Enjoy Your Kid's First Trip Home from College
Perhaps you really enjoyed your child's Thanksgiving trip home from college this year and had a great holiday weekend. Perhaps not! ( A bit too much overscheduling and attitude and falling back into old sullen and confrontational habits, eh?) And maybe your kid didn't have the opportunity (or desire) to make it home for Thanksgiving at all this year. Well, here are some great tips on how you can be sure to enjoy your university student's first (or next) trip home from campus.
First, be sure to bring along your camera when you come to pick up your son or daughter at campus or airport or bus terminal or car-pooler's house, and snap one or more pictures, like the one above. That way, no matter what happens over the next frenzied days, and no matter how scarce your child becomes, you'll at least have one sure way to see your child and notice how he or she has grown and changed. (The more pictures you take, the more you can see of them!)
Next, service and gas up the red convertible or tricked-out SUV or other vehicle that your child will most likely hijack while at home. Note that your offspring will really be racking up the mileage bouncing from friend to friend to coffeeshop to mall to hang-out to club to sleepover to game to restaurant, and they certainly won't have either the time or the inclination to stop to refuel. And make sure you have the car detailed as well; you know quite well from past experience that your kid would be mortified if seen in anything grimy or unkempt.
Before your progeny lands, it's also a good idea to make sure that your financial affairs are in order. Pay down that cell phone bill, and clear the balances off any credit cards your child might remotely have access to. The text messages and cell minutes will soon be clocking at hypersonic speed, and the magnetic strips on those bank cards will soon be sorely tested, so give yourself as hefty a balance reserve as you can. (It kinda ruins the post-holiday to get a bunch of overlimit notices and harassing phone calls over payment schedules.) You might also want to yank a substantial wad of greenbacks out of your ATM; homeward-bound college students can go through them like kleenex.
If you'd like to actually spend some time with your returning child, I suggest it might be easiest to do it in the kitchen. Stock up in advance on all those foods and snacks she or he prefers, and then you can ambush them when they come to graze. (Who knows? You might even hear a word or two of conversation between mouthfuls.) If they have any favorite family recipes, whip up every single one of them, and have them placed, in substantial quantity, in plain sight. (For daughters, I would tend toward a wide variety of trendy and exotic treats and sweets — a sampler's paradise. For sons, I'd buy in bulk: nothing but meats, beverages, breads and junk foods — plus more meats.)
Your laundry room should be cleared for landing and for heavy-duty service. Your darling daughter will want to wear each cute separate she brought home with her at least 4 or 5 times each day, in various combinations and permutations, so you'll likely have laundry cycling 24/7, and you'll have to assist in sorting and determining which detergent and which cycle go with which items. Your strapping son will probably tote home every single article of clothing he's worn since orientation day, so you'll likely have laundry cycling 24/7, and you'll have to do it all yourself anyway. Forget doing anything about any of the laundry for the rest of the household until after your child is back on campus.
Buy earplugs. After all, you have had several months to re-acclimate yourself to the normal sounds of everyday human existence, and for your eardrums to heal. You'll want to be ready the first time your child hops into the shower after cranking the heavy-metal or hip-hop to jumbo-jet volume at the other end of the house so they can hear it over the sound of rushing water. (For the same reason, you may want to duct-tape those family portraits to the stairwell wall.) The earplugs will also serve you well when you unwittingly first turn the ignition of the vehicle your departed college student last drove, and the outpouring 'music' hits you with twice the force of a deploying airbag.
Family gatherings are especially important when your student comes home on break. Contact all your relatives well in advance of your youngster's return home, and choreograph all of them into a receiving line of limited length and duration. Once you have your child in hand (in a very firm grip), you can then parade him or her past Cousin Blake, Aunt Erin, Nana Francie, your spouse, your other children, any pets, and even your estranged brother-in-law Hubie, as long as you don't take much more than 15 minutes and don't expect a lot of forthcoming pleasantries from receivers or receivee. Perhaps everything will pass in a civil manner, but consider yourself lucky if there's no hair-pulling or obscenities.
Prepare the list of questions you intend to ask your child well in advance. Strike from the list any questions that deal with a) classes, b) grades, c) major, d) minor, e) assignments, f) professors, g) stress or h) adjusting to college. Oh, and also get rid of any questions that deal with i) roommates, j) dating or k) significant other(s). Feel free to keep on the list any questions that deal with l) shopping, m) pizza, n) beer, o) microwaves, p) really strange other students, and q) weather. Conduct conversations with your child in sessions no more than 3 minutes in length. (I know, I know, by the end of the break, you'll still have lots and lots to talk about. Save it for when they're married, or have moved back home in their 30s or 40s.)
Finally, to maximize your enjoyment of your child's visit home, try to plant a functioning tape-recorder on their person or somewhere nearby throughout the weekend. That way, once they are again gone and back on their college campus, you can hit rewind and play, and vicariously savor each tiny eavesdropped morsel of what makes up your young adult's life.
Then, for a bit of fun, head to rickzworld.
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