Five Things I've Learned in My First Two Months as a College Parent

My oldest daughter started her first semester of college back in September. It was a new experience, both for her and for us as parents, and we weren't really sure what to expect. Roughly two months later, I've learned a few things.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

1. Kids can be surprisingly independent. OK, so technically my daughter is considered an adult now. However, there were plenty of reasons for us to worry about an 18-year-old who had never lived on her own before and would now be 250 miles away. To say she exceeded our expectations is an understatement.

She's been there roughly 9 weeks. In that time, she has managed to get to class, do her homework, make new friends, remember to eat, go grocery shopping, shower and do her laundry without a constant reminder from us. She even found a part-time job on her own. I'm not going to say she doesn't need us at all, but she proved she doesn't need us looking over her shoulder anymore.

2. The independence comes with a price. The biggest adjustment, especially for my wife, is we don't know what she's doing all the time. Unlike when she was in high school, we don't even have access to her grades, just her word that she's doing her homework and passing. In fact, the first time she went on a short road trip with a friend (to a town 10 minutes away, to do some shopping), I thought my wife would have a nervous breakdown (to her credit, she's starting to accept her baby girl is capable of making wise choices without her).

Communication isn't always up to par either. There are days when I get a short text message from her and other days when she tells me more about her day, it depends on how much she has going on. Again, I want to know how she's doing but also respect the fact she is her own person and has to work around her responsibilities.

3. There have been some lesser adjustments too. The big one, for me, is trying not to make too much food when I cook because there is a surprising difference between cooking for three people (including our other daughter) instead of four. I still ALWAYS make too much spaghetti and taco night is still a work in progress because we no longer need three pounds of hamburger but I'm not sure how much of that our oldest daughter ate and how much of it was from her younger sister.

4. Mail is unreliable. To be clear, I don't blame the United States Postal Service itself, but my daughter has already had some mail go missing and other letters take up to three weeks to get to her. This apparently isn't just a problem for her. One of our family friends has a granddaughter attending a different college and is experiencing the same thing and we don't know if it's the mail being put in the wrong box or if someone is stealing it (those boxes are surprisingly easy to get into). 

We don't seem to have this problem with packages, which go to a central location and need to be signed for by her. So, going forward, everything is being sent in package form, complete with tracking.

5. College meal plans are a scam. OK, that's probably a little harsh. It's not like she's buying meals she can't use. However, she probably has a lot more un-used meals at this point than used ones and, assuming she's like the typical student, I suspect it is highly profitable for the college.

As much as I want to see her using all of them, especially since they are already paid for, I can also understand why that doesn't happen. Sometimes her class schedule doesn't allow her to have lunch during the designated times. Other times, the weather is bad or she's busy with homework and it's just easier for her to make something in her dorm room, especially since the grocery store is closer to her dorm than the student center. In any case, even the lowest-price meal plan (which is required) is probably more than she really needs.

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