Pre-Departure Breakdown

Pre-departure breakdown.

The daughter leaves in three days. I haven’t had a breakdown. My husband hasn’t had a breakdown. In fact, our daughter only had a minor sniffle earlier today because she is going to miss her friends.

But something wicked this way comes…

I can feel it in the air at our house. I’m a little tense. She’s a little tense. And she is trying to squeeze in as much time with her friends as she possibly can. She slept at a friend’s house last night and came home long enough today to pick which clothes she wants to pack…or maybe I should say she picked which clothes she wants me to pack for her. And that’s OK.

After she dashed out to spend time with her friends again, my husband said, “Wow. She doesn’t want to spend time with us as much as she wants to spend time with her friends.” I told him, “That’s normal. In fact, I would be worried if she wanted to be with us more than she wants to be with her friends right now.” He looked surprised, so I explained further, “She knows we are here for her. She knows we always love her. We are the sure thing. But her friends are all going in different directions. I’m glad she wants to spend time with her friends.” And he got it. The fact that she wants to be with her friends means she feels secure in her relationship with us. It’s a good thing. We should actually be flattered by it.

It’s like when a kid behaves perfectly well in public but then gets home and acts like the spawn of Satan. My mother used to tell a story about 4-yr-old me. She said she took me somewhere, and I acted like a perfect angel, but when we got home…I was mean and fussy. She finally asked me, “Why do you act like this at home?” My 4-yr-old answer? “Where else can I act like this?” And she got it. She said, “Nowhere, honey. Just here…where we love you.” She knew I felt secure enough at home to have the breakdowns and act a little out of sorts. I knew she would love me no matter what. And that’s what our college-age daughter is feeling right now. She knows we will always love her no matter what, but she is trying to cement her relationships with friends before she leaves.

So yes, she teared up a little earlier, telling me she was going to miss her friends. She then told me, as we were packing her clothes, that one friend texted her earlier that she had a full-on meltdown about leaving for college. I think our daughter knows it is going to happen to her too. She had a fearful look in her eye. And I reminded her that she is going to be OK. She will, in fact, love it once she gets there and gets through the initial jitters. She laughed and said, “I feel like I am going to sleepaway camp. I guess it’s kind of like that.” I said, “Oh, honey…it’s so much better. You’ll have a brand new dorm room with a great roommate and your own bathroom. You’ll have lots of new friends. You’ll have lots of boys to meet…they don’t have boys at sleepaway camp.” She laughed. She knows I’m right.

She also remembered that I said I would like for her to stay there till Thanksgiving, so she can become a part of the community, and she asked, “What if I want to come home one weekend?” I laughed and said, “Honey, you know I will get you home if you need to come home.”

She can always come home.

I reminded her of something that happened when she was on a group trip hiking across Iceland a few years ago. They were near a volcano, and the guide told them it was due for an eruption. Apparently, she also told them that air traffic is halted for a month when the volcano erupts. (I actually remember that happening 10 or 12 years ago.) Another girl on the trip panicked and ran to their tent (yes, a tent…ugh). My daughter followed her in there, and the friend said, “We could be stuck here for an extra month if it erupts!” And my daughter replied, “Don’t worry. There is no way my mother will let that happen. If that volcano erupts, she will find a way to get us out of here. She knows people.” I laughed out loud when she told me that after she returned home from Iceland. But she wasn’t wrong…I do know people…people who could have “extracted” her from Iceland in no time. And so today, when she was saying she might need to visit home before Thanksgiving, I assured her she can always come home. But if it’s just homesickness…try to stick it out, because she will enjoy college life a lot more if she becomes a part of the community, and you can’t do that if you’re running home all the time. Make college your home.

So with three days left before departure, I feel pretty sure a meltdown is on the horizon. The question is…will it be my meltdown or hers?!?!

College Nesting?

College nesting?

Nineteen years ago, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our daughter. She was due on October 11, so in August and September of that year, I was in full-on “nesting mode.” Anyone who has ever expected a baby knows what I’m talking about…that need to get every detail squared away before the baby arrives. Back then, we read all about it in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, so we weren’t surprised when we found ourselves lining drawers and washing everything in sight.

Fast forward 19 years, and I find myself doing the same thing.

Why am I “nesting” for my soon-to-be college freshman?

Why am I nesting for my soon-to-be college freshman? It had never occurred to me that this could happen, but a couple of days ago, as I packed up some IKEA bags with dorm bedding, lighting, and other items, I realized, “I’m nesting.” Unfortunately, I haven’t ever found a book called What to Expect When You’re Sending Your Child to College, so I don’t have any reference. Sure, I have called my friends who have college kids and asked them about it. They all assure me that what I’m doing is perfectly normal…that it’s a way of dealing with the transition. I just wish I could see it in writing somewhere.

Is the transition going to be easy? No. I am beyond excited for our daughter. She is going to enjoy the full college experience at my alma mater. Sure, there will be days she is stressed out or even homesick, but hopefully, I will be able to talk her through it. Or her friends will distract her. Or she will get busy and forget about homesickness. As for me, I don’t know who will talk me through it. I will miss her like crazy. Will I be able to handle it? Yes, of course. No, I’m not planning to move to be near her college. In fact, I have three big vacations planned for the month following her departure. If that doesn’t help take my mind off it, nothing will.

But that’s why this whole college nesting thing happens…for the parents. Any good parent is likely a little worried about their college bound kid. I’m not worried about her handling the school work. She will figure that out. I know, too, that she will make new friends quickly…especially since she will be living in a dorm. It’s more of a concern about her spinning her wheels trying to get everything else done. I know she can and will do it, but my nesting instinct is making me prepare everything I can for her room. Cold/nausea/pain medications? Check. I don’t want her to have to run out to look for meds if she is feeling poorly. Cleaning supplies/vacuum cleaner? Check. I have no idea how often she and her roommate will clean the bathroom in their dorm room, but I want to make sure the tools are there. Laundry supplies/clothing prep? Check. I have packed a stand-up steamer and laundry supplies, including Static Guard, a wrinkle releaser, an on-the-go spot remover, and a small sewing kit. Basic school supplies? Check. Having a few things in advance won’t hurt. Bins and organizers for the room? Check. They likely won’t be used as planned, but they have them if they want them.

I know she and her roommate will need to go out and get more things after we, the parents, hit the road. It will give them an excuse to get out of the dorm for a little while. Do I think they will end up doubling up on some of the things I have carefully packed and organized for them? Yes, because they won’t even look at a lot of the things I have packed. They won’t even realize they already have rubberbands and paperclips. And that’s OK.

Whether they use the things I have packed or not, I will know I sent her off prepared for most things. She might go out and look for Band-Aids for the blisters on her heels even though I packed them in a medicine box for them. And again, that’s OK. I know those Band-Aids are there for them. That’s why I’m “college nesting,” just like other parents are all over the country right now. Sure, it’s for them, but mostly, it makes me feel better about her departure. By focusing on mundane tasks, I am not focusing on the fact that this child (adult?) I have nurtured and loved for almost 19 years is flying the coop.

She is leaving us and will never live in our house again on a permanent basis. I think that’s the fact I am trying to process while I’m preparing her for the next school year. We are proud parents. We are happy that she is moving into this next phase of life, and we are excited about what it means for us too. But it’s going to be a transition, for sure.

I guess I should get busy packing up some clothes for her today.

College Parent Pages

College parent pages.

Y’all, I have written about Facebook college parent pages before in another piece (you can see it here), but really…I feel like I didn’t do them justice. If you have a child in college, and you follow a college parent page on Facebook, you know what I’m talking about…the insanity. If you follow a parent page and don’t see the insanity, well…you might be the insanity. It’s like when people say “every family has a weird cousin, but if you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.”

Seriously, though, if you see your own post here, please don’t be offended. Different people think differently. These are just a few of the ones my friends and I have pulled from the “interwebs.”

Stay with me here, because I am about to enlighten the parents who have not been subjected to this yet. Oh my! It’s something new every day! I know. I could “unfollow” the parent pages, but every now and then, there is some useful information. Besides, if I unfollowed the pages, what would I have to laugh about with my friends?

I will not name colleges or universities, but I asked some of my friends to send me some of the posts from their parent pages too, and I made a compilation. Hold onto your hat, folks.

  • I just saw this one on a Tiktok a friend (someone I have known since college!) shared with me earlier today: Where can students fill their water bottles? What about washing them? Yes, the parent of an incoming college freshman actually posted that on a parent page. What in the world? The Tiktok was funny, because the lady who made it (user881865674708) totally took parents to task for ridiculous posts like this one. Can your 18-yr-old can figure out where to fill up a water bottle or wash it?!?! If you’re asking a question like this, you might need to keep your student home and teach him/her how to do menial tasks.
  • Here’s one another friend sent me: My daughter wants to join a sorority, but we aren’t sure we can afford it. She will rush, but if we find it too expensive after she pledges, she will drop. No, no, and no! Costs are usually outlined pretty clearly. Where my daughter is going, parents must sign a form saying we know the costs associated with joining. At SEC schools with sorority houses, it’s expensive. If a chapter loses a member, they lose the money they were expecting from that member to help pay the cost of running the chapter and the house! It is unethical and unfair to the chapter…not to mention how unfair it is to your daughters. If Greek life is important to the student, and the cost is prohibitive, maybe they need to go to college somewhere with less expensive sororities…the ones that don’t have houses.
  • I saw this one today: Tuition bills are being posted! I’m from (out of state). It’s an awful amount I have to pay. What the what?!?!?! Did you not know that before you let your kid enroll??? It’s easy to find out the cost! Don’t agree to it and then complain publicly about it…you knew it going in!
  • Here’s a funny one: We are trying to buy tickets to the XXXX football game, but the cost is outrageous! Welcome to the SEC, honey. And if it’s a rival or Homecoming? You can plan to pay. Also, know the difference between Florida/Florida State, Ole Miss (Mississippi)/Mississippi State, etc. Sorry, it’s a pet peeve, since I have been following football my whole life.
  • One a friend sent me, because she is tired of seeing posts like this: I’m driving back from “University” to our hometown of XXXX, and I need a place to stop midway. Can someone tell me what that might be? This one cracks me up. Really? Have you never left your hometown? Never used an atlas or a GPS?!?! It’s not that hard, people! I worry about humanity…
  • Frequent post: My child needs a tutor… Let your child find the tutor, for goodness sake!
  • Here’s one: I’m not sure if our health plan, XXXX, is accepted in [the state where the daughter is attending college]. Is anyone familiar with it? Do you know if it is accepted there? Hmmm…how about you call your health plan company and ask them?!?!
  • And another one from someone whose child goes to an SEC school: I don’t understand why athletes can have housing all four years, but my child cannot? I can’t…I just can’t. Lol!
  • This one is a doozy: My child will be flying to school from out of state. He has never flown by himself before, and I am concerned about him navigating the Atlanta airport. Any advice? OMG. If he can’t navigate an airport, he needs to go to college closer to home. Also, I hope you used a fake name on the post, because he will be mortified if (when) he hears about that crazy post. Here’s how I look at airport navigation: If you can read, you can survive.
  • And while we are talking about airports: My daughter missed her connection at XXX International Airport. Can a parent tell me if there are any hotels located nearby? First, if it’s an international airport that is a hub for an airline (thus, the connection), the answer is probably “yes, there are hotels nearby.” Secondly, a quick Google check will answer that question, and your daughter (if you let her) will even be able to find out if they offer a free shuttle to/from the airport. Lots of airport hotels do.
  • Another example of “let them do it”: I’m looking for recommended clubs/fraternities/organizations for my freshman son. Again, no, no, and no. Let him figure it out! Did you pick all his activities in high school? If so, it’s time to let go, Dad. Let him figure it out.
  • Here’s a favorite: My daughter is having trouble getting dates since she got to college. Any ideas on where she can meet potential suitors? Holy smokes! A mom is literally trying to find her daughter a hookup! No, mom! You are not her matchmaker or her pimp! Let her find her own dates! It might take some time, but most people do get dates if they want them.
  • Here’s a tricky one: What is a reasonable allowance for my freshman child? First of all, we don’t know your income. This is something that might be better to discuss with a close friend who has a child in college. What is reasonable to some people might be outrageous to others. Only you know your financial situation.
  • Also, lots of questions like this: Where can I find my child’s syllabus? Can I see my child’s midterm grades somewhere? How do I know if my child is doing OK his first semester? Could your parents see all that when you went to college? Think about that. If they couldn’t see it, you don’t need to see it either.
  • And this one: Did anyone have a child who attended the XXXX Camp for freshmen before school started? It’s supposed to help freshmen make friends before school starts. If not, how did your child make friends when he/she got there? Are you serious? Mama…let him grow up. He will make friends somehow…probably in his dorm…if you don’t move in with him, because it sounds like you think you need to do that. He will be fine if you leave him alone.
  • This one made me laugh: Where can my child open a bank account? Hmmm…at a bank?
  • How about this? My son has tickets to a concert [an hour away] in November. Does anyone else have a son/daughter who will be going? Maybe my son can ride with them? As my mother would say, “Oh, dear Gussy.” If your child really wants to go to the concert four months away, he will have plenty of time to make friends with similar interests in the months leading up to it. You do not need to arrange his transportation for him, and if you do, well….
  • And this: My daughter is a sophomore and needs a job. Where can she find one? Hmmm…shouldn’t she be looking for the job instead of you, Mom? Are you going to fill out the application for her, too?
  • Ending with some comic relief: My child is staying in the dorm for orientation. Does anyone know what he should bring? A friend sent a picture of this post to me via text. She said the answer should be “condoms.”

I know…I got a little snarky, but sometimes, it’s hard to weed through the insanity to find the posts that are actually meaningful/helpful. If you think I’m the only one thinking this way, think again. Here is another piece from Medium.com. Please, don’t embarrass your child by posting these questions. Let your college student figure things out! Somehow, we figured it all out (in the 1980s) without the internet, and they will figure it out too. Honestly, my parents probably didn’t even know my major until I graduated. Let’s allow these kids to do their thing…grow up…figure it all out!

Preparing for Launch to College

Preparing for launch to college.

Boxes are piling up in the foyer of our house…Amazon, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, Target, Walmart, Zappos, more Amazon…you name it, we have it. Seriously, the foyer is starting to look like a warehouse. And it’s all because we are preparing to send our only daughter off to college to start her freshman year.

She moves in the first week of August. Are we ready? Well, we don’t have everything she is going to need. But I guess we are as emotionally ready as we will ever be. Who knows? We likely won’t know until we drive away from her dorm. I’m sure there will be tears at some point. Will we cry in the dorm room? Will we cry over dinner after we get everything moved in? Will we cry in the car after we leave? Or will it be a delayed reaction? Maybe we will cry after we get home and see her empty room? I have no way of knowing, but I will gladly answer all those questions after the fact.

Freshman move-in day is a day she will remember for the rest of her life. She already knows her roommate, but she will make lots of new friends on the very first day of dorm life…just like I did back in 1985. I have written before about my first college friends. You can see that here.

My friend, Angela, whose daughter is a junior in college (fortunately, at the same college where our daughter is going), tells me she didn’t cry when she left her in the dorm the first time. However, she did cry after she got home, and she occasionally still cries.

This whole “preparing for launch” thing is real. It’s a lot these days. When I went to college as a freshman in 1985, I feel like I took the bare minimum…linens, towels, enough clothes to last me a couple of weeks, some shoes, toiletries, an alarm clock, photos and posters to hang on the bulletin board in the room…and that’s about it. I wasn’t abnormal for the time, I don’t think. But wow, times have changed.

Now, you can look online and find all kinds of dorm decorating ideas. Girls decorate their dorm rooms with lots of stuff: pillows, rugs, lamps, curtains, extra shelving, headboards…all kinds of stuff. Fortunately, my daughter’s roommate’s mom is an interior designer. Yay, me! When I first talked with her on the phone, she told me, “I can do this in my sleep.” Thank you, Lord! It wouldn’t be left up to me! No one wants me to decorate a room. I think there are two types of people: the ones who see surroundings, and the ones who see faces. I am the latter. You could ask me right now what color the walls are in different rooms of my house, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. In fact, I am working in our guest room right now, and even though I have been in that bathroom numerous times over the last few days, I couldn’t tell you what the cabinetry in there looks like. Is it white? Is it black? I’m not sure.

But back to the dorm…

The roommate’s mom and I agree that the girls’ room should not be so stuffed with extra things that it feels claustrophobic. It’s a small dorm room for two girls…two XL twin beds, a desk, two wardrobes, a refrigerator/microwave combo, a vanity area, and a bathroom with a shower. Obviously, we need to outfit it with the basics. They’ll need a shower curtain, a bath mat/rug, linens/bedding, towels, hangers, clothes, and their personal belongings. We have added some bed pillows, headboards, two throws for the beds, a rug for the bedroom, curtains, a couple of lamps, a few wall hangings, laundry bags, under-the-bed shoe storage compartments, a stand-up steamer, a vacuum (for the rug), Clorox toilet wand, and a table to put between the beds for the lamps. We aren’t taking extra shelving. We just want them to be comfortable, and I think they will be.

But for now, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the boxes in the foyer. I just walked into our daughter’s room and told her we need to go through the boxes to see what is “keep” and what is “return.” She just looked at me. I’m sure she feels overwhelmed by the boxes too. Looking at the ever-growing stack of boxes, it seems like a daunting task to open them and make decisions right now.

Last year, I purchased lots of big, blue IKEA moving/storage bags well in advance of this endeavor. A friend told me to purchase them early, because by the time I realized I needed them, they would be out of stock. So they’ve been in a closet just waiting to be used. And tonight, we will carry some of them downstairs to start sorting through the boxes. We will start packing the “keep” items in the moving bags, and we will start putting the returns in my car for me to transport to the store, UPS, or FedEx…wherever they need to go.

I need to get out my checklist and start checking things off. There are checklists all over the internet. I found a helpful one on the Colleges of Distinction website. You can see it here. Some of the items we definitely won’t need, so we will redline those items, but then we will finish collecting all the other items we need and getting them packed. We also have to remember we must be able to fit it all in the car when we go! Sure, we could ship things ahead to the university post office, but honestly, that just sounds like a bigger pain to me, because I’m sure parking would be difficult, and there will be lines to stand in. No thanks. We will simply have to figure this out with the space we have.

Am I dreading the process? In a word…yes. But I’m not dreading it because we will be leaving our daughter behind. I’m dreading it, because we actually have to get all the stuff there and into the room. Even though we are trying to take a somewhat minimalist approach, we will have lots of “stuff.” Once the stuff is in the room and put away, I’m sure I will dread the actual departure without our girl.

Preparing for launch to college is no joke.

Sunglasses at Night

Sunglasses at Night.

Last week, my husband and I were on vacation in the Bahamas, and when we weren’t snorkeling, we were hanging on the beach. No one loves 80s music more than he does, so it was playing the whole time we were on the beach. One afternoon, Sunglasses at Night came on, and I was transported in time…

The year was 1985. I was a wide-eyed, naïve college freshman. It was a good kind of naïvete. I thought I could do anything. I thought I was well-equipped. I was making new friends left and right at my new college and in my new sorority. It was a good time. And to add to the good time, my whole pledge class had a retreat to Six Flags Over Georgia. But wait…there’s more! If you know anything about 1985, you know Corey Hart was still red hot after his hit single, Sunglasses at Night was released in 1984. The album it was on, First Offense, went platinum in the US and quadruple platinum in Canada (Hart is Canadian).

Soon after we learned we were going to Six Flags, someone in our pledge class discovered Corey Hart would be performing there on the day we were there! MTV was alive and well in 1985…back when it actually played music videos…and we knew Corey Hart was easy on the eyes.

Early one September morning, we all boarded a bus at about 5am and sang along to the Violent Femmes on the way to the outskirts of Atlanta. I was well-versed with Six Flags, because I loved rollercoasters, and I had been riding the coasters at that particular theme park my whole life…starting with the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the world’s fastest wooden coaster, when I was nine years old. To read about my first rollercoaster experience, click here.

For two hours, we sang the Violent Femmes Blister in the Sun…”when I’m-a walkin’, I strut my stuff, and I’m all strung out…” all the way to Six Flags. I’m sure we sang other things and played trivia games on the bus, but the main thing I remember about the ride? The Violent Femmes.

When we arrived at Six Flags, somehow we divided into smaller groups. We were all pretty new to each other, so I’m not quite sure how the groups formed, but somehow, everyone ended up in a group of new friends. For the entire day, we rode rollercoasters, took a break by riding a boat through the Tales of the Okefenokee ride (later renamed/redesigned as Monster Plantation and now, Monster Mansion), ate lots of junk food, and just laughed and talked…getting to know each other better. It was a memorable day.

I think we were scheduled to board the bus at 8pm, but we had all learned Hart would start playing his concert at 7pm. Clearly, we wouldn’t get to be there for the whole thing, but we could be there for part of it. A little before 7pm, we all met up near the back stage of the park. Fortunately, it was near the parking lot, so we would be able to listen right up till time to board the bus.

Also, we were lucky he started playing on time, so we were able to hear a lot. By this time, he had released another album, titled Boy in the Box, so he had new music he wanted to share. I vividly remember he played Never Surrender, and every teenage girl in the crowd swooned. He played a few other songs from the new album, and we were afraid we would have to leave and miss Sunglasses at Night, but just in time, we heard the familiar opening notes. We were able to stay for the whole song before we ran to the bus, all laughing and talking about Corey Hart. We had bonded over rollercoasters and Corey Hart…and we all remember it to this day.

So yes, for a few minutes on the beach in the Bahamas last week, I was a naïve 18-year-old college freshman again. I told my husband about the Six Flags concert experience, and we both laughed. We then listened to Never Surrender, just so I could reminisce a little more.

Fortunately, I’m no longer so naïve…or maybe that’s not a good thing? There is something refreshing about being unjaded and ignorant about the real world. But there’s something soothing about having the knowledge one can only acquire over the course of 50+ years.

It’s nice to know we can be transported by music for a few minutes, though. And if you’re wondering, I was wearing my Rayban Wayfarers while I listened to those tunes on the beach…taking me back, not only to that day at Six Flags, but also to my memories of seeing Risky Business in the movie theater for the first time.

Great memories!

Reminds Me of My Mother

Reminds me of my mother.

I’m on vacation. When our daughter told us she was going to Nantucket for a few days in July, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s go somewhere!” We promptly booked a getaway to the Bahamas.

And here we are. We woke up at 3:45 this morning to make our way to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to start a rare trip without our daughter. The last time we vacationed without her, she was hiking her way across Iceland with a teenage tour group. That time, we traveled to Miami for a few days.

We arrived on the island at about noon today. Because we are staying in a villa, we went straight to the grocery store to get the necessities and some snacks. And then…because it seemed like we had been awake forever, we took a quick nap before going for a three-mile walk along the beach and stopping for dinner at a beachside restaurant along the way. It was a great afternoon.

But that’s not what reminded me of my mother.

After we returned to the villa, my husband took a shower in one bathroom while I took one in the other bathroom. I think I might do this in the wrong order, but I always remove my makeup before getting in the shower. And when I get out, I repeat the makeup remover process again.

I don’t use some fancy makeup remover. All my adult life, I have used Pond’s Cold Cream to remove my makeup. I have tried lots of the fancier, more expensive products over the years, but I have never found anything that removes makeup more easily for me than Pond’s.

When I’m home, I don’t notice the scent of Pond’s Cold Cream, but tonight, for some reason, in a villa in the Bahamas, I noticed the scent. And it smelled like my mother. Where do you think I got the idea to use Cold Cream to remove makeup? Yep…from my mother. I remember, as a little girl, watching her slather cold cream on her face and thinking it was so funny to see her with her face caked in it. She would slowly wipe the cold cream from her face to reveal a makeup free look. And the scent of cold cream often lingered on her face.

Often, I will reapply a little cold cream and wipe down my face one more time before bed, just because it moisturizes my skin and smells clean to me. Tonight was one of those nights. I am sitting in bed listening to the talk show my husband has on his computer. I’m wearing my green and white striped pajamas from my favorite hotel. They feel crisp and clean, and my face feels smooth and clean…and smells like my mother. It’s a good memory for me.

If mother were still alive, she would laugh at the fact that the scent of Pond’s Cold Cream makes me think of her. But I like to think she would be flattered too. She would think it is sweet that I have childhood memories of watching her slathering her face with cold cream.

I’m not sure why being in a different place brought out the scent, but I’m glad it did. I like thinking of my mother. And now I will pay more attention to the scent every time I use Pond’s Cold Cream.

It reminds me of my mother…

My College Advice to My Daughter

My college advice to my daughter.

It has been a long time since I was in college. In fact, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree 33 years ago…hard to believe! It’s especially hard to believe, because I have so many great memories from college, and when I see friends from college, we fall right in step…as if we have been hanging out together every day for the past 33 years. But I remember…I remember college. And because of that, I have some advice for my daughter, who is leaving for college in five weeks. Yes! Five weeks! My “wisdom” might not be wise…I’m the first to admit that, but I can only base my advice on my own experiences or things I witnessed in college. Here we go:

  • Make your college/university your home. Wait at least six weeks before going home. You might be homesick, but you want to become a part of your college/university community. That won’t happen if you’re running home every weekend. We are encouraging our daughter to stay at her university (450 miles away) until Thanksgiving week. Sure, we will attend some football games and see her then, but she needs to stay there. As long as she has one foot in her hometown, she’ll never become a part of the school community.
  • Butt in seat. First and foremost, go to class. If your butt is in the seat in classes, you are more likely to have success. You can’t succeed if you don’t go to class. It has been proven time and time again. I know I was most successful when I never missed classes.
  • Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. This is something my husband shared with our daughter recently, and wow…it’s wise. Whether it’s a friend or a love interest, no matter what, do not let your happiness be dependent on another person. You need to make yourself happy. It’s a difficult lesson, but your happiness is your own responsibility. I have told friends and family for years, “You can’t make someone love you.” But you can create your own happiness.
  • Make as many friends as you possibly can. Become friends with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, different geographic areas, and different ethnicities. College is the perfect time to make lifelong friendships. And it’s also important to make at least one friend in each class you take; you never know when y’all will need each other.
  • Attend sporting events, even if they don’t sound interesting at the time. I always went to football games in college, but I didn’t always go to other sporting events. In my junior year, I realized how much fun basketball games and baseball games were at my university. And track meets too! All those sporting events made for some fun memories, and they were great opportunities to make new friends!
  • Keep a planner. Keeping a planner is the easiest way to manage your time. This was something our school taught students starting in third grade. Each year, they learned more organizational skills. Because of all the newfound freedom, time management can be a big problem in college. It’s crucial that students find a way to keep time from getting away from them.
  • Get to know your teachers. I’ve told this story a million times: when I was a second semester freshman in college, I took a math class that was tough for me. I got to know my teacher and met with him two or three times a week to make it through the class. Going into the final, I had a high B or low A, but then I failed the final. The next day, I went to meet with my teacher to find out my grade, and after he told me what I had made on the final, he asked what grade I thought I deserved. I turned it to him and asked the same thing. That’s when he said, in broken English, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” I was grateful. And this is a perfect example of how a teacher who knows you have worked hard might give you the benefit of the doubt.
  • Get involved. Find activities you love and try new things. Participate in some leadership opportunities. Enjoy some outdoor activities. Learn a new sport! It will enrich your college experience and your life.
  • Exercise. Always get plenty of exercise for your physical health and for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the hormones that relieve stress and create a feeling of well-being. Work out regularly…whether it’s walking, running, playing tennis, rowing, hiking, racquetball…just exercise.
  • Don’t burn bridges. This is crucial life advice. I am a forgiver, so I know the importance of forgiveness. Why do I forgive? Because it’s easier than carrying the burden of a grudge or anger. Plus, it just feels better. My daughter has heard me say it her whole life…don’t burn bridges. You never know when a friendship can be mended, but it will never be mended if you burn the bridge behind you.
  • Do what you need to do so you can do what you want to do. Take care of business…or as I always say to my daughter, “TCB.” When I was in college, I saw lots of people having “too much” fun. Trust me, I liked to have as much fun as the next person, but I knew I had to make my grades to be able to stay there to have the fun. And I did. But I knew people who didn’t, and they failed out of college. Take care of business.
  • Have a budget (or at least be aware of your spending). This is a life skill. Know how much you can/can’t spend on different things. If you know you have $100 to spend on food but spend $120, you’ll need to take that $20 from another part of your budget. Truly…life lessons.
  • Keep the laundry under control. Whether you do your own laundry, have a service, or pay a friend to do it, keep it under control. You don’t want to run out of clean clothes. Make sure it gets done one way or another.
  • Change your sheets once a week. Just do it.
  • No friend left behind. This one is especially important for girls. Going out with friends? Do not let one friend linger alone somewhere (a bar, a party, anywhere) after everyone else leaves. And don’t let your friend leave with someone she doesn’t know. Be a good friend.
  • Be careful where you park. Girls generally know this, but it’s OK to remind them. I also tell my daughter not to use the parking deck alone. If she drives into the parking deck, and it appears there are no other people there, call a friend to meet you…safety in numbers.
  • If you think you need to call 911, you probably do. Dorm living means our kids might witness or have medical situations they have never encountered before…or never had to deal with on their own before: seizures, choking, injuries, illness, etc. It is important that they understand how crucial it is to get medical help. If you think you might need to call 911, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret calling, but you might regret not calling. On a side note, make sure they know not to mix alcohol and acetaminophen/Tylenol, as it can cause liver toxicity. Don’t even take Tylenol the day after drinking. If they’re hungover, the best thing to do is hydrate. Make sure they have plenty of Drip Drop or Liquid IV on hand in their room. You can purchase Drip Drop in your local Walgreen’s, or you can order it here. You can order Liquid IV here. Or you can order from Amazon.
  • Never leave your drink unattended. Why? Because people will drug your drink. They can even do it when you’re holding the drink; and bartenders have been known to do it when preparing drinks. Always watch your drink being prepared. Or better yet, just order beer. But always keep it with you, and don’t make it easily accessible to anyone.
  • Don’t abandon your friends for a boyfriend/girlfriend. I know falling in love is fun. I know people enjoy spending time with their significant others. But if you abandon your friends for a boy/girl, you will regret it, without a doubt. How do I know? Because I have seen it happen time and time again. You need friends. And college is when you want to make lifelong friends. Don’t let having a significant other mess that up for you.
  • Take some classes that will broaden your horizons. When I was in college, I took an art history class. I was majoring in journalism. I didn’t need art history. However, I learned a lot about 19th century art, and that knowledge has been useful for me in lots of conversations in different settings over the years since. I even surprise myself sometimes with my knowledge of 19th century art!
  • Call your parents! We are part of your support system. We always have your best interest at heart. You’re our favorite.

I know I’m leaving out some things, so this piece will likely be fluid and ever-growing. Let’s equip our college students with knowledge and wisdom they need…and send up lots of prayers.

The Food Tour…er, Vacation

The food your…er, vacation.

I don’t know what it is about me, but the older I get, the more food-centric my vacations become.

We just returned home from a week-long trip to Southern California. Starting a month before we went, I was making phone calls to make sure we secured reservations at our favorite restaurants. It’s a familiar refrain. We travel to SoCal a few times a year, and there are several “must do” restaurants, so I have it all down to a science…starting 30 days in advance.

This trip we managed to hit all our favorites and even added a new favorite or two. We know which restaurant we like for Asian fusion. We know which restaurant we prefer for steak. We know which one we prefer for seafood. We know which one we like for comfort food. We know where our favorite desserts are. And now we have a new “boujie” favorite.

Interestingly, we are pretty low-maintenance most of the time. In “real life,” I’m happy to have a simple salad or sandwich most days. I meet friends for lunch a couple of times a week, but we don’t always do the “boujie” lunch…occasionally, but certainly not always. In fact, tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend at Arthur’s, a restaurant on the bottom floor of our local Belk store. It is a locally-owned restaurant that has been open for 40 years, and everyone I know who grew up in Charlotte has a story about Arthur’s to tell from their high school days. It’s not fancy. It’s certainly not boujie, but it’s good comfort food. Personally, I love their French fries. My friend, Jennifer, who grew up here, loves their Turkey Grinder. I have to admit it’s pretty good. Their burgers are fantastic, and I have another friend, a native Charlottean, who swears by their cheesesteak sandwich.

I even go on vacations to more laid-back places (small islands in the Bahamas or beach towns along the Gulf of Mexico) where I know the local dives serve the best food.

But in SoCal? It’s all about the food…and the people-watching…because really, who doesn’t love to see a celebrity or two? I will admit, I am a stargazer. I’m not a rabid fan. In fact, I have seen lots of celebrities and even met lots of them, but I rarely “fangirl.” I have gone a little “fangirl” a couple of times, but seriously…only a couple. My daughter loves that I can spot a celeb; it takes a special eye. I just happen to be a face person. Lots of people in the world are “surroundings” people, but I’m not one of them. You might remember what color the walls are in a room, but I’m going to remember the faces of the people I see there. And that’s why I’m a good star-spotter…because I look at faces. In fact, on this most recent trip, I spotted a celeb from a favorite teen movie from the 1980s, a very famous rapper, an Academy Award winner, and a recently reunited celebrity couple. And every time, I had to point them out to my daughter and her friend. They wouldn’t have even seen them if I hadn’t made them aware.

But back to the food. We had reservations every night of our stay. A couple of nights I skipped out so the girls (they’re 18) didn’t have to be accompanied by a parent while they dined. I remember 18, and I know how important it is to feel independent. One night I had a migraine anyway. But there were certain restaurants I was not going to miss. One favorite is on the beach in Malibu…incredible food and exciting atmosphere. Another favorite is in the hotel where we stay…nice people in a beautiful setting, and the best dessert in town. We added a new “boujie” lunch option this time after seeing it on a friend’s Instagram. My daughter and her friend had “order envy” when my lunch arrived. They ordered burgers but I ordered “Risotto disguised as a pizza.” And it was fantastic. We have reasons beyond food for dining at certain restaurants, but even with good atmosphere, the food has to be acceptable. Also, because I have gallbladder issues (having surgery for that on July 14…it has been delayed several times), I rarely eat red meat. I try to eat fish and chicken for protein, so I love places that have great fish and chicken dishes. And Southern California has lots of great options.

We flew home late Tuesday night…fat and happy. I probably shouldn’t eat anything for two weeks. I likely need to go running every day for two weeks…or more. And I have taken it easy on the eating. I will say this: it was worth it. We simply can’t get the same kind of food in North Carolina. We live in a lovely city in a great state, but “nothing comes close to the Golden Coast” where food is concerned.

So yes, we enjoyed our vacation…also known as “the food tour.”

Real Life Can Be Stressful

Real life can be stressful. The transition from high school to college can be tricky.

I haven’t posted anything since May 9. Why? Because my brain has been scrambled…that’s why.

If you have never had a child graduate from high school, but you have kids who eventually will graduate, hold onto your hat. What I thought should not be stressful or a big deal of any kind has turned my world upside down.

OK, maybe that’s being extreme. But during the weeks leading up to our daughter’s high school graduation on May 21, there were so many events and activities. I don’t consider myself low energy, but man! They wore me out! Parent meetings, Baccalaureate, Senior Supper, sports awards…and so much more! And those are just the things parents attended…the seniors did all that and more! I know the school was trying to cram lots of “memories” into a few weeks, but I’m not kidding when I say it was overwhelming. Back in 1985, when I graduated from a public high school, we had graduation rehearsal and graduation. I don’t remember any extra things we had to do, and I was cool with that, because honestly…graduating from high school is something we are supposed to do.

Soon after our daughter’s graduation at the end of May, she and I flew down to attend her college orientation. The event itself wasn’t stressful, but it was a lot of information at one time. Y’all know I didn’t even know want to go. I don’t think parents should have to go to orientation. In this case, nothing ever said it was mandatory, but as I talked to other parents leading up to it, I was afraid my daughter would look like an orphan if I didn’t go with her. So I went. But again, I don’t think there should even be sessions for parents. Back in the 1980s, my parents didn’t go. I drove myself there without GPS or a cellphone, and everything was just fine. I think they started doing parent sessions to give the parents something to do. You know, in 2022, we can’t just let our kids do things on their own. {Insert eye roll here.} So that one day I spent in the parent session is one day of my life I will never get back. Nope, I didn’t attend the second day. The second day, I just dropped her off with her roommate for the sessions, and I went back to the hotel for a leisurely cup of coffee…just as it should be.

But things went awry in our household after that. It actually started at orientation. Without getting into too much detail, I will say it has been a tough couple of weeks emotionally. Graduation actually hits these kids harder than we realize. Internally, they know they are feeling something stressful, but they don’t know why! Here’s why: they are leaving their family and friends to go to college soon. Everything they have ever known is about to change, and I don’t care how “ready” your kid is, it’s a scary time for them. I honestly believe it’s why we see so many friendships change in the summer after graduation. We see romances end. And seriously…I have seen my daughter trying to disconnect from me. It’s OK. I knew it would happen. I know she will need to disconnect emotionally for the college transition. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but I know it’s part of the process. She is moving 450 miles away to experience a new life. She won’t be coming back to Charlotte on the regular. It doesn’t make it any less sad, though. But that’s what stress does…we react to it in weird ways…and our daughter has certainly reacted. Wow.

We were fortunate to be able to slip away last week for some mother/daughter time at our favorite hotel in California. No, we didn’t just stay in the hotel the whole time, but frankly, I would have been OK with that. It’s a place of great comfort for me. It’s a place we feel at home. It’s a place we see friends. There is a reason it’s our favorite. We were able to relax, shop, eat great food, and relax some more in a beautiful environment. Did it help? Yes, it did. It helped us feel better, but it also forced us to have a conversation about the pressure we are feeling. She and I had a few heart-to-heart conversations. I told her everything she is feeling is normal. It’s OK to feel stress. It’s OK to feel pressure. It’s even OK to feel the need to disconnect. But it’s also important to try to handle things respectfully and compassionately. She is a sweet girl who is simply experiencing something new. And I’m a mom experiencing something new. As we barrel toward becoming empty-nesters, I’m feeling weird emotions too. I’ll likely sleep with one of her dirty sweatshirts after she leaves, just so I can have her scent nearby.

So, she moves into her dorm in six weeks. Of those six weeks, we will be on vacation again for two of them. I will have gallbladder surgery in July (ugh), so that will be two weeks of nothing. And then, we will move her in. Of course, I won’t be able to carry anything heavy for six weeks after the surgery, so it will be up to my husband to do all the heavy lifting. I’m not sure he knows that yet. We will move her in, and when we drive away, I feel sure I will shed a tear or a thousand. They will be sad tears for me, but they will be happy tears for her, because I know college is going to be a great experience.

And once she gets all moved in and starts classes, there will be more stress. College life is an adjustment, but she will figure it all out.

College is a good way to learn to deal with the stress of life, because real life can be stressful.