Parents Who Follow Their Kids to College: Are They Serious?

An article that examines the new trend of parents following their children to college.

Seen and Heard

Guess Who’s Coming to the Kegger?

Just what every kid wants – their parents following them to college

-Mary Beth Sammons

young man dressed in graduation attireTalk about the ultimate in anti -“you time!”

Finally, your teen is in college, and for the first time in almost two decades, you’ve got a miniscule moment just for you! No more carpools. No more amputating your fingers slicing oranges for the soccer team and marathon, and no more weekend-long cheering stints on the travel tournament sidelines. No more all-nighters struggling to stay awake so you can enforce your nocturnal teen’s curfews. No more treks to the bookstore for advice from the latest titles like: Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager.

At a time when you should be jumping up and down – patting yourself on the back for surviving the teen years – and heading for the nearest spa to massage into your being the realization that you actually have a life – your own life, suddenly there’s a new trend in town: moms and dads going to college WITH Junior. I swear, I read it in the headlines Sunday, just as I was chilling out with my Venti skim Latte, soaking in the fact that I have only two more years left in my 21-year hiatus from a full-night’s sleep. That’s when my third of a trio of teens heads to college, leaving the non-reality TV mom-on-demand show version of Lifestyles of the Suburban Teen.

So, please, please say no. Not another item on my checklist of things to feel parentally guilty about. OMG, am I now supposed to speed dial Dr. Phil or Manic Mommy: “I haven’t bought a second home near my son’s college. Will he feel abandoned? Could this negate our parent/infant/preschool/grade school/teen years bonding? Is not providing a sanctuary from the dorm akin to bottle feeding? Is it fiscally irresponsible for me merely to pay for the $15,000 tuition, a U-Haul and closet organizer stocked with a collection of Hoodies and exactly-the-same-looking $100 per pair Abercrombie tattered jeans and a debit card IV’d to my checking account?”

I should have seen this coming. First, it was home-cooked meals – my parental peers, holing up in the kitchen on Thursday nights whipping up a week’s worth of culinary creations. Then, carefully storing meal- sized portions in 50-foot rolls of Saran Heavy Duty Freezer wrap to be delivered each weekend to their college-aged kids, who BTW are firmly ensconced in dorms a six-hour round trip away. “He misses my cooking,” explains my friend, who makes this cross-state-lines trek every weekend to serve up meals to Junior.

Then it was wide-screen TVs. “Mom, it’s just a large-screened laptop … everyone has one.” Then futons. Then gift certificates for Starbucks, Jamba Juice and the tanning salon (now a staple on college campuses). Then came “Kiddie condos” (buying condos in lieu of paying for dorms for their dorm-weary offspring).

But buying a “let’s pretend we’re still in college,” “let’s relive our lives through our kids” home away from home?

OMG, are they kidding?

Call me a callous mom of two kids in college, but, I’m a firm believer in the old adages: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” And, “A mother’s job is to let her children flee the nest.” Isn’t it kind of interrupting the growing up process, (your kid’s AND yours) to be traipsing through the quad delivering mommy’s home-cooked casserole? Or giving the sleep-deprived 18-year-old (from all-night partying, duh) a detox center at the family home, just blocks away.

Certainly I have cried my eyes out and blown through boxes of Kleenex after I’ve dropped off both my son and daughter at their respective colleges. But as much as I miss them and missed my own parents, isn’t that part of the thrill of college – the freedom?

I attribute my own departure from the parental units as a transforming moment in my growing-up years – and my parents, as well. I remember hopping on a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, with a trunk filled with my cutest outfits (the only essentials I needed), and heading across the country to Arizona State University. There, with only a hallway pay phone to check in with the rents, I grew up, or semi-matured, and learned how to be independent. I think this was exactly because I couldn’t run home to the comfort of mumsy or dadsy when I needed a cash cow.

I apologize in advance to my peer boomerang parents of college students who won’t be inviting me to the Fall Formal at my son’s campus or happy hour at the frat. But I for one have one thing to say to parents who follow their kids to college: Get a life!!!!

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