My tears shed over my youngest daughter, Carolyn’s departure for college last August have barely dried and she is back home for the summer.
Carolyn is the same loveable person she has always been. Yet I can’t help but notice that she is a little different than the bright-and-beautiful Abington Heights High School graduate who we hugged good-bye. With her freshman year at Lehigh University behind her, Carolyn seems wiser, more independent and more sure of herself. The woman in her is more noticeable now. And that woman knows her own mind.
I feel blessed that Carolyn and I have always had a great relationship. But even parents who are close to their children have to create a new normal once their children are grown, especially when they are still living at home.
The college years, in particular, are a good time to explore new territory in your relationship with your adult child. Before college, Carolyn had a curfew and assigned chores, and Mom was basically in charge of her schedule. But she always had a roof over her head and never had to wonder where her next meal was coming from.
College kids grow up pretty fast.
“When I started college, it was a little overwhelming,” Carolyn said, remembering budgeting her own money and feeding herself for the first time. “And there was no one to wake me up for school. I was completely in charge of my own schedule.”
She said, “It was definitely a lot of trial and error. You mess up a lot, at first. But it didn’t take long for me to handle and like my independence.”
Meanwhile, Mom was getting more independence as well. With my “baby girl” away at school I was free of being extra-curricular activities manager for the first time in years, and the only person I had to wake up in the morning was me.
So now, here we are under the same roof again, still loving each other, but maybe bumping into each other – just a little.
Carolyn says, “It feels different for me now being back home. I don’t feel as dependent on this environment. Now the scope of my world is much bigger than NEPA.”
Both of us agree that the key to making our new normal work comes down to communication and mutual respect.
“I’ve always loved that my mother and father respected me,” Carolyn says.
I respect Carolyn as an adult, although I have pointed out that adults need parents, too. The catch is that freedom always comes with responsibility. Carolyn knows that she is responsible for her decisions and their consequences.
So, instead of rules we try to practice “courtesy,” the same buddy system that Carolyn and her college roommate use. We tell each other where we are going and when we expect to be home, and check in with each other if we are going to be late. We also consult with each other on our social calendar.
Most of the time I love the “new us” because I can relax and enjoy my adult daughter without having to parent her. Other times – I won’t lie – I am scared to death. Because it is very hard to let your children go, to watch them make their own successes, and their own mistakes.
Although I think I have evolved, Carolyn reminds me that I sometimes slip back into “Mommy” mode.
“Mom, you still ask me if I ate lunch,” Carolyn says with a laugh. “The other day, when I told you I made scrambled eggs with avocado and salsa, you were so impressed.”
I think we’ll be alright.
Teri Lyon is a mom, grandmom and freelance writer who lives in Glenburn Township with her college woman and their cat.