A Summer Bummer

When college kids come home

It took about 15 minutes after I welcomed the kids home from college for the summer for me to wish them gone again. How can I miss them so much when they’re not here and get so ticked off at them when they are? It started when I came home from work to find that my just-arrived daughter had left three big trash bags full of clothing just inside the front door.

“What are these?” I asked her.

“Clothes I don’t want anymore. I had to make room in my closet.”

“So you’re just going to leave them here? Barricading the door?”

Long, slow sigh, followed by a pained question: “Where would you like them?”

“The garage would be good. There’ll be a Purple Heart collection in a month or so.”

My son was sitting at his computer, playing World of Warcraft. He’ll be sitting there for the next three months, unless he somehow manages to land a job from that same spot. He’s taken to sleeping on the sofa at night; it’s much more convenient than going upstairs to his room. His sister, meanwhile, occasionally stays out 24/7 with only vague explanations of where she’s going or whom she’s with. It’s really hard to negotiate who owes whom what around here these days. In their minds, my kids are fully functioning adults; in my mind, fully functioning adults pay their own way and don’t eat all the Weight Watchers toffee crunch ice-cream bars.

I know they think it’s unreasonable that I expect them to check in; at school, they could come and go as they pleased. I understand that sitting home with Mom, watching yet another Phillies game, is neither one’s notion of a good time. I’m sure they’d be better about doing chores if I could just be more organized and leave them each lists of what I expect to be accomplished while they’re in this interregnum. But you know, making those lists only makes more work for me.

I go into the kitchen for coffee and find my son’s dirty lunch dishes in the sink. “Really?” I ask him. “Really? You couldn’t wash your own plate and fork?”

Long, slow sigh.

I’m out of shape at nagging. These past few months, when it was just my husband and I, have been blissful. The two of us reverted to our long-ago pre-child days; if we saw something that needed to be done, we did it, without bother or fuss. No coaxing, no wheedling, no yelling, no negotiating. No piles of discarded shoes at the foot of the staircase; no dirty clothes strewn about the house. No fretting over anyone’s safety or sobriety but our own.

“Someday,” he and I remind each other now, as we gear up for what looks to be an endless summer. The funny thing is, I know I’ll miss them again as soon as they leave.