Hollins has this "Parents website" where they attempt to give you a little friendly advice about dealing with your kid as she changes over the course of her first semester. There's a segment entitled "How to deal with emotional phone calls" (easy, hang up!) and another about her first visit home. "Do not be surprised if your daughter has changed markedly!" I admit to not having thought much about it: would Erin be a different person? I didn't imagine so, she has always been her own person so I wasn't too worried about that. There is also, on this website, a page about your child coming home for extended stays and how important it is to establish that the rules at home haven't changed.
Fast forward 6 weeks – Sarah and I are preparing to roll down to Hollins to pick up Erin for her fall break. Being the conniving sort, we elected to roll down to the Hollins area a day early and start "checking in" on Facebook to see if Erin noticed that we were in the neighborhood. We checked in at the gas station, a Mexican restaurant, a CVS and just Hollins in general. No response. We sit in the gas station parking lot. "Her phone is normally on vibrate, maybe she can't hear it" Sarah scratches her head, "maybe I should turn on "find my iPhone" because that will make a loud noise whether nor not it's on vibrate?" "Don't be ridiculous. She's either asleep or in class."
Ten minutes later we were sitting on the sidewalk outside her dorm staring at her window. We sent her a few random text messages because no matter what kids do with Facebook, the text message still reigns supreme……..and waited a few minutes. "Hi" came through. "Whatchu up to?" delay….delay…."getting ready to go for a walk"….delay…delay….kid checking Facebook…."are you here?" At long last we were found out! Erin came out and we took her out to dinner that night before rolling home the next morning. We got to spend the rest of the week together and took her back that next Sunday.
So, how different was she? An entirely new person? No, but there were important differences. My father is fond of saying that there "are no Privates in the Harrover army, only Generals" and that is true with this kid. This did lead to some fireworks as, in my house, I'm the top general….among 2 other generals but I think that by the end of the weekend we had re-ordered our relationship to about where it should be. Look, I get it. She's trying on the newly independent person role and I'm in my parental "that'll be great about the time you start paying your own bills" role. Those roles conflict from time to time. That is not unusual and I think it pretty natural. She did sleep about 14 hours a night…..
I think the keys to success in managing this transition are flexibility and trust. Of the two, trust is probably the most important, just like it is in any relationship: husband / wife / child or boss / employee – whatever. Once someone goes far enough to damage that trust relationship it is very difficult and maybe impossible to repair. Giving everyone a little bit of room to move is also a good strategy. It requires give and take on both sides however, since we're the parents, I'm pretty sure that most of the "give" is going to be on our side…:)
I'd be intersted in hearing others experiences.