Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Now That You've Dropped Your Kid Off at College...

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about dropping your kid off at college--kind of a dos and don'ts sort of a thing. After rereading it, and after having done even more kid-dropping-off in the ensuing half decade, I think I can safely say it still pretty much stands up.

If you're so inclined, go ahead and read it now.

OK, so, now that your pookie is off to sleep-away school, the rules have changed a bit. This is when the Growing Up Portion of little Junior's life starts.

Please note: I'm not just making this stuff up. This is what I've learned from personal experience and hearing stories from my peeps on the front lines--people who actually work at these institutions of higher learning and have seen the horror wrought by this group of mammals to which we now belong: College Parents.

And I need to warn you at the outset that, while I love my children dearly, my life did not stop when they went away to college. I recently heard a fellow mom say, "It took me a year to adjust to the empty nest." I almost spit out my drink. Are you kidding me? The best sight I've ever seen is our son's back going down the security line at an airport. Not that I don't miss them and love having them around, but isn't this why we have kids? So they can grow up and live their own lives?

We start with the assumption that your child is old enough and mature enough to handle living on her own and dealing with the rigors of a college curriculum and has the social awareness to live peacefully in a communal setting. Because if she doesn't, well...

Let's not think about that right now. Let's focus on this new journey you're on and allow me to offer a few observations.
  • It's COLLEGE. Back the eff off. And by that I mean, leave him alone. Let him figure out what he's supposed to do, when he's supposed to do it, and how he's supposed to do it. You can give him a little nudge now and again, but seriously, this is his journey and you need to let him be on it. Now this does not mean you shouldn't help him set things up--everything from his residence hall room (they'll tell you not to call it a dorm, just wait) to his student accounts. You should. And get the passwords while you're at it, because if your kid is anything like mine those passwords are out of the brain the second they're typed into the computer. But stuff like registering for classes and making his schedule and actually going to class? That's his deal. And, trust me, if you are one of those parents who keeps calling the desk receptionist to check on your kid's whereabouts on a Saturday night (FYI, the DR has no idea where your precious munchkin is playing his current game of beer pong) you will become the focus of much ridicule and abuse at the next hall staff meeting.
  • Don't be what colleges refer to as a Velcro Parent. As in, you need to be peeled away from your child. Let's take a little test. When talking about your daughter heading off for college, what pronoun do you use? If it's "we" or "our" (like, if you ever uttered: "we decided on Princeton" or "our college choice was Harvard") then honey, you might have a problem with this whole letting-go thing. One mom I talked to last year said these actual words to me: "I am ready to stay in the room with her that first night in case she needs my help falling asleep." The scary thing? She wasn't kidding. I had this picture of this poor girl's roommate going to the RA that first night and saying, "Yeah, uh, so there's this woman in our room..." In a case like this, there's a really thin line between excessive parenting and felony loitering.
  • Your kid is the one who should be getting--and heeding--the school's Public Safety alerts, not you. Marquette University has a phenomenal social media presence, which as a mom I'm grateful for, but when other parents start posting on the parent Facebook page things like "There's been a push-in robbery at 16th and Kilbourn" I'm not sure how to respond. I live more than 1,000 miles away from each of my kids' colleges, so am I supposed to hop on a plane with my pocket flaming torch and collapsible pitchfork so I can join the Parental Lynch Mob? I mean, there could be a major problem with TSA, for starters.

    If your kid's college is in a city, he's going to be dealing with everything a city has to offer, like fantastic restaurants, excellent museums, great public transportation, and the occasional mugging. Even if Junior's headed off to a campus in the middle of nowhere, there's still a chance he might have things stolen out of his room or be accosted on the way home from the bars/late night chess club meeting. Make sure Buffy listens to and abides by all of the dos and don'ts of the Safety Talk she'll be given about 29 times during orientation week. Encourage her to keep her head up, lock her door when she's not in her room, and take care of her valuables. But this is her deal, not yours.
  • Don't use social media to work out your kid's social or academic problems. Your precious little pumpkin's struggles with her roommate, her professors, or her class schedule really have no place on the school's public social media pages. Your child would be mortified (I hope) if she discovered she was the topic of conversation on Facebook--and god forbid the roommate's parents figure out you're talking about their little pumpkin. Unless that's what you intend, and that's just passive aggressive and mean and, not to put too fine a point on it, you're a bad person.
  • Yes, college is expensive. Shut up about it. We all get the same friendly emails from the bursar's office twice a year, and while our bottom-line balance due amounts vary, none of us is really getting away for free. This isn't a police state, so this whole college choice thing is completely up to Junior and, to some extent of course, you, so when you start sentences with the words, "Given the amount of money we pay..." I, for one, want to punch you in the face. Go find a school where that amount of money you're paying is a good ROI for you and just shut the hell up. (This also applies to people who send their children to private elementary and high schools. Sort of a me-proclaimed universal law, if you will.)
This list is by no means comprehensive, but I've got to cut this short since happy hour's about to start and we have a lot to celebrate. Joe just texted that he's arrived in Spokane for his junior year at Gonzaga, and I think I finally found a type of Febreze that might actually get that horrific smell out of his room.

Good luck as you begin this new phase of your life. Trust me, it will all be fine! Or, at the very least, a couple of drinks will make it seem way better,

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I Never Liked You

A couple weeks ago I packed up my trophy husband, lots of loose-fitting clothes, and extra migraine medication and traveled to Milwaukee for my 30th college reunion. The Marquette University Class of 1985 came out in impressive numbers, as usual, and, as far as any of us remember or will testify to, there were no casualties. So, great success.

Here are a few of my observations from those three booze- and cheese-fueled days:
  • Three decades is enough time to forget a name, but not a grudge. I walked into our class party on Friday night, saw a woman in a black shirt, and instantly thought, "OMG. I hate her." I mean, it was a visceral reaction like I can't even explain. Here's the problem with that. I racked my brain, asked a bunch of other people, and I still have no idea what her name is or why I even hated her in the first place. I think that says something about how horrible I am as a person, but I've decided not to be self-aware enough to figure out what that is, exactly.
  • Those lanyard name tag thingys seem like a good idea, but they can be the cause of some pretty intense social awkwardness. Everyone has those Who IS That? moments at these gatherings, and when the tags get flipped around, well... One of my classmates, coming up for air after chugging a PBR tall boy, gasped out, "See that woman over there? I reached down to get a better look at her name tag and accidentally touched her boob. Then I realized, once I'd figured out who she was, we'd had a one-night stand that I spent most of senior year trying to forget. Now I think she's going to try to stalk me." We sent someone over to the bar to get him a refill because, judging from the look she was giving him when we all turned around to see who she was, it was going to be a long night.
  • And on the subject of name tags: It's really humbling when someone looks at you, takes a glance at yours, and then just moves on.
  • The upside of social media: You get to skip all the boring So What Have You Been Up To? conversations, since you've been following all the kid updates, job changes, and other life milestones that have happened since the last reunion and jump right to the discussions that start, "OMG, did you hear..."
  • You know that weaselly guy you just wanted to punch in college? Be comforted in knowing that some things never change. Plus, because life simply isn't fair, it turns out that that guy is now a very rich jerk, which makes it all the more irritating. But good news: 30 years out, you get to be brutally honest because what do you have to lose? Hands-down the best thing I heard during the whole reunion was when one of my buddies managed to weave into his conversation with Class A##hole, "You know, you always were a giant dick."
  • The older we get, the more we all start looking alike. At one point when a couple of the guys were having one of those horrible, slightly drunk "No, we lived on the fourth floor!" "No, it was the tenth!" arguments, they decided to look around for the one person who could settle it and we all realized at once that at night, in a beer garden, it's hard to discern one bald head from another.
  • Do not begin gossiping about a fellow classmate until you've checked to make sure a) she's not within earshot b) her husband's not within earshot and c) her fiercely loyal sophomore year roommate isn't within earshot. Wait, better rule: don't gossip at all until you're in the car on your way home. It's just safer that way. Trust me.
  • There's a huge downside to going to college in a city where the chief exports are beer and farm animals. It took me three days to completely sober up after the whole thing was over, and judging from the ERROR MAX WEIGHT EXCEEDED message I got on my scale when we came back, I think I consumed pretty much the entire Class of 85's RYA of Miller Lite, Real Chili, cheese curds, brats, butter burgers, and frozen custard. Talk about taking one for the team. You're welcome, Fellow Warriors.