At home, but still away
After the kids go away to college, the dynamics shift to a whole new level, which can be divided into two options: When You Go See Them, and When They Come Home.
I almost said When They Come Home "to visit," but as far as I can understand it, it's still home here and they're not really gone till they graduate from college. I'll let you know how that works out.
The first scenario, when you go visit them, will almost certainly involve eating out and shopping. Remember, I have girls, so your experience may be different, but I'm betting not by much. Often it will revolve around a campus event. But somewhere in the midst, they're going to want a (free) meal, and there is always a need that requires Mom's credit card.
After my first girl went away, I realized early on that the lunch and shopping habit could get expensive, so we've tried other activities, but the truth is that lunch and shopping wins hands down on the Fun Factor.
In fact, though I really didn't go to college myself, I remember in my '20s often meeting my mom for lunch and shopping. Those were good times at RG Maxwell's or TGIFriday's in Dallas on a Saturday afternoon, weren't they, Mom?
This past weekend there was a sorority event that we went to, and my instructions were to "wear something cute." Now, that's a problem. I have hit and missed with attire at sorority events, and I always, always end up knowing full well that I am not one of them and they are not one of me. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
A few years back, when I learned that my oldest was joining a sorority, at her urging we went out to buy me some Sorority Mom clothes. I have two beautiful pair of capri pants from J Crew that look great ... hanging on the hanger in my closet. But I digress.
So now we come to the home visit, which, as you might imagine, involves lots of laundry and sleeping and waking up to eat something before they run off to hang out with their friends. Then we might watch a DVR of whatever show is on at this time that they can't catch in their dorm room, because regular TV is SO LAST YEAR. It's about Netflix, people, and streaming.
Again with the digression.
Yes, laundry and catching up on sleep neatly sums up the Home Visit. They are exhausted from all their campus shenanigans, all that Netflix watching, and perhaps their studies as well. They are thrilled to see their pets and eat the foods they're accustomed to, and are comforted by the chance to relax and do nothing with Mom milling around somewhere on the perimeter.
I learned early on to not jump on the laundry bandwagon, though. That's another five years of doing other people's laundry that I can do without.
So, as always with kids, it's different every year. It is such a bittersweet emotion to go see them and see firsthand how they are carrying on without you. Sure, their room is messy, they've been using Kleenex for toilet paper for weeks and the 24-hour ice cream option is a concern, but they're finding their way, they're safe and they're relatively happy, even though they sometimes get thrown off with the mundane things in life that Mama used to handle for them ... like filling prescriptions, running to the dry cleaners. Early on, both my kids' were stunned to learn how much time and trouble those errands are.
Anyway, it's important to realize the blessings and not get sad for how it once was and how it is now.
I'm still working on that.