After dropping my daughter off for freshman orientation, I mourned for months as if sitting shiva. Then I woke up from my sad stupor and asked God: Why do they have to come home again?
It’s been eight months since you chastised them for not making their beds. Now you’re not even making your own bed anymore. Why be a role model in an empty nest? You devour a box of Cheez-Its for dinner in bed, watching The Kardashians instead of PBS. You’ve discovered a new life: from touring vineyards to tempestuous extramarital affairs.
A text interrupts your circadian rhythms:
“Finals end May 13th. Pick me up. Bring boxes.”
What you may be feeling: Why did I ever have children?
What you may be concerned about: Laundry. Your son will have a mountain of dirty clothes strewn over his dorm room floor; consider burning like a pile of leaves.
How do I reconnect with my offspring now that he’s cocky with alleged independence and takes over my kitchen mixing frozen daiquiris?
- Never even attempt to engage them in conversation before three P.M., when they are done having breakfast.
- Don’t complain about the tripping hazard of stepping over their computer cables and phone chargers.
- Refrain from warning that computers resting on their laps will make them sterile.
- Stop trying to force-feed your daughter, who subsists on raw kale, claiming she’s gained the Freshman Two.
- It’s futile to wave the grocery bill in the air when your unshaven, unshowered son stares into the fridge and complains, “Who stole my Chocolate Therapy?”
What you may be concerned about: Narcolepsy. Anxiously go on WebMD and peruse symptoms. Your college freshman crashes in 21-hour increments, arising only to check Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram—every digital source of information except his university’s website to see if final grades are posted.- -
My husband and I are God-fearing Republicans. We’re convinced that carousing all night un-chaperoned causes pregnancy, incurable alcoholism, heroin addiction, a host of felonies, and untimely death.
What you may be concerned about: Your kids have turned into hamsters, up all night, sleeping all day. Do not ask where they’re going, how they’re getting there, when they’ll be home. If you knew, you’d never sleep again without Ambien. And all they’ll say anyway is, “Nobody checks on me in school. This is the last summer I’m ever coming home.”
Your paths will cross for roughly one hour a day, usually during dinnertime (their lunchtime).
What you may be feeling: Hopeless.
In order to co-exist under the same roof as harmonious human beings, don’t we all need a set of rules to abide by?
Be kind: Give them a couple of weeks to sleep off the stress of finals and three months of hangovers. Then it’s time to turn your sloth back into a functional member of society. Say:
“Here’s what you’re responsible for. This is called a shopping list.”
He rubs his eyes sleepily. Follows up with a blank stare.
“Please go to Whole Foods sometime today.”
An incomprehensible penetrating gaze.
“Haven’t you learned to read this year? If not, I want my tuition money back, which, you know, is a huge sacrifice.”
Big mistake. Your sloth finds his vocal cords:
“I didn’t ask to go to college. You and Dad are Type-A helicopter parents who pressured me to get my grades up, or I’d be slinging burgers at McDonald’s.”
Your response: “Whole Foods is open till ten,” knowing it’s you who will stop there after work.
Refrain from saying: “With your film major, you’ll be lucky to make minimum wage.”
What you may be feeling: How many weeks till he goes back to school?
I found a vibrator in my daughter’s room. What should I do?
Borrow it. Or get your own.
My son’s girlfriend is visiting and they want to sleep in his room. Should I allow this under my roof?
Goodbye Columbus is so 20th century. And hotel rooms are expensive.
Should my husband and I have sex when the kids are home?
You haven’t slept together in two years. Why start now?
What you may be feeling: Horny.
Is there anything we can share where my kid won’t be abusive to me?
A list of possibilities:
- The car keys.
- Can’t think of anything else.
I can’t understand half of what my son says. Does he need elocution lessons?
What you need is an updated vocabulary review. Google and memorize the definitions for the following terms and phrases:
- Going Batman
- WCW (Women Crush Wednesday)
What should I expect when we drop them at school for sophomore year?
They were homesick the first week of freshman year, but they’ll avoid you as if you’re a dean at a frat party when you unload their stuff in front of their dorm this time. Last year they let you line their dresser drawers with pretty paper. This year they’ll admonish you with, “Wait outside.”
What you may be concerned about: You will be the only one who’ll shed tears.
What you may be feeling: Renewed separation anxiety. Relief. Lump-in-throat-syndrome. Pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest. Depressed mood. Unusual risk-taking behavior.
Less serious side effects may include: Restlessness. Speechlessness. Grief. Intense chocolate craving. Confusion. Urinating less than usual or not at all. Feeling tired or irritable. But not to worry: these symptoms last only until the first highway rest stop. Slug back a Diet Coke and a giant bag of M&Ms, forge the open road, and belt out Snoop Dogg’s “Young Wild & Free.”