Parenting: Parents Weekend

November 4, 2011

Visiting a child at college introduces a whole new dynamic into the parent-child relationship. This was the first time (outside a few hours on overnight-camp visiting days) that I would be spending time on "his turf." He's been living on his own, managing his own time, making his own decisions on when and where to go out, what to eat, when to clean-up, etc.

So, when he called to tell me his fitted sheet had shrunken in the drier and he couldn't put it back on the bed, I tried not to express my disgust that he was making this discovery two months into his college experience (meaning he'd been sleeping on the same sheets until my impending visit made him think it might be time to change them?!? Yuck!) I also tried not to take it personally when he basically dumped Micah and me on Saturday night to get ready for his fraternity's big Halloween party – which he declined to send photos of (hmmm, wonder what that means???)

Instead, I tried to go with his schedule and meet his needs and desires. And it actually turned out to be a good visit. We all went out to dinner on Friday night, and then went to Target to get him a pumpkin-carving kit (apparently, the fraternity pledges had been assigned pumpkin-carving for the big party). He gave his little brother a tour of his dorm, the football locker room and showed him around campus.

On Saturday, Micah and I went shopping at the University bookstore (his new CMU zip-up hoodie is his current favorite piece of clothing) and then watched the Tartans vs. Washington University football game. Jason didn't actually play (most freshmen don't) but the smile on Micah's face when he got to pose on the field with his big brother in his uniform after the game made the whole trip worthwhile, despite a flight cancellation and some really nasty weather). After the game, we took part in a traditional team tailgate, which the parents put on after every home game. I got to meet his teammates and some of their parents, so now, I can put faces to the names that Jason mentions.

After the tailgate, we "hung out" in Jason's room for a bit and then we went food shopping, thus saving him a bus trip on Sunday. Then (as mentioned above) Micah and I went back to our hotel and Jason went on to his Halloween party. I think he was still asleep when we flew home Sunday morning.

In some ways, there was nothing remarkable about our visit. But in other ways it was huge. As a parent, there's something very reassuring in seeing your child living on his own and doing just fine (except maybe when it comes to getting laundry done). He's handling his schoolwork, his football schedule, and making friends. He's figured out how to get around on the public transit in a new city, where to go food shopping and get his hair cut. After 19 years of hands-on parenting, it's reassuring to see that he's doing fine on his own. And more than that, he was ok to just hang out for a bit with his "old lady" and "kid brother." Over time, our relationships with our children change. As a parent, it's great to know that those once-little people in whom we invested so much of ourselves can someday become our friends.

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