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When Your College Student Comes Home

Lori writes about her emerging nest journey at Lori Pelikan Strobel.


The semester has ended and the time has come that your college student is home to complete your nest.

Warning: It will not be what you expect.

Your student will be home to quickly say, “Hi, Mom. I’m home.” You will next hear the thud of a laundry basket as it is dropped to the floor, and the scraping of a suitcase as it rips into your nicely painted wall. Before you know it, there will be some sort of chaotic wind swirl that takes place in your home, and every item your student owns will be sprawled throughout your house.

One day you will open the door to find yourself tripping over sneakers and shoes sitting perfectly quiet in the middle of the entryway. A sock trail will start in the kitchen and lead to the family room, where you will find crumbs and yellow guck that oozed from an egg sandwich living happily together on a plate and the coffee table. Here, also, will lay several half-filled water bottles, a coffee cup from the local coffee shop—that still has coffee in it—and a laptop with the cord stretched across the couch. The remotes will have a temporary home buried deeply between the couch cushions.

As you move back into the kitchen, because you are fuming that your college student left such a mess, you reach for a glass of water. There are no more glasses left in the cabinet, but they are all in the sink. They are precariously squeezed together, along with a bowl of dried yogurt, a crusted cream cheese knife, the big bowl of popcorn you asked to be cleaned days ago, and several apple cores that have not quite gone down the disposal.

Sighing, you grab the backpack that is still sitting stoically by the kitchen chair and decide to bring it to your student’s bedroom. Opening the door is a little difficult, but you give it a shove and move out of the way the replicating sweatshirts that block the doorway. Your student’s bedroom looks like the bureau and the closet threw up. You wonder, Is this every article of clothing my child owns lying on the floor? And where should I put the backpack? Random shoes appear ready to flee the crime scene, and that blanket pile could actually have a person under it. Yep, it’s breathing. Who is it? Quietly you place the backpack next to the empty shoebox.

Passing the bathroom, you look. Ugh! Once again the toothpaste is smooshed in the sink, and a blow dryer dangles on the edge of the counter ready to electrocute itself from further torture. Wet towels and gym clothes hang out together on the floor. And of course there is no toilet paper on the roll.

Back downstairs you run into your college student rummaging through the refrigerator and cabinets, as she starts a feeding frenzy. “Wait, who’s up in your room sleeping on the floor?” you ask. The student tells you but you don’t remember because now your college student is grumbling that there isn’t anything good to eat. You, on the other hand, have been preparing for weeks before her arrival to stock the house with all her favorite foods. You have baked, cooked, and catered to her desires. As much as you try, it won’t be perfect because suddenly the student hates her favorite cheezit crackers. Didn’t you know the student likes kale chips now? Don’t be alarmed, she will find something in her frenzy, and then you will watch your student go into hibernation for about 18 hours.

When your college student awakens, more eating will follow, some texting, and then the words you have heard now for weeks.

“I won’t be here for dinner.” Your head swivels three times around and she says, “Thanks, Mom, see you tomorrow.”

“Wait, what did you say?” you cry as the door slams shut. Yep, the time has come. You literally cry.

Your college student is headed out to see all of her friends … again. This will occur every night until you begin to scream and cry that you want to spend some time with her, too.

Your college student will do a family dinner to appease you, and she will have friends over for dinner when you decide to get sushi. However, this will be when you give up. You choose to give up on keeping your house in order; you give up trying to make it perfect for your student while she is home or actually not home. You decide it’s wonderful to have your child home no matter what the chaos is and no matter how many times the door opens and closes. You realize that you get to have snippets of conversations with her. Hey, your child is witty, fun, and smart. You get to breathe your child’s shampooed hair when she kisses you good-bye. You get to listen to her laugh when she binge watches Netflix. When this happens, it will be four weeks later and she will be ready to return to school … and sadly you have to let go again. But at the same time, you’re ready for her to go back, too!

What happens to your home when the college student returns home? Is it chaotic? Do you just get use to it all and then realize they are leaving again? Do you have mixed feelings about their return to school? Over the next four weeks, let me know your feelings and send pictures of your home too. 

Please let me know I’m not alone. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Find Lori on social media – follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @loripstrobel.

Lori Pelikan Strobel

Lori Pelikan Strobel lives with her husband of over 30 years. She is a mother to two adult daughters and a dog named Louie. Lori’s work experience has ranged from pharmaceutical sales representative, Pilates instructor, to community college teacher. Lori and Louie like to devote their time as a registered animal therapy team. You can currently find Lori walking her dog, conducting Waggleviews, or writing at her favorite coffee shop. Lori can be found writing at Lori Pelikan Strobel. Her essay, “Mom-On-Demand,” appeared in The Zen of Midlife Mothering.

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Monday 1st of February 2016

Susan, Thank you for sharing your comments. I'm glad the essay resonated with you. It's nice to know that we can share our feelings. I guess the whole goal is for our kids to grow up and be independent. Congratulations- you've done that! Yet it doesn't make missing them any easier. You may have something there with the stinky sneakers though ?


Sunday 31st of January 2016

I have felt your cord and remote pain. I like your bureau and closet metaphor. The cloths on the floor and shoes blocking the door seem to be a given for the younger twenty something, as well as, the gooey egg sandwich. I like the gym cloths, social life and kale chips. At least it is not Doritos and isolation! Your essay hits the mark for me; I've experienced this all myself, but now my youngest won't be going back to school. He's leaving soon for a city hundreds of miles away to set his own roots. I will probably end up leaving a pair of his stinky old sneaks by the door.


Saturday 30th of January 2016


Hang in there :)


Yvonne Jasinski

Saturday 30th of January 2016

Still almost three more years!


Friday 29th of January 2016


Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you've got a good system of seeing him. It certainly can be stressful when they come home. When does he turn 25? :)

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