thanksgiving/Christmas.

I am getting ready to send an October/Halloween care package. I have a movie-theater-candy-size box of candy corn, a tub of Target’s monster trail mix (GET IT??) (it’s not actually monstery at all, it just happens to be his favorite trail mix and the timing seemed good), and a miniature pumpkin, and I will put in one or two of every kind of candy we get to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Plus a pack of potassium iodide tablets in case of nuclear war. Oh, and Howlin’ Halloween Blend Tic Tacs.

13 thoughts on “October College-Related Things

  1. Suzanne

    I had a loud panicked/delighted guffaw at the nuclear war bit.

    The first time I came home from college wad AWFUL for my parents. I was gone all the time and unclear on the expectations for my autonomy. I wanted to stay out all night if I wanted – I was a COLLEGE ADULT and didn’t have to tell a soul at school if I didn’t feel like coming home (I had never done that) – while my parents wanted me to do things like adhere to a reasonable curfew and at least call before missing it. I think my mother and I didn’t speak for a month or so after that. It got better for future visits but sounds like you are being super smart about possible pitfalls.

  2. A.

    I’m 36 years old and I still have friends/relatives who are part of the family picture for their parents’s cards. Now the family picture includes spouses and grandkids and may get taken over the summer or at a graduation or other Big Event, but the Christmas cards still come with everyone in them. I hope that continues to be the case for your family and you have many, many more years of that to come. :)

    1. dayman

      Very early on, like around 18 or 19, my brother started refusing all family pictures. There are only two of us, so this ruined family pictures in kind of a big way. I wish he hadn’t been such a jerk about it- your family is always your family, no matter how old they are, and the fact that they are grown and on their own doesn’t mean that your distant friends and relatives don’t want to see pictures of them every year.

  3. heidi

    Having 3 college-aged children at the current time, I will say sporadic weekends aren’t bad but when they come home for longer stretches is when the going gets rough. Thanksgiving is usually ok but that first Christmas when they are home for a few weeks is difficult. They really aren’t used to being told to do things on someone else’s timeline anymore. They also tend to think they know everything now because they have “been on their own” for a few months. (HA!) Then you’re all good again until summer. That first summer is what I look forward to the least. After that, it seems we all adapt to the new normal. Good luck with the holidays.

  4. Leeann

    To me the funniest thing about returning college students is that it suddenly becomes clear to them how utterly OLD and BORING their parents are. What do you MEAN you go to bed at ten or eleven PM? Don’t you know that is when life actually STARTS??

    And they’re right- in college some meetings actually BEGIN at 10 PM. And parties don’t even START until at least then.

    The other thing is how BORING it is. There are not people all around, ready to talk or do things at all hours, at their beck and call. They are used to being ENTERTAINED by a constant flow of available people and the lack of that is a bit shocking for them.

    All that being said, I didn’t find visits unpleasant or difficult, until it got to Christmas and even more so, to summer. Those were long. After the first summer, my kid found employment near her college so she could hang with her friends. That worked fine for me! We’ll see what happens after my son’s first summer at home.

  5. Kate

    I never comment here (and I should, I know!). I just want to say that I’m am reading all these college posts and taking notes. My only child is a high school senior this year, and reading your posts is like a glimpse into the future.

  6. JenniferB

    My 7-year-old cried at breakfast this morning when she realized that her college sister won’t be here to celebrate her birthday on Wednesday. I do find it terribly painful to plan “family” traditions, trips, & events and not include my eldest. She’s a junior this year, so one might think I’d have adapted by now, but I’m too nostalgic to have achieved that peace. My kids are 20, 17, 14, and 7 and I find that the wide age spread is what gets me. The littlest one is still experiencing firsts and first one doesn’t even live here anymore. My second daughter is a high school senior this year, so I’ll soon have two in college which means yet another calendar/schedule to attempt to reconcile with all the others to find the rare times when we can all count on being together.

    The positives, though, are many. A super sweet experience for us this past summer was having the first three at a summer camp at the same time. One was a counselor, one was a counselor-in-training, and one was a camper. While I didn’t get to see my firstborn, the next two ate every meal with her for a month in their own special world. And guess who suddenly wanted to try rookie night at the same camp although she’s so anxious she still sleeps in our room? Off went number four AFTER the other three had finished for the summer and she was so proud to experience camp just like her sisters! The mentoring opportunities are endless when the first forges a path for the others to emulate (or avoid)…

  7. Gigi

    For us, the know it all attitude, was never really an issue. The going out with his friends, etc…we definitely experienced that. But now that he’s out of college and living at home here is what I’m finding infuriating…the lack of consideration. i.e., The Husband made a large involved dinner, fully expecting that Man-Child would be home for dinner. Only for me to text him around 8:00 to discover that no, he wasn’t planning to be home. This enrages me because he was raised better than that!

  8. Melanie

    The weirdest thing to me is taking vacations with only one of the two of mine. We go to Disney World a lot and it just seems wrong for one of them to be not there. At some point soon it will be just me and my husband again on trips. I am not sure that I will be able to handle that.

  9. Shawna

    I have one word for Christmas card pictures: collage. Lots of places let you put more than one photo onto the front of the card to make a cute collage. And while I have Photoshop, I’m pretty sure there must be free and easy software to make several photos into one.

  10. Allison

    While reading this it struck me what a good and caring mom you are. That you think about what visits are going to be like, imagine holiday cards, put together packages for him…. I bet that kind of love and consideration is a part of his foundation that gives him self worth and will help him be confident and content in who he is.
    You realy SHOW your love for him and your family. You really do rock.

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