Have you ever had an expectation – to find that all you’d hope for and dreamed about was nothing like what you then experienced? I can remember when our twins started 1st grade. I was in some way expecting this to be easier – finally – a bit of a break in my day with two of our three kids gone for the day, I could maybe get caught up on projects at home. Then, they started learning how to read. I can remember when they came home and I learned we needed to read with each child for 30 minutes each night. Here we were practicing their words, reading aloud and being read to. This, times two. I honestly remember asking myself, I finished school, and I didn’t know I would have homework yet again. Silly, I know, but I remember my expectations being different. I was disappointed in myself for my thoughts, and my ridiculous, selfish expectations.
Watching these same boys of ours, go through this process of moving in and out of college, while good – I recognize it’s a little different than what I expected. Our Spring Break – was a little different than expected – and what did I do, I let it get the best of me. I am not sure when I started to believe they could read my mind – but I did. And that got me into some trouble which I hope to avoid in the next few weeks when they move home for the summer.
I have had several phone calls and emails over the last couple of months regarding this very topic – and I hope to offer you some encouragement from what I have learned myself. I am certain several of you also have ideas and thoughts about what has worked in your own lives – please share. One mom called to tell me she learned her daughter is getting married this summer – and not moving back home before hand. Another parent called to say their son had decided to stay in Newberg for the summer and work and needed some advice on a local doctor and dentist – could I help. I know in our own families – we get into a pattern of living that doesn’t include our college sons and daughters being a daily part, soon, that pattern and pace will be shaken up a bit. I can only offer one piece of advice – TALK ABOUT IT.
It’s not unusual for one family member to long for the moment their college family member returns home, to see their faces, hear their stories and change the meal plan to include extra people at the table. It’s also not unusual for a family member to dread what is about to take place – the sibling or the child that has been away to college is about the re-enter family life, which might take my place of honor and importance in the family. It’s actually quite common for there to be a mixed range of emotions surrounding the next few weeks. It’s important to acknowledge what your expectations are of the changes coming for you and your family – and to talk about them.
Spouses need to talk to one another about what is ahead. When a college student is moving back home – Moms and Dads need to talk with one another about what their hopes and expectations are for this change. And just like those times when you sat down as parents to create an ”operation plan” for how you would handle their discipline, chores, curfews, allowance, driving the family car and so on, it’s time to talk again, and consider some adjustments. Talk about this even if this isn’t the first summer move home from college.
Parents need to talk to their kids – both the ones still living at home, and the ones who are moving back home. One of the things I will do to open conversation with my son at home – “what are you most looking forward to when Mark and Tim move home and what are you not looking forward to?” This gives Andrew permission to have varied expectations and emotions. We will ask Mark and Tim the same questions. This opens the door for conversation about how we can negotiate the change at home.
In the case of a family member not moving home – and how that might change what you expected for the summer – own your feelings, expectations and opinions. Talk to someone about them – to get it out when you need to. It’s important to find ways to communicate these to your college children without laying on guilt and manipulation. See this as an opportunity to watch your children grow in new ways – and for you to grow in new ways. I truly believe when God closes doors, he opens windows. What a waste it would be to continuing to budge the door that is closed and trying to open it, when there is a window to look through and maybe even climb through.
The one constant in life, is change. Just like our college children have changed in the last year, recognize that home life has changed for them from what they remember. Talk about these with one another. And while you are thinking about it – send your sons and daughters a note before they leave school, affirming in them the person they are becoming, they will appreciate it more than you know.