When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again…Hurrah?

Welcome home! Park the laundry U-Haul in the driveway...

When your kids go away to college, they enter the Grownup Twilight Zone

They enjoy most of the privileges of adulthood, with few of the responsibilities.  (One doesn’t count the minimal coursework required to keep one’s academic head above water.)  It is the best of both worlds for them. 

Although technically adults, as they will constantly remind you, most have the survival skills of newborn possums. 

It’s a shock to everyone’s system when they come home for the summer.  They are used to doing whatever they want, whenever they want, without parental supervision.  You, on the other hand, are used to getting a good night’s sleep.  You may also be used to moving freely through your own home without tripping over shoes, clothes and fast-food debris, dropped wherever the whim of the moment dictates.

Suddenly, everything changes.

I cried myself to sleep when our now-19-year-old daughter, Gwen, went away last fall.  I was inspired to write Bye-Bye Baby; my first blog post intended for a wider audience than just immediate family.  Now that she’s back home, we’re engaged in Bedtime Battles and Curfew Wars.

Gwen is a night owl.   My husband routinely stumbles downstairs at 2am to find her watching TV in the dark; eyes big with the glazed stare of the undead.   I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that – that’s just how some people are.  But unless you are a working vampire, staying up past 3am and sleeping until 2 in the afternoon smacks of slothfulness.  It also seems the kind of behavior that increases the odds that this child will end up as a permanent resident of my basement. 

Here's your afternoon wake-up call!

I guess I have more of a Poor Richard’s Almanac prejudice in me than I thought: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  

If I’m being honest I must admit to being a bit jealous.  If I have to get up early to hustle to work, how come she doesn’t?  Don’t get me wrong – she has a job.  But with the economy as bad as it is,  she isn’t getting many hours, and those few are all in the evening.

Although I grumble about her sleeping habits, that’s not the big issue.  It’s her ignoring curfew that makes me crazy.

We had a little talk when she first got home.  I said I expected her to be home by midnight on weekdays, as a courtesy to her father and me.  She rolled her eyes so violently I thought they would stick that way.

I know that if she were at school she could dance naked in a fountain all night and I wouldn’t have a clue (unless she called for bail money.)   But that’s the thing – I wouldn’t know it.  When she’s at home, I know when she’s not at home.  I can’t fully sleep when I know my baby is out-and-about in the wee hours, the probable next victim of every drunk driver or ax murderer on the streets. 

I worry.  Call me a bad mom. 

Gwen seems to think of the curfew as more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast rule.  This has lead to several unpleasant skirmishes, with resentment all around.

We didn’t have this problem with Liz, our oldest, probably because she was working a lot more hours, and had to be up early to get to her job.  Rebelling about staying out late isn’t an issue when you fall asleep on the couch at 9.

This summer has flown by.  Gwen will be going back to school in just one week.  Soon, there will be no more arguments.  I will enjoy peaceful nights of sleep, and an unimpeded stroll through my tidy home. 

And, once again, I will miss my little girl more than I can say.

Time to lay in a fresh supply of Kleenex.

About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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35 Responses to When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again…Hurrah?

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    I call you a good mom and having just sent my baby off to college last week (and hearing from him that he needed 5 stitches in his chin after a bike accident yesterday), I believe I’ve cornered the market on tissues, but I’ll try to save a box or 2 for you. This mom thing is hard.


  2. Jackie says:

    It’s actually pretty interesting to hear the other side of this. Especially the eyes rolling so violently they might stick that way.

    Then again, I wouldn’t dare break curfew. Ever. Even now. I’ll be 40 and still letting my father know where I am at night- the man scares the bejeezus out of me. Instill fear, Peg!!


  3. misswhiplash says:

    I cannot understand why our children, regardless of age, seem to forget that parents worry about them. They seem to be under the impression that once out of the door Mom and Dad forget about their existence until they return.Why can they not feel the worry and apprehension that parents feel.
    My daughter left for Uni but was homesick so returned a month later. I was so pleased to have her home.
    Now my daughters are 53 years 51 years and 38 years. They live in a different country to me and they have their own families but if I don’t hear from them I worry. They could still have an accident, or be kidnapped or as you say ax-murderer on the loose…
    The responsibility of parenthood never ends….


  4. Tori Nelson says:

    I so remember thinking of myself as “grown” as soon as I checked into my girl’s dorm Freshman year. It didn’t matter that my parent’s paid for said cinderblock house, and my meals, and my spending money, and (without knowing) my discount beer. I was pretty convinced I knew it all!


    • pegoleg says:

      We want our kids to stand on their own, but we can’t help watching to see that they’re ok. On the first day your son goes to school, you’ll be a wreck, and will want to hang out in the back of the room all day. But you’ll want him to see that everything is ok, and know that he can do it on his own, so you’ll put on your sunglasses to hide the tears and let him walk away from you. And they just keep on walking away.


  5. egills says:

    I feel your pain especially the eye rolling bit! I’m thinking I made our house a little too comfortable though – all our kids keep coming back!
    I wish Fuchsia would learn to close the front door without making it sound like the house is falling down..


  6. Tammy says:

    Funny how kids just don’t understand this until they have children of their own. I am amazed…..our two oldest…..both boys……just had their first child…one this month and one last month…they understood as soon as the baby was released from the hospital (one even sooner than that) how much they will worry about their child and why we were the way we were. I wish everyone had a daughter like mine (Jackie) who came to us and told us when she did wrong before anyone could ever get to us to tell us. She is awesome. We still worried about her, got calls like..don’t worry.I’m okay but I wrecked the car……but we didn’t worry quite as much because we knew she’d call us if she knew she was in trouble.


    • pegoleg says:

      I hope my kids would call if they were in trouble. Maybe I need to remind her of that this week, along with going over to-pack lists and financial matters.

      I was amazed how much smarter my parents seemed to get as I grew older and had my own kids.


  7. Seasweetie says:

    I have total recall of this exact experience and set of arguements when I came home for Christmas in my freshman year of college. In fact, not too long ago, I found my journal from that era, in which I was ranting about the restrictions they placed on me when I was an “adult”. I’m 49 now, and have figured out that I’m still not an adult. I don’t know what I was thinking back at 18. Good luck – my daughter only started high school today, but I’m buying stock in Kleenex for when she goes to college.


    • pegoleg says:

      How great that you have that journal! I’d love to meet my 18-year-old self, although I suspect I wouldn’t have a lot of patience with her.

      I know you’ve heard this a thousand times, but it’s true – high school simply FLIES by. Try to treasure each moment you have.


  8. Big Al says:

    Can’t tell you how much this hit home. This is one rite of passage I could nave done without. Yes, I still worry about my kids and they are in their 40’s.

    About the daughter though, remember the old saying: “A son is a son ’til he takes a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life.” You’ll enjoy laughing with her about this some day.

    Good post!


  9. I never broke a curfew. But when I went to college, I no longer had one. I think my parents figured I was doing whatever I wanted in school (700 miles away) and there was no point in them trying to make rules for the short time I was there (Christmas break and the summer between freshman and sophomore year – after which I just stayed at school year-round because I was working). That said, I was still underage and therefore didn’t really stay out very late. They managed to balance the worry about their guinea pig – I mean oldest child – with their recognition that I could do as I pleased in Ohio, and I was, after all, a good kid. I’m not saying you’re bad for imposing rules, but it IS very difficult to come home again after one has been away at school. And by the way, I still live hundreds of miles from my parents and they still require me to text them when I get home from visiting. I find it funny, since I don’t text them every day or night when I get home from work. But I do get that parents worry… even when their kids are in their mid-30s.


    • pegoleg says:

      You’re right, you’re right. I know it. I’ve GOT to learn to let go of the reins.

      And I make my kids do the same thing when they go back after coming home. And it doesn’t make sense. And I will still do it.


  10. Jane says:

    The worry never goes away….. but it is much better when they are no longer under your roof. Only 2 more summers, and you and Bill will be empty nesters!


  11. A friend recently said that when she told her daughter “You’re an adult now” the reply was “I’m really a pretend adult.”


  12. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    The tone of this post reminds me of a little my siblings’ visits when I was in law school. I’d look forward to them being with me, and I’d spend 90% of the time delighted to have them so close by. The other 10% I’d spend wondering/asking why they had an aversion to the sink/garbage can/laundry hamper. Then they’d clear out. I’d look at what had seemed so messy hours before and mourn how empty my place suddenly felt.

    Li’l D’s not quite two yet, and yet . . . I already feel like I could use some tissue, imagining how different those feelings and proportions will be as re: my little sweetheart.


    • pegoleg says:

      As soon as they learn to walk it seems like they’re running away from us, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. But you’ve got lots of joyful, messy (neat , in Li’l D’s case) years before then.


  13. Sandy Sue says:

    Since I’m not a parent (and thank the stars every day of my life), I can only guess at how crazy-making the whole process is. You want your kids to grow up strong and independent, but that rips your heart out. Who designed this system? I’d like to speak to the Manger.


    • pegoleg says:

      I often want to speak to the manager, but I guess that day will come sooner than I would like. In the meantime, we can just gripe about it to the blogosphere.


  14. Love the pictures. All I can say is that it is MUCH easier letting them go the 2nd time, and the 3rd and the …


  15. Margie says:

    My eldest daughter had a problem with curfew when she moved back home. One night I asked her to stay home and babysit her two younger siblings, while I went out for the evening with friends. I lost track of time and I didn’t phone home to say I was going to be a bit late. Late was 3 AM. When I got home there was a note on the table that read, “You are in big trouble, lady. I was worried about you, and you didn’t even have the courtesy to call home.”
    After that, she didn’t always come home on time, but she always called to say where she was, and what time she would be home.


  16. Cheryl says:

    I so hear you! My son goes back to college Saturday night. It’s kind of a love-hate thing. There’s a certain part of me that’s going to run around the house joyfully picking up all his leftover clutter and throwing it in his room (out of sight) and enjoying the “all mine” feeling of my home. But then there’s that other side of me that’s going to get all misty eyed when he pulls out of the drive… The summer goes so fast..and he’ll graduate next year, so this might be it…. I’m already getting the “now you have a boyfriend” spiel which is code for “I won’t be coming home much on weekends this year”. I know. It’s normal and I want him to launch, really I do. But it’s still sad.


    • pegoleg says:

      We just got back from taking her to school, Cheryl, and I know just what you mean. Tomorrow I’ll clean up her room in a whirlwind, but I cried when I hugged her goodbye today. I said “Gwen, it’s just like kindergarten all over again. The life of a parent is too, damn many goodbyes.”

      Good luck to you and your goodbyes.


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