By Sara Dimerman
During our daughter’s first year away at university, we counted the days between one visit home, and the next. We made sure to stock the fridge with her favourite food and to prepare a delectable dinner for her first night back.
Towards the beginning of her second year, and no longer living in residence, we did try to help her out by cooking extra food during the weekends that she was home, and sending her back with care packages that she could freeze and then thaw as she needed more home cooked meals. However, since some of the homecoming novelty has worn off, even that has fallen by the wayside, especially now that she is ordering from a company that brings her meals in a box, once a week.
So, she wasn’t wrong when, just days before returning home last weekend, she called to say: “You know mom, I was thinking that it feels that you guys no longer put in as much effort when I come home. Dad doesn’t prepare me my favourite food anymore and I’m lucky if I can find leftovers in the fridge.”
My husband, lying in the bed next to me as I FaceTimed my daughter, became a little defensive. He’s the cook in the family and so, by the time that Friday (the day she typically comes home for a few days) rolls around, he wants a break from being in the kitchen. Yes, I could prepare a meal and I sometimes do, but let’s just say that since practise makes perfect, my food doesn’t quite match up to his.
I was very appreciative that she was sharing her feelings. So, instead of saying that she should be grateful for delicious leftovers and to be home with us, I acknowledged what she was saying so that she could feel heard. “So, what I hear you saying,” I said, “is that you would like us to put more effort into meal preparation when you come home because it makes you feel special. And it also gives you a break from having to take care of yourself.” “Yes, exactly!” she exclaimed. “Okay,” I responded, “we will put more of an effort into taking care of your food desires this coming weekend,” I assured her.
Friday night my husband prepared a delicious pad thai meal, mango salad and dessert. Saturday night he barbecued burgers and made home fries and a salad. Our daughter seemed delighted. And while it did require more effort on my husband’s part, in particular, we figured that since she’s not home very often, going out of our way to reassure her that we haven’t forgotten about her needs and that out of sight is not out of mind, will, I believe, go a long way to keeping us connected.
I commuted daily over the six years that I attended university and our older daughter did the same over her four years towards obtaining her degree in graphic design. So, leaving home to live away in residence was very foreign to me. When our younger daughter decided that her first choice of university was almost three hours drive away, I felt a strong mixture of emotion. On one hand, I was grateful that she had direction and desire, and that she was going to grow – not just academically, but socially and emotionally, too. On the other hand, I wanted to keep her in a bubble so that I could make sure that no harm would come to her.
Ultimately, her dream to attend her first choice of university was realized and I too came to terms with realizing that it would be a big mistake for me to stand in the way.
Now that she has almost completed her second year at university, she has grown in leaps and bounds. And I believe that I have too. I’ve let go to a great extent and trust in her knowing the way to navigate through challenges and how to cherish the independent lifestyle she has when living away from home.
So, yes, the novelty of her coming home every so often has changed – as much for us as it has for her, but still, its nice to know that when she wants some time away from being so self sufficient, that she can still ask us to take care of her – not like we did when she was young (or even during her first year away), but in a way that says “you’re home!”
Sara Dimerman, a Canadian psychologist and author, released her fifth book, Don’t Leave, Please Go: What you (and your teen) need to know before heading to university or college in May 2019. You can read more about it, and order a copy through www.helpmesara.com or