College & Career

By Taylor Fox
University of Missouri

Letting go is a very difficult process in any situation, especially when it comes to college freshmen saying goodbye to their parents and moving into dorms. Everyone deals with separation differently—my mother is replacing me with cats.

She rescued three kittens within one week and the girls have swiftly become her babies. Forget the fact that I still have weeks before I move to attend University of Missouri. My mom, like many parents, believes she’s losing her “baby,” and she’s making sure someone’s there to fill the void.

But isn’t there an easier way for parents to cope with empty nest syndrome?

Our parents have watched us grow, so the attachment is not without reason, but maybe it’s our jobs as the ones moving away to give them comfort. Calling on a regular basis, letting them visit and giving them details of school life, and even accepting that friend request on Facebook are all ways to make the transition easier.

In addition, parents, you need to let your little birdies leave the nest. No showing up unannounced at our dorms, but if you do, baked goods will soften our surprise. College is a time for us to be on our own and experience living alone, so visiting every weekend wanting to rearrange every corner of our dorm is counterproductive.

We are the ones moving—sometimes hours and states—away. We have to deal with new homes, new people and the scariest thing of all: community bathrooms. What can we do to find comfort in the college world?

Parents try to make their children comfortable in their first time away from home by spending a ton of money on brand-new bedding, towels, dishes, decorations, computers and microwaves, but that first night alone in our dorms—lying across the room from a stranger in a new bed sheet that smells like Target, staring at our roommate’s Marilyn Manson poster—we feel all alone. So, don’t even try to tell me that parents are more depressed with us moving out.

Of course, we’ve been looking forward to being on our own for years, but the second mommy and daddy drive away after dropping us off, all we can think about are the times that thunder shook the house compelling us to crawl into bed in between our parents or the time we decided that our brothers were getting too much love, so we decided to hide in the mall to get attention. Yes, all we can think about is: Who’s going to be here for me now?

College is a great transition in life. Once we have survived the first night, we’ll slowly start to realize that the safety net is still there. But for now, parents, please remember that your college freshmen miss you too.

Students, remember that your parents still see you with a pacifier in your mouth crawling around the kitchen floor.
Parents, remember the most important lesson from this experience: Odds are, your children will end up back home at some point, so don’t under any circumstances turn our bedrooms into craft rooms.

>> Taylor Fox is a 2011 graduate of Bartlett

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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