Dear Parents of College Freshmen,
You’ve been waiting for this time of year all semester long. As you dropped your precious freshman off at Armstrong, Harbin, Cathcart or Sears Halls, you left wondering how they’d ever learn to call this new place home, and you started a countdown on your phone, ticking down the days until you’d see them again. Some of you cried as you pulled away from the dorm, and some of you beamed with happiness for the future of your child. It was a day full of emotion, to be sure.
But now, they’re coming home for Thanksgiving break. It’ll be the first full week they’ve been back home — although some of them dashed back earlier for a weekend of free laundry.
They’ll come bearing a basket full of weeks-old dirty laundry, and they’ll come bearing bags under their eyes bigger than the duffles and suitcases they’re carrying through your front door. It’ll be a week of laundry, sleeping until 1 p.m. and buying shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, mouthwash and whatever else because your freshman has been stretching the remainder of their toiletries in hopes you would buy them more when they return home. Of course you will; you’re so happy they’re home that you’d do almost anything to shower them with love in the short one-week break.
The countdown you set when you left campus on move-in day is nearing its end. You’re so excited, and that’s great! Your freshman is excited as well. But remember when you wondered how they would ever learn to call this place home, too? It happened quicker than anyone expected.
When you left campus, they were on their own for the first time. I like to refer to this as the 24-hour phenomenon. In just a matter of 24 hours, your precious, sweet, beloved offspring finished packing their things, fell asleep in their bed (for the final time as a permanent member of your home), woke up the next morning, moved into a whole new world and suddenly were left to their own devices.
In 24 short hours, their world — and yours too — was turned upside down. But they were then living next to hundreds of their peers who were in the same boat. They relied on one another to ease the transition and their closeted emotion. Because they were suddenly living life with people in the same rocking boat as them, the banded together.
Banding together with new friends in a new place with nothing but the bright future within their reach, your freshman learned to call this place home quicker than anyone could have imagined. Armstrong Hall, despite it not resembling anything close to your suburban two-story craftsman, feels like an escape from class and a place in which — for whatever reason — yelling and making life-long memories happens best at 2 a.m. Cathcart Hall became the new downstairs den, where secrets were told and tears were shed about life’s stresses and struggles.
Your freshman is coming home for the first time all semester, but it doesn’t feel like home to them anymore. Home is weird; home isn’t where they grew up because they’re not growing there anymore, and it doesn’t feel right to call Harding home because it’s not, well, home. But deep down, Harding feels like home now.
You get it, too — whether you realize it or not. Your home isn’t the same anymore since they’ve been gone. You didn’t realize how the void they left would be so vast and empty.
This break might feel weird. Maybe your child has lost their southern accent or learned to say “y’all.” They’ll probably talk about social clubs, and you’ll have no idea what they mean by “beaux and queens.” You won’t know their new best friends like you always have.
You’ll want them to stay for longer than a week, but they’ll be bursting at the seams to return back to their new “home” from the moment they step back through your front door.
Cherish the week as you can and know the “home” they’re excited to get back to is a place where they’ve grown in love, self and faith. In this season of thankfulness, be thankful that your home isn’t their home anymore, as hard as it might be.
Kaleb Turner is the editor-in-chief for The Bison. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.