They’re baaaaack. In less than 12 hours, our college kids will be returning home like laundry bag-laden swallows to Capistrano. Our living room will somehow absorb three waves of storage boxes, black trash bags full of clothing, boxes of shoes, and backpacks. The house will be full of noise again, the refrigerator empty, and the dishwasher in constant cycle.
And for another summer, we will be looking at several months with young adults who have become accustomed to being independent, self-sufficient, and generally doing as they please. All of us will attempt to stuff the genies back in the bottle of rules and parental authority. They’re on their way, parents, so get ready now with some house expectations and rules for college students returning home.
Re-entry into the family home is an adjustment for everyone. My husband and I have been enjoying our parenting sabbatical and empty nest this year. And we’ve really adjusted—no, wholeheartedly embraced—our new freedom, flexible travel schedule, and clean home. Experience has taught us, however, that several things are necessary for everyone to come back together and actually enjoy each other’s company. Our college kids are young adults now. They aren’t in sixth grade anymore, and they are entitled to some latitude, privacy, and autonomy.
But this is still our house, darn it, and we will thank you to respect and observe a few house summer rules so we can enjoy the next three months together.
Our Rules for College Students Returning Home:
1. You get 48 hours.
Yes, you’re exhausted from studying, exams, living with other people and getting along with them. Yes, packing up a year’s worth of clothing bins, mattress protectors, and yoga mats without any help is very fatiguing. We are very proud of your effort and hard work. I’ve even made your favorite dessert to welcome you home and will wait on you hand and foot. You have two days to sleep, lie around, catch up on whatever season of “House of Cards” you’re watching.
And then the lying around is over. Get your stuff out of the living room where you dropped it when you walked in. Wash whatever is in that enormous bag of dirty laundry. Put away your dishes. Don’t even dream of saying “What’s for lunch?” to me. After 48 hours, I will become physically agitated by the sight of layabouts in their sweats lounging on the sofa at 2:00 p.m. And like Dr. David Banner, you won’t like me when I’m angry.
2. Get a job.
We do not bankroll indolence and lethargy. You know the pride and satisfaction that comes from having your own money and not having to bum twenty bucks off your parents. Besides, after a year of exercising your mental muscles, it’s great to switch gears and to work, manually if possible. Or volunteer. Many college students have required volunteer hours and summer is a great time to get them out of the way. We don’t care what you do—cut lawns, waitress, cashier— we expect you to be employed and productive this summer. In fact, get out right now and look for a job.
3. We won’t ask; you don’t drive.
We understand that you’ve been in college and responsible for your own choices for the past year. For good and no doubt for ill, too. We won’t pry, but you will also understand that your college lifestyle is not going to be coming home from college for the summer with you. You might be drinking underage at school at 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday, but you will not consume alcohol at our house without our express permission. If that poker party or bonfire at a friend’s house turns into an occasion where you have been drinking, you will either spend the night or call us for a ride—no questions asked. No one will risk driving home drunk because they don’t want to get in trouble. We’d rather you stayed safe, and crawled home at 8:00 a.m. the next morning reeking of bourbon, alive and in one piece.
Kids who only call their mothers twice during an entire semester have apparently become used to selective communication on a need-to-know basis. You had an excuse at college—but you do not here at home.
Your work shift starts at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow and you need the car? You will tell us the night before. Going out tonight? You will touch base with us and receive approval before you can expect to have a car. All inconvenience, tardiness, and/or repercussions for failure to do so will be borne by you and not us. Say it with me: Your poor planning is not my emergency. It’ll feel just like those early mornings back in high school!
5. Thou shalt not touch the DVR.
None of us want to relive the incident where you deleted my Sunday night Masterpiece Theater lineup to tape a “South Park” marathon. I have only just figured out how to delete the weekly episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” from the DVR, so do us both a favor and just pirate it off the internet or whatever it is you young people do to watch TV.
6. Close the kitchen cupboard doors.
I don’t really mind the constant rummaging for food, dishes, and locust-like devastation of our food stocks, but every time I walk into the kitchen and every single cupboard is open, it’s like one of the dead people from “The Sixth Sense” has just been in there. For the love of all things holy, close the cupboard doors!
There—that’s not too much to ask, now is it? And here’s a secret: we are thrilled to have you home and will probably give you a pass on about 90% of these house rules for college students anyway. Because we know you will be leaving home again, and all too soon.