So last fall, millions of us sent our kids off to college for the first time. (Emotional pummeling, for sure.) We packed them up, crossed our fingers and toes, and sent them off into the big, scary world to more or less fend for themselves for the first time. The first time ever, in most cases.
Then we went home, curled up on their sweet little beds, grabbed hold of their ratty, old pink bunny rabbit, and cried until we couldn’t breathe. (It was an emotional, snotty mess.) And then, faster than we could ever have imagined, we’re packing them up all over again. Only this time, it’s to come home for the summer.
It’s crazy, really, how fast that first year goes. And how much they change being out on their own.
They go from living under our roof and following our rules and mixing their lights in with our darks to living on their own, making all their own choices, heading out for the night at eleven o’clock, and doing most of their color sorting themselves.
And it’s a mind shift for sure. For them as much as for us. And since this is my first time experiencing the re-entry, I’m honestly not sure what to expect. Could rip us all to shreds, or, bring us closer than ever. (You can probably guess where my money is.) The over-under around the house, though, is around 50/50 right now and my palms are actually a little sweaty thinking about which way it’s likely to go.
I mean, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t praying for a harmonious lovefest for the next four months, but I think that’s just straight-up delusional. Riley’s been on her own since September, answering to literally no one and regardless of how chill Dave and I may be (very, if you ask me), the simple fact is that now she has to go back to considering us in her day-to-day decisions. And that can be stressful. Definitely enough to throw off anyone’s rhythm.
But what I never really considered, since she was our first to go off to college, was how her living on her own for the last year would impact her coming back to live with us again after school was over for the year. Sorry, but my brain was kind of preoccupied with the whole notion of sending her away that I really didn’t spend an awful lot of time thinking about the back end. But lemme tell you, it was a sobering thought once it really started to seep in.
Will she just slide right back into the family routine? Will it be business as usual? Will she all of a sudden start doing the food shopping, food-prepping, and cooking healthy, well-balanced meals three days a week? Will she introduce herself to the washer/dryer? (Because they’ve never met.)
Or, will she reject all forms of authority? Will she even consider any advice I may have to offer from this point on? Will she bother to tell us where she’s going, who she’s with, and what she’s doing? (Because it’s bad enough knowing she’s out til whenever with whomever doing whatever when she’s away, but it’s a totally different ballgame when all that’s happening and she’s back living across the hall.) Will she and her sister kill each other before June?
All these unanswered questions and so many more are now floating around in my head just waiting for answers. And that’s why I’m trying to stay hyper-conscious of the fact that re-entry is probably, no, definitely, going to be a sticky wicket.
So in an effort to stay sane and maintain some sense of normalcy in my house, Dave and I have decided not to get too far ahead of ourselves predicting how this is all gonna go. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, I’m setting my own personal expectations bar low. Like ground-level low to avoid any unnecessary disappointments. Although I do have to say that I’m optimistic.
That’s why we’ve decided to buy ourselves a little dry-erase white board (Dave’s idea) so we can keep track of the Number of Days Since the Last Incident. You know, a tally board to help us keep track of how many amicable days we have together. To date, she’s been home for one day and we’ve got one hash mark. So far so good. Fingers are crossed and we’re hoping that watching the tally marks add up will inspire everyone to stay in line. I know this may sound slightly redick, but I really don’t have a better idea for keeping the peace so we’re going with it for now.
So I guess the big question is, Will we still like our kids when they come home from their first year away at school? (God, I certainly hope so.) But it’s definitely a crapshoot. And, maybe more importantly, will they still like us? Time will definitely tell.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at www.facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.