She’s home. She’s finally home. After eight months, a crap-ton of care packages, and more daily reminders than I care to admit to check her bank account balance, our oldest daughter is back under our roof. And that means one beautiful, long-awaited thing… I can finally sleep without my ringer on and my phone’s volume on max. (Eight months is a long time to be sleep-deprived.)
Just like that, the stage of life that has one of the biggest, most highly anticipated buildups, the one we spend so much time and effort preparing ourselves and our kids for, is half over.
I mean, we spend so much time and effort preparing our kids just to be ready to start thinking about college. Then, even more time and energy guiding them through the actual process of looking for one.
Then we invest our heart and soul and life savings into the school they ultimately choose. And then we emotionally prepare ourselves to send our kids off for another four years. But no one actually tells us that those four years of college will whiz by like dog years.
After all the acclimating and the stressed-out phone calls and Find My iPhone searches to make sure she was still in one piece, my daughter is home and all her worldly belongings are now scattered all over her room — as well as an abnormally large section of our basement. (Thankfully, that part of the basement has a door.)
I think even she was taken aback by the reality that she’s a junior now, because on the drive home from school — with the entire car jammed full of halogen lamps, awkwardly large plastic storage bins, and more actual crap than I’ve accumulated over the course of my entire life — it hit her very suddenly and kind of powerfully that she was exactly at the halfway mark of her college career.
And in that moment, I’m not sure if that realization was more sobering for her or for us.
That’s because, even though we’re sending our kids out into the world when they go off to college, we do it with the caveat that they’re coming back — at least for most major holidays and for summer vacation. They know it, and we know it.
So although we get emotional at the thought of them living away, they don’t actually leave for good when they go away to college. That happens later… four absurdly quick years later.
And although there’s a lot for everyone to come to terms to when our kids make the jump to college life, it’s still not a permanent arrangement. There are safety mechanisms in place — like our kid’s bedroom at home remaining fully intact and their name still being on our health insurance plan — that allow everyone to ease into the scary world of college, slowly, without being too traumatized by the sudden change in, well, everything.
In most cases, our college kids know, at least subconsciously, that as long as they’re in school they’re not paying rent or utilities or big car payments or grocery bills.
And on some level that’s got to be pretty reassuring, because they’re still being taken care of even though the clock is most definitely ticking. Quickly.
But the reality does eventually hit them that they’re ultimately going to have to get their grown-up on and starting taking total care of themselves. That’s why I think this midpoint is an especially nostalgic and bizarre place to be.
It’s an unmistakable marker that we’ve/they’ve got only two years left to go, and those two years are going to fly by at least as fast as the first two did. It’s a reminder that, before too long, we’ll be packing up the dorm room for the last time and they’ll be going off on their own for good.
For now, though, I’m going to secretly roll around in the piles of heavy-duty garbage bags filled with all her stinky clothes and relish in the fact that we’ve got exactly four months to unpack, wash, and sort everything before we repack it all for the fall. I’m going to quietly celebrate the fact that my baby is tucked safely under her covers across the hall until September.
Because in only two short years, when she graduates from college and starts wearing her big-girl panties for real, out in the real world, I’m gonna be using that Find My iPhone app 24/7/365 and probably never sleep a full night ever again.
Until then, I prefer to think of it like, OMG, I can’t believe she still has two whole years to go! (There’s nothing like playing mind games with yourself to help stay sane.)