I was standing in a parking lot an hour and a half away from my home crying as my daughter walked away from me. Now I don’t cry often, but when I do, I cry like a babbling idiot, and this was one of those days. My husband shuffled me into the car, handing me a xanex and a bottle of water for the ride home. I was inconsolable for approximately six weeks after dropping my baby girl off at college. At some point I even began searching the internet for College Mom Support Groups. But then something happened…I began to have fun. I stopped worrying over having dinner ready on time, hell, I nearly stopped cooking altogether. Gone were the days of ironing tee shirts and washing the last pair of clean jeans she owned. Instead I took to the pool, instituted five o’clock cocktail hour and bought lots of things to make sandwiches with. I had a full dental done, my hair is highlighted and my toes and fingernails shine with an entirely new gloss. Oh and my husband? Whew! All of a sudden that man is smoking hot again!
If I’d had someone to tell me, prepare me, it might have saved me six weeks of dehydration. Hence, I’m here for ya babe! Of course now I’m preparing to send my poopsidoodle baby boy to the College of Charleston (my own alma mater) and am reminded of how much I needed advice two years ago. So let’s get started. Anywhere on the internet you can find a list of things they need to take with them. That’s not what I’m here for; I’m going to tell you the stuff they need on top of that car load.
1) Condoms-I don’t care a hill of beans whether you want to buy them or not, do it. Consider this, can you really afford their college AND their child support?
2) Microwavable food-Popular are macaroni and cheese, Uncle Ben’s Rice packets, Nacho cheese dip, oatmeal, cheese grits, and Chef Boyardee (can opener!)
3) Laundry Detergents-It astounds me how many parents forget that your babies will be doing their own laundry. Do yourself a favor and include a packet of Ritz color remover for when all their clothes come out pink.
4) Refrigerated foods-Alright, don’t go crazy here. A half gallon of ORGANIC milk is what they need. Why organic? Because the expiration date is longer! We need to remember that other kids may be sharing this fridge so let’s keep what’s in it to a minimum.
5) Ziploc bags-All sizes. They’ll go through them like water for everything from rubber bands and paperclips to the rest of their granola bar.
6) Dry foods- Aforementioned granola bars, cereal, chips, dried fruits, poptarts, small can’s of Dole fruits, popcorn (Good Lord don’t forget that!) and so on. You’ll waste money by purchasing too much. Besides having them run out of food is a good way to get them to come home for a weekend.
7) Fans-I think they tell you to bring one, bring two. Those dorm rooms are saunas.
8) Paper Supplies-Besides their regular school supplies they’ll need plastic forks, spoons, knives, cups, plates and bowls. Along with that toilet paper and paper towels. If you think they’re going to wash a dish…oh hang on I can’t stop laughing. My daughter and all of her roommates didn’t brush their teeth for three days because their sink was overloaded with dirty dishes.
9) Flip flops-Buy four or five solid rubber pairs from the Dollar Tree. They’ll need them and they’ll lose them at an amazingly fast pace. Used for nasty dorm room floors and showers. Buy Tinactin anyway, they’ll need it.
10) Finally they are going to need a bank account that’s joined to yours. That is unless you enjoy making midnight runs into town to make a deposit into their account. This step is absolutely crucial for providing them spending cash but also for monitoring what they’re doing. You can SEE where they use their debit card and at what times of day! Trust me it’s easier to walk to your computer and click transfer funds than it is to run to the bank every time they need money…which is a LOT.
All that being said there are other tips I have that will help you monitor their behavior as well as keep yourself sane. Some of them seem ‘Big Brotherish’ but these are my damn kids after all!
1) Swipe their cell phones secretly when they’re home and read through their texts. Anything mentioning adderall, drinking or sex should be discussed openly with them. Adderall is HUGE, I mean gigantic in college. Your kid WILL try it. It’s best to monitor that as best as you can and in every way possible.
2) Be their friend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and wherever else they hang out on social media. If they block you they can sit at home instead of going to college at all. This is serious; kids away from home for the first time tend to get severely depressed. You have to listen to them when they call but also watch how they interact with their peers online. That is usually a more telling source. Just because they are at college does not mean they are equipped to handle this monolithic change in their lives. The best way to keep them from blocking you from these pages is to only stalk them, don’t post cutesy Mommy misses you crap. (Wow! that a do as I say, not as I do comment if I’ve ever heard one!)
3) Set them up on an allowance. We chose $30 a week for our daughter but our son will need $50 a week because he’s going to school in a more expensive area. It gives most of them their first budget ever. Also if they suddenly start needing more you can start nosing further into their business to find out why. Adderall is around $15 per pill, cigarettes around $4.50 a pack and a bottle of vodka is about $18.
4) Give them three $10 gas cards. It’ll take all of about an hour for them to find someone with a car. Most colleges don’t allow freshmen to take their vehicles so they quickly learn to get around with friends. They’ll need to pitch in for gas. Handing a friend a $10 gas card is a sure way to ensure that they won’t have trouble catching a ride to Walmart for anything they desperately need.
5) Make sure you text them every single day. Kids don’t always like to call so texting them and having them text you back is sometimes the only way to communicate. If you don’t text then learn, now. I text things like “So how was your day?” or “Did you see Katherine had the baby!” All things that require a quick answer but don’t demand too much of their valuable study time. (I say that sarcastically, read on.)
6) Expect the worst. These kids are acclimating themselves to college, expect at least a ten point drop in their overall GPA. I know some kids who breeze right through; mine didn’t and ended up on academic probation. She spent last year busting her behind to bring it back up.
7) Sorority/Fraternity? I say yes. Although they do entail drinking and other things no matter what they say. But these groups are expensive; my daughter’s sorority had a $500 start up cost. The monthly dues are $70 thereafter until graduation, what happens after that I don’t know. Nevertheless, I don’t know how she would have gotten through the past two years without her sisters. If you can afford it and they want to join, research the group first and ask millions of questions. Personally I think they’re all about the same. Beware, if your child signs up for a Fundraiser and doesn’t do anything to raise funds…the sorority/fraternity will bill YOU the entire amount he/she committed to raise! Betcha didn’t know that tidbit! Those t-shirts? Yeah you’re getting that bill too.
8) If they aren’t too far away then go get them and bring them home one weekend a month at the least. Cook their favorite meals, do their laundry and when they go to the store go through all of their stuff. Again looking for anything unusual that you need to know to keep them alive through their first year. I may get a lot of bashing on this but I’m a big believer in snooping. I can’t tackle a problem I don’t know about and these are my babies no matter how grown they look. Just don’t be a fool and wait for them at the front door with a pack of ‘found’ condoms in your hand. Bring it up later as a different subject. Letting them know you’re all in their business is a sure way to never see them again.
9) Send them mail. My daughter was the only girl in her dorm room that ever got mail. She LOVED it. I sent her magazines that we’d enjoyed together (after I’d read them first of course.) And whatever mail she got here at the house, or pictures that I scanned and printed that I knew she’d like on her bulletin board. Simple things. Usually I’d stuff a $20 into the magazine for play money. It's a nice way for Mom to send an 'I love you' message!
10) Don’t be hysterical. Things are going to happen. My daughter was the most perfect teenager you can imagine… but she’s tried everything there is to try now. Do not criticize them; these are choices they’ve made-good or awful, instead encourage them. Momma used to say you catch more flies with sugar than you do with vinegar, live by that rule. Talk to them openly, be the ‘cool’ parent. You find out more that way, plus your kids begin to realize that you see them as an adult now and that boosts their confidence.
As I contemplate buying my last set of plastic drawer units on rollers, I give you my final piece of unsolicited advice, enjoy yourself! Renew your relationship with your partner or find a new one, read (preferably my books,) take long bubble baths and fix yourself up. You aren’t the Mom covered in spaghetti sauce anymore shave those legs ladies this is YOUR time to party!