First College Birthday

First college birthday.

If you’ve ever read me, you know our daughter is a college freshman. She experienced her first college birthday yesterday, when she turned 19. Let’s hope it didn’t set a precedent for college birthdays.

She called me at 7:00 yesterday morning, the morning of her birthday, saying, “I woke up a little while ago and can’t go back to sleep.” She is more of a night owl than an early bird, and 7am is way too early for her to just “be awake.” I knew something was wrong. Because I knew she had been coughing a sniffling a little for a couple of days, I said, “Go get the thermometer out of your cabinet. I feel pretty sure you are running a fever.” Moms know these things. She checked her temperature, and sure enough, I was right…she had a fever of 100.9…a legit fever. I knew she had a COVID test in her supplies too, because I had purchased them along with $700 of other medical supplies before moving her into her dorm, so I said, “Take the test real quick, just to rule it out.” As soon as she had the negative result, I said, “Take some Tylenol and go back to bed.”

Seriously, it’s hard for a college student to be sick in a dorm instead of their own bed at home…especially a freshman, but not gonna lie…it’s hard for the moms too. I wanted to jump in the car or on a plane and get there as quickly as I could. I asked, “You need a mommy hug! Do you want me to come down and get us a hotel room for a few days? I can take care of you!” I explained that since my husband was out of town, it would have to be the next day, because I would need to board the dogs and get things in order, but I could do it. She said, “Absolutely not. I will be fine. I’ll figure it out, Mom.” I guess I did something right as a parent…somewhere, somehow, I taught her to “figure it out.”

She called me a few hours later and said she was feeling better and had gone to her 10:00 class. I knew it was the Tylenol in her system making her feel better, so I explained to her that she was likely to “hit a wall” soon. It was time for the meds to wear off, so I told her what else to take at that point.

It was sad. She had big plans for her birthday. She managed to drag herself to the Big/Little Reveal at her sorority house that evening, but she didn’t feel like going out to celebrate. Fortunately, she has made some great friends since she arrived on campus two months ago, and they went out and brought her a cookie cake to celebrate her birthday. They had all planned to go out to dinner, but that birthday dinner was postponed. And my daughter texted me, declaring her birthday a “do over.”

I’ve had “do over” birthdays, so I get it, and seriously, shouldn’t we all have the right to declare our birthday a do over?!? I think her “do over” has been rescheduled for this coming Saturday night. In reality, that will probably work better for her and all her friends, since it’s a weekend. They won’t have to worry about staying out late, because they don’t have class the next morning.

But last night, she called me after surviving her sick-away-from-home birthday and said, “I’m going to watch a movie and go to bed. What should I take?” I told her to take some NyQuil, and she took it while we were on the phone. Laughing between coughs and sniffles, she said, “I never thought I’d be taking a shot of NyQuil on my birthday.” After taking it, she settled in to watch Sense and Sensibility, a movie I have been trying to get her to watch, because it is one of my favorites of all time. Emma Thompson adapted the screenplay from the Jane Austen novel, and she did a fabulous job…plus, she’s the star. It’s an incredible film. My daughter, I think, is very much like the Marianne character. I want her to watch it to see the similarities and how Marianne changes in the story. I knew she would fall asleep before the first scene was over, because she had taken the NyQuil, but at least she was willing to try to watch it. Maybe I can get her to sit down and watch it tonight without NyQuil. ***You can rent or purchase Sense and Sensibility (the one from 1996) at Amazon Prime here.***

I’m just glad our favorite girl seems to be on the road to recovery. Maybe the illness kept her from getting into some kind of trouble or accident on her birthday? I like to try to find “sliding doors” (a reference to a movie called Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and you can also rent this on Amazon Prime here) logic in things, meaning little things that happen to change the timing on things can change the course of life. She’ll celebrate her birthday with friends this weekend, and when I get to town in about ten days, I’ll take her out to dinner with some of her friends…or not, if she’d rather just the two of us hang out.

I think it’s safe to say she will remember her first college birthday…the one that included taking a shot…of NyQuil. She was sick on her fourth birthday too…strep throat…and it made a lasting impression. I took her to a Disney on Ice Show, even though she had strep, because we weren’t going to be around anyone…and she threw up all over herself while we were there. She still talks about it. That one was a “do over” too.

Making memories…somehow those “not so great” birthdays make an impression.

Writing My Way Through Tough Times

Writing my way through tough times.

If we live long enough, we all experience heartache at some time or another. It might be in the form of a breakup, or it might be in the loss of a loved one. I experienced a few breakups as I grew up, just like most everyone else, but my first big, real heartache was when my daddy was diagnosed with and eventually died of pancreatic cancer in 2006.

He was officially diagnosed in February of that year, and he died on October 2 of the same year. Today is the 16th anniversary of his death…a tough day for me, and a reminder of the heartache I managed to survive. I suffered. It was the most painful thing I had ever experienced…losing my daddy. I was the mother of a toddler, but I was afraid I was losing my mind. I made lots of plans, because I thought I needed to stay busy. I ran myself ragged. But I learned.

When my mother fell ill 11 years later, my friend, Angela, who has also lost her father, said, “Get ready. It’s going to be tough when you lose her.” I vividly remember turning to her, saying, “It’s going to be tough, for sure, but I feel like I learned something when Daddy died. I feel like I developed some coping skills.” And after Mother passed, I learned I had, in fact, developed some coping skills. I had learned not to run from it. I had learned from my experience with Daddy’s death that I needed to just drop out of the world for a little while and process it. So that’s what I did after Mother died. I have written about it before. I literally gave myself permission to recover quietly and cancelled all plans and went to bed for a month. Don’t get me wrong. I was functional. But I didn’t feel like being social, so I wasn’t. I did what I needed to do for our daughter, but for the most part, I stayed home. And after a month, I “pulled up my bootstraps” and rejoined the living.

For Christmas that year, I had received a gift from a friend. It was a book called My Future Listography: All I Hope to do in Lists. When I received the gift, I thought it was cool, but when Mother died five days after Christmas, the book took on more meaning. It’s a journal, of sorts, and it’s part of a series of Listography books. Each one contains lists to fill in, and this one is full of lists about the future. Examples of some of the lists: What countries do you want to visit? What films do you want to see? What fictional characters would you like to hang out with? But after Mother died, the book became good therapy for me. Sounds crazy, but it gave me things to think about in the future. It made me see past the state of gloom I was in and look to the future. It really helped me move through the grief. It helped me realize that the act of putting my thoughts out there could help me heal. To order My Future Listography, click here.

And because of that, I started my blog. Writing things down…or typing them, in the case of the blog…was therapeutic! My Future Listography had brought me through the initial trauma of losing my mother, and writing the blog helpted me continue to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Since losing my Mother on December 30, 2017, I have given copies of My Future Listography to lots of friends when they have been going through tough times…breakups, death of a loved one, or even new empty-nesters who are having a hard time. Sometimes, they look at me like it’s a weird gift, and maybe it is…but several times, people have called me later to tell me how much it helped them keep putting one foot in front of the other…keep looking toward the future. We know time helps with heartache, but knowing there is life ahead of the heartache can help too. When someone is in the middle of grief or heartache, they aren’t necessarily thinking about the good things ahead, but this journal can help them see what the future might look like.

I have a friend who went through a terrible breakup two years ago, and I gave her a copy after the relationship ended. There’s something about a relationship ending that can seem particularly dismal. It can feel like everything you believed about someone was wrong…a lie. Later, we realize that’s not always the case; sometimes, there are just extenuating circumstances that cause relationships to end. And as with my friend, sometimes we need to be reminded that there is a bright future ahead. She called me months after the breakup and told me the journal of lists had helped her. Now, I keep a few handy to give as gifts, because you never know when someone you love is going to experience something bad.

Sometimes, we just need a reminder that better things lie ahead.

The Door is Always Open

The door is always open.

It’s Saturday. It’s a college football weekend, and one of my daughter’s friends just came in for a visit. It’s a friend who went to a different high school here in Charlotte, but she’s also a friend Milly had as a toddler, so we’ve known her for a long time. I saw on the BeReal app last night that she was home, when I saw a picture of her in her living room with her parents. *If you’re not familiar with BeReal, it’s an app through which you take a picture showing what you’re doing when it sends you a notification at the same time it sends all your friends a notification. Not only does it take your picture, but it takes a picture of what’s in front of you, too. Kind of cool.*

After seeing her BeReal post, I texted her, “Omg! You’re in Charlotte?!?” She texted back, “Yes! I’ll come see you tomorrow!” And from there we made plans for her to come over between 3:30 and 4:00 this afternoon. I was excited. I haven’t seen her in a couple of months…since before all the new college freshmen (like my daughter) left for college. At about 3:30 today, I stuck a small brie wheel in the oven and put together a charcuterie board…one of my favorite things to do. Plus, everyone can find something to eat on a charcuterie board, right? At 3:45, the doorbell rang, and I literally ran to the door to greet her with a big hug. Two months is a long time when you’re used to seeing someone on a regular basis. I then went into the kitchen and took the charcuterie board to the table. The brie was ready to come out of the oven, so I took it out and drizzled creamy caramel sauce over it and around it, adding spiced pecans around the edges before taking it to the table.

And then we talked…and laughed…and talked and laughed some more.

I remember when I was in high school, and my parents would tell me how much older people (parents) love when younger people (their kids’ friends) make an effort to spend time with them. I literally remember them telling me that. And now I’m living it. I was so flattered that this young lady took some time out of her weekend to come laugh with me. We have known her most of her life, and I absolutely adore her, so it was great to catch up with her. She got me up to speed on her freshman year, and I was thrilled to hear she is doing great.

We even Facetimed my daughter who is visiting my friend, Angela, in Montgomery today. Her college is playing an away game, and according to my daughter, lots of people left town, so she went to see Angela. Just like I was thrilled to have the friend visit, Angela was thrilled to have my daughter come in. We all Facetimed together, laughing and taking screenshots during our conversation. I could see the happiness on Angela’s face, and she could see the happiness on mine! I remember even when I was in my forties, my mother was always so happy anytime I visited and Angela came over. Laughter filled the house, and Mother always said it felt like we were in college again. She loved it. Today, I felt like I had one of “my kids” at home again. It warmed my heart to have her here, if only for a little while…truly made my weekend.

So if you have never told your kids how much parents enjoy visits from their kids’ friends, tell them now. I hope more of our daughter’s friends will visit when they are in town, and I’m really looking forward to the Thanksgiving break and the big holiday break, when we can hopefully have groups of them over, and laughter will fill our house again. I hope they’ll visit.

The sweet young lady who visited today has no idea just how happy that visit made me. Her mother and I are friends, so I will text her and tell her how much I enjoyed the visit…and how flattered I am.

Looking forward to more visits from young friends to liven up our house.

The door is always open.

Teen Wardrobe Controversy

Teen wardrobe controversy.

Recently, one of my favorite psychologists, Lisa Damour, the author of Untangled (see the book on Amazon here), posted something on Facebook about how to address your preteen/teen daughter’s wardrobe choices. And wow! It stirred up some controversy on her Facebook page! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because everything seems to stir up controversy these days. Below is what she posted. And you can listen to the relevant podcast here.

Courtesy of Lisa Damour’s Facebook page

If you have ever read anything I have written, you know I am the mother of a teenage daughter. She’s 18 now…almost 19…and a month into her freshman year of college. She has always been a “real” teenager. She likes to have fun. She likes to spend time with friends. She likes to laugh. She likes to go to parties. Somehow, between all the fun, she manages to do the things she is supposed to do too. Thank the Lord.

She’s the perfect daughter for me, but does that mean she’s perfect? No. I’m not the perfect mother or a perfect person, either. But somehow, we survived the middle and high school years. Does that mean we never disagree? Nope. We disagree. When she was younger, we even disagreed occasionally about wardrobe choices. And just like Lisa Damour, I tried to find a way to say things nicely. Was I always successful? No. Sometimes, I probably said things like, “You look like a hoochie mama.” I know. Not kind words, but they got the point across, and chances are, they probably started a “discussion.”

Even when she was four years old, she had a mind of her own. This is not a story of which I am proud, but it happened. One Sunday morning, as we were getting ready to go to church, I said to our daughter, “Pick out which dress you want to wear.” She argued, “I don’t want to wear a dress. Everyone else doesn’t wear dresses to church.” You know what I said next. “Well, I’m not everyone else’s mother, and we wear dresses to church. Now, go into your closet and pick which one you want to wear.” Her dresses were beautifully organized (back then) and hanging in an orderly fashion in her closet. I followed her into the closet, where she promptly and defiantly touched each dress with the tips of her fingers, while saying some things I won’t repeat. ***Here is where I need to tell you my husband had a brain tumor at the time and because of it, lacked judgment on when and where to say things. He had no filter.*** I’m not kidding. I was horrified (I knew where she had heard it), but I also found myself about to laugh. I made a quick decision to ignore the obvious ploy for attention. I turned my back for a moment before turning around and asking her, “Did you pick a dress?” She did, and I never mentioned the offensive language to her, because I didn’t want it to get any attention. I did, however, tell her preschool teacher (at our church!) the next morning when I dropped her off…gave her a heads up that my daughter, my sweet little 4-yr-old daughter, might teach her classmates some new words. Lord, help us.

We didn’t have much wardrobe controversy for several years after that. I had given up on ruffles and bows long before…when she, at 1 1/2 or 2, declared they were “for babies.” I did manage to get her to wear a hair bow for picture day in Transitional Kindergarten, but only because I told her she could take it out immediately after pictures, which she did. In third grade, on picture day, she didn’t want to look prissy. That was a bit of a battle. We finally agreed, much to my dismay, on a blue t-shirt with a sequined pocket. Sadly, it’s the picture that appeared in the school lunchroom on her checkout page every single day when she made a purchase…all the way through senior year…that damned blue shirt with the sequined pocket.

When she got to middle school, I’m sure I had to veto some ensembles, but not likely because they were skimpy…just not appropriate for the occasion, whatever it might have been.

Then along came high school. She got taller, and the clothes got smaller.

The shorts got shorter and tighter. The shirts got tighter and shorter. The heels got higher. It happens. Frankly, I probably would have been more worried about her if it hadn’t happened. And yes, there were times I had to stop her at the door and say, “You’re not wearing that.”

Some people think we shouldn’t expect our girls to be responsible for what other people think of how they dress. I get it, but I’m not one of those people. I think there is a time and place for everything.

When our daughter was in high school, if she wanted to wear short shorts and a crop top or tube top, that was fine…as long as she is just hanging out with her friends. She didn’t need to walk into better retail establishments dressed like that. She didn’t need to go out to dinner dressed like that. She didn’t need to meet parents of dates dressed like that. It’s simply not appropriate, and I don’t think it gives off the impression she wants to give in those situations.

She’s in college now, so I only get pictures after the fact. I have no say-so. I have no opportunity to nix an outfit choice, but so far, I’ve been pleased with the photos she has sent me. Generally speaking, she knows what is appropriate and what is not.

Come on. Let’s face it. What we wear does say something about us. Every time I get dressed to go somewhere, I am very aware of what I look like. Sometimes, I am dressed like a casual mom, and I know it. Sounds silly, but jeans and a gingham shirt are not going to a fine dining establishment. A comfy, cotton dress? That’s not going either. Sneakers? Nope. I can wear all of those to the grocery store, a sporting event, or for running erands, but if I’m going to a fine dining establishment, I want to dress like I know what I’m doing.

Even when I go to the doctor, I tend to try to dress up a little. It’s about respect, right? I don’t have to be a beauty queen, but don’t we all know people get treated with a little more respect when we look like we have made some effort to look our best? I can’t speak for everyone, but if I look good, I feel good. It’s just the way I roll. If I’m dressed sloppily, I tend to feel sloppy.

So yes, I have been known to stop my daughter from walking out the door dressed in certain ways…when she was younger. Don’t get me wrong…I’m pretty easy going. But if her date’s parents are coming over or picking her up for dinner, she needs to look like she wants their respect. I think this is what school dress codes are all about…teaching kids how to dress appropriately, but most schools don’t seem to care anymore. Later, when our daughter goes for a job interview, she needs to look like she has some self respect.

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you?!?

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you? That’s my message to her. Fortunately, this is not a conversation we have had much in the past couple of years…mostly when she was a young teen.

So yes, I agreed with Lisa Damour’s post. Not everyone did, and that’s OK. We all have our own opinions, and that’s what makes the world go ’round.

I’m Such a Smart Empty-Nester

I’m such a smart empty-nester!

Want me to tell you how much I know about empty nesting? Here’s how smart I am: I know absolutely nothing…nada…diddly. But the fact that I realize I know nothing about it makes me absolutely brilliant.

Remember when your kids were toddlers? You had survived the whole newborn and infancy thing, and so you felt pretty confident going into toddlerhood? And then, BAM…your kid knocked you right back into reality with a tantrum…or climbing up the stairs on the outside of the rail (it happened)…or pushed another kid down…or hurled a plate of food across the room.

Well, empty-nesting is a lot like that. Just when you move your kid into his/her new dorm or apartment, you think, “Wow! I got this! I am a pro! My kid is officially launched into adulthood, and my life is my own!”

Wrong…wrong…wrong.

What they forgot to tell you when you brought that child into the world is that your life will never be your own…never, ever again.

My husband and I were stupid enough to think we would get our daughter moved into college, and everything would be rainbows and confetti afterward. Nope. We could not have been more wrong. Soon after we dropped her off, she developed an infection where she had a heel blister, and because the doctor was afraid it would move into her Achilles’ tendon, she had to get an antibiotic injection, take oral antibiotics, and use a topical gel. Crisis averted. That was our first gut punch letting us know how stupid we are.

Soon thereafter, we went on vacation to the Bahamas thinking everything was great. We came home, and I had gallbladder surgery. I took a week to recover, and then, I went on a cruise with a friend from my college days. We had a great time. And then…the last night of the cruise, I received a call that our daughter had been in a car accident. Everything ended up being fine, but wow! Things were not going as expected.

That was just last weekend.

My husband and I had planned to leave this Tuesday to go to the Bahamas again but canceled the trip when we received a call that the resort restaurants were closed till November 1. At first, I was annoyed, but then it looked like Hurricane Fiona was going to move through the Bahamas this upcoming week, and I was glad we had canceled.

Here is the thing: we thought empty-nesting would be a walk in the park, but every plan we have made has been changed somewhere along the way. So I finally realized something: the only constant is change.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible. That vacation you have planned? It might not happen, and if it does, you might have to come home early to help your newly launched child with a problem. Sleeping well at night? Don’t expect it to last. You’re likely to get at least one jarring late night call. Think you know where your college-age kid is all the time? Bahahahahaha…think again.

Here is how you will know you are a smart empty nester…

You will know you are a smart empty-nester when you realize and can admit to all your friends that you have no idea what you are doing and you likely won’t ever know. If we could have just admitted this freely when our kids were toddlers, we would be a lot better off. If I could have just said all along that I am learning on the job (as a parent), and I am an absolute novice, I would have looked like the smartest parent in the history of the world.

As it is, I had to learn that I don’t know a damn thing.

If you’re going to be an empty-nester soon, hold onto your hat. Enjoy the ride, because you will never know what is around the corner…just like when your kids were infants, toddlers, elementary school age, middle schoolers, and high school students. Admit it. You were and still are as clueless as I am.

The sooner you can admit it, the smarter you are.

College Students/Adult Decisions

College students/adult decisions.

Oh, it’s the Facebook parent page for my daughter’s university again! A parent posted that her son stopped going to class after his computer broke. They are four weeks into the semester, and she is getting him a new computer, but he seems to have given up. The mom doesn’t know what to do to motivate him, and she wonders if maybe she should just cut the losses and bring him home.

Of course, there were lots of suggestions. Some said, “Rent a laptop from the library.” Others said, “Maybe he’s not really ready for college.” Quite a few said, “Maybe you should encourage him to get back in the game. It’s early.” And then, someone said, “When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?” That one made me think.

When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?

That’s a tough question. Should we allow our college students to make their own adult decisions with no input from us, their parents?

The first thing that came to mind for me was, “I’m paying for it. I’m paying a lot of money for our daughter’s college education, so yes, I have input.“ I can have an opinion, and I can tell her what I expect from her. I make no bones about it. Our daughter is very social, so even before she went to college, I stressed to her that while her social life is very important, she has to take care of business first so she can stay in school to enjoy the social aspects. Does that mean she remembers that conversation? Not necessarily, but I ask regularly, “Are you taking care of business?”

Another thing that came to mind about “allowing her to make her own adult decisions on her own” is that I don’t always make adult decisions on my own…and I’m 55 years old! When I was in college, I regularly got my parents’ input about big decisions. Heck…until my parents were dead, I regularly got their input about adult decisions! And now that I don’t have my parents, I often turn to my spouse, other family members, or friends. I get lots of info and do my research before making big decisions. And you know what? I don’t want my college-age daughter getting all her advice or input from other college-aged people. I have always told her it’s good to get input from friends, but she needs to remember their brains aren’t fully developed either. They don’t have any more life experience than she does! I have stressed that she should come to me for advice, because I have a lot more life experience, and I always have her best interest at heart.

Think about it. What are college students like? There are some who do their schoolwork and work toward an educational goal with no distractions or interference. That’s not my child, and honestly, I don’t want her to be that student. There are college students who quickly find a good balance; they enjoy some social time while working hard in school. There are those who play a lot, and the academic part is secondary. And then there are all kinds of students in between.

My daughter falls somewhere in the balance/having fun category. The first semester of college is quite an adjustment! And since she is at an SEC school, football season is a big deal, and she pledged a sorority, which does take some time. I want her to have fun. That’s why I encouraged her to take the easiest classes she could this first semester, so she can learn to manage her time and become accustomed to college. It can take a while for them to learn how it all works! I remember! By my sophomore year, I knew how college worked, and I had a system for “taking care of business” while still having a good time. I think some kids jump in with the hardest classes they can take freshman year, and for some of them, it causes problems/stress. They need some guidance. Mine’s not taking the hardest classes, and she might not even need my guidance, but I “check in” regularly, and I always remind her that I am always ready to help.

She’s almost 19 years old. That means she has less than one year of adulthood experience. Would you hire a lawyer who had one year of experience and no mentors? No. Would you want a surgeon who had one year of experience and no assistance? No. I’m not expecting my almost-19-yr-old to make all her own decisions. In fact, she’s going to get my input whether she wants it or not right now.

So when will I allow her to make adult decisions on her own? She makes some of them on her own every single day. But the big decisions? Personally, I don’t think she really wants to. As long as my husband and I are on this planet, she can come to us. And if it’s something I know nothing about, I will encourage her to go to someone with more knowledge…no doubt. Will I make all her decisions for her? No way. But if I think she is making a bad decision or needs my help, I will let her know it…even from 450 miles away.

I’ve said it a million times…no matter how old they are, their still our “babies.”

No News is Good News

No news is good news.

I have learned a lot in the past month as an empty-nester, but the biggest lesson I have learned? No news is good news.

We moved our daughter in with a roommate, counseled her through sorority recruitment, cheered her on as she went to her first college classes, and checked in with her several times a day after she had her first college medical emergency. All that has happened in the past month…less than 30 days, actually. There have been some days we have spoken with her several times, but mostly, we receive texts…usually with happy face emojis and lots of exclamation points. We know she is happy when we get those.

But we have learned something else along the way. We have learned there will be days we don’t hear her voice. We might even just get one text with “hi.” But from that, we have learned that the less we hear from her, the happier she is.

There was one day soon after sorority Bid Day that she called me sounding a little down. She sounded like she was doubting herself. She sounded like she was questioning her decision to attend my alma mater. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, the day before classes started. I remember where I was sitting…in a golf cart at a dock in Hope Town, Bahamas, while I waited for a ferry to take us (me and my husband) across the harbor to climb to the top of the lighthouse. We missed the first ferry and the second while I talked with our daughter, listening to what she was saying and offering words of encouragement. I reminded her that I had warned her this would happen. There would be days she would feel a little homesick. I offered some suggestions on things to improve her mood, and soon thereafter, my husband and I were on our way over to the lighthouse. While we enjoyed the view from the top of the lighthouse, we talked about how sad she had sounded. I assured my husband that what our daughter was feeling was completely normal…she would be feeling better soon.

However, I didn’t expect to answer the phone six hours later to hear her happily announcing to me, “I love this place!” She had made it over the hump…and in just six hours, she was happy. We laughed with her over the phone for a few minutes, but after that, she didn’t call us for a couple of days.

At breakfast two days later, my husband asked if I had heard from her. I said, “No.” He replied, “That worries me.” But then I reminded him that she called us when she was feeling down, and I felt sure she would call us again if she needed encouragement. Clearly, the fact that she wasn’t reaching out to us meant she was happy. I resisted the urge to call her to check, and soon thereafter…before lunch…she called and announced how much she loves her sorority, her classes, her roommate, and her friends!

I remembered taking her to two different soccer camps when she was younger. While she was at one camp, I heard from her many times a day…she was very unhappy and wanted to come home, but I suggested she make it through the camp just to prove to herself she could. She did. And then, a year or two later, she wanted to go to a different soccer camp with a different friend. In fact, it was a soccer camp at the University of Alabama, where she is enrolled as a freshman now! While she was in that camp, I went to visit my mother. On the second day, my mother asked if I had heard from her, and when I told her I hadn’t, she said, “Well, that’s good.” My mother, who had far more parenting experience than I did, knew…no news is good news. In fact, when I got there to pick up our daughter at the end of the camp, I could barely drag her away from her friends there!

And now, she’s in college. Yesterday, I texted her and said, “You might need to call your girl to get a hair appointment.” Her reply? “I’m not coming home anytime soon.” And you know what? It was like music to my ears! I knew at that moment that she is truly happy, because she isn’t missing home at all! She’s got this!

No news is good news.

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.