POSTED ON JUNE 19, 2013:
Home From College
And other horror stories
The sense of pride you get when you watch your child graduate from high school is hard to describe. You smile from ear to ear, thinking about all the sacrifices you made and all the late-night homework sessions you shared with your kid to reach this crowning moment. The feeling is quite exhilarating, but soon after the graduation ceremony is over and you are done patting the graduate on the back, the realization that you will have to pay for your child's education for the next four years is truly a buzzkill.
The only good thing about the new arrangement is that even though the parents are footing the bill for college, the kids are actually out of the house most of the year, but like a bad sequel to a dreadful horror movie, they do come back. It's summertime, folks, and your college-aged kid has returned with a vengeance, bringing dirty laundry and a whole new attitude. He or she has experienced the outside world as a semi-adult, and now you are faced with a brand new assortment of issues with your kid that you did not have before. Here are a few things to look out for in the next three months.
One of the first things you notice is that the food in your refrigerator disappears a lot faster than before. Strangely, you never actually see the food get eaten because it is gone by the time you get home from work. You have to give them credit for leaving the scene of the crime without a trace of evidence.
Leftovers are always the first victims. Of course, there is lunch meat, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly, Hot Pockets, and plenty of bread to choose from in the kitchen, but, no, that is not what they want. They want that piece of pizza or hunk of lasagna from the night before that you have been thinking about all day at work. There is nothing worse than coming home with pizza on the mind only to find an empty plastic refrigerator bag where that piece of pizza used to be just sitting there in the fridge, mocking you. It gives me chills of anger just thinking about how many times that has happened to me. I never thought I would see the day where I literally had to tell my kid, "Hey, that (fill in the blank) is mine. Do not touch it!" It is survival of the fittest around here, and I am forced to pull the Dad card. Don't judge me, and I won't judge you for doing the same.
Party All Night, Sleep All Day
I'm a college graduate myself, so I understand how important the summer break is to a student. College students work hard all year and they just want to kick back and have a good time. Staying out to the wee hours of the night partying with friends and sleeping until the following afternoon may seem like the perfect schedule to the student, but to the average parent, that can turn into a problem real quick. My suggestion is to allow the student a few days to indulge in this type of schedule in the beginning of the summer break. Let your kid have a good time, but at some point, let him or her know that sleeping until two in the afternoon is not acceptable. Besides, the student is going to need a job to keep up that level of partying for the rest of the summer anyway. If your kid is working, then sleeping all day is not an option. See how that works?
Chores = Rent
Nothing in life is free, and that includes living with your parents. Most parents will not charge their college-aged kids rent; however, that does not mean that those same kids don't pay for their room and board in other ways. In my house, chores are synonymous with paying rent every month. My logic is this: if you don't do your chore, that's the same as not paying your rent. If you are not paying your rent, you will be asked to leave the premises. Sounds harsh, doesn't it? It may be, but I believe it teaches your semi-adult the art of responsibility. I have had a few meetings with my son about this, and each time, he has gotten pretty close to being escorted off the property. The result is he's starting to take his chores a little more seriously now. Bless his heart.
Get a Job
This is not up for discussion in my house. Getting a job is a requirement for several reasons. My job is to cover the basics -- roof over your head, food on the table, you know, the usual stuff. If my kid has the audacity to ask me for drinking money, he is definitely going to get the death stare. Besides that, he needs gas money, club money, date money, clothes money, and the ever popular I-don't-want-to-eat-what-Mom-is-cooking money. All these things are important to a college student; therefore, if he or she plans on having any fun this summer, they are going to have to finance that fun themselves. On top of the financial advantages of having a job, your child might be lucky enough to score an awesome internship that will look great on a resume or could possibly be a steppingstone for a future position with that particular employer.
Yes, You Have a Curfew. Deal With It
Okay, we get it. The kid went off to college, lived like a semi-adult in the dorm, and was somewhat independent. I use the term "somewhat" because technically, the kid is still on your payroll because you are paying the tuition plus room and board, but I digress. Here's the thing: when they come home for the summer, they are living in your house. If they are living in your house, they have to follow house rules, plain and simple. However, house rules should probably be age-appropriate. In other words, you can't give a college student an 11 pm curfew. That's not going to work and it isn't practical, but that doesn't mean that some type of curfew is not in order.
The curfew is not just for the parents, as most would probably assume. It is beneficial for the college student as well. I have watched enough hours of the Investigation Discovery channel to know that it is always a good thing to tell someone where you are going to be, how long you are going to be there, and when you plan on coming home. This way, if you come up missing, you at least have someone out there looking for you. My son is 18, so we give him a 2 a.m. curfew, but that may change the older he gets. Ultimately, it's important for parents to negotiate a decent compromise with your college student in regards to curfew.
So, is it possible to coexist in the same house with your kid who is on the cusp of becoming an adult? Sure it is! There's a fine line between making room for your child's independence and keeping things under control in your household. The key, of course, is communication. The best thing to do is have an upfront discussion with your son or daughter about the rules of the house. Be open-minded and flexible without giving up control of your home. Remember, you were once in their shoes. If you keep that in mind, it will be much easier to walk that line successfully. Good luck!
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