Health & Medicine

Forgive me, but I can't help but gloat

This page is filled with information and suggestions, compassion and empathy for those parents of younger children who will be headed back to school.

The cost of supplies, the aggravation of having to entice sleepy kids out of bed at dawn, and the need to save vacation days to tend to a sick child are enough to drive parents bonkers.

Things are different for the parents of college ­students, however.

I'm supposed to talk about some of that, what with my many years of experience in that area, but I'm sorry, I ­simply cannot concentrate.

I don't have a child in elementary or secondary school any more. Gathering the strength to contain my glee has overshadowed all professionalism. Staying on topic is extremely difficult. In fact, as you can see, I'm failing.

Because of that, I would like to use this space for all those parents who, like me, don't have to do that any more. Collectively, we offer you a ”nana nana boo boo“ and a ”better you than me.“

We have been there, done that and, thankfully, lived through it, although there were years when we didn't think we would.

My youngest graduated high school in the spring and is headed to the University of Louisville in a couple of weeks.

His move to college doesn't translate into lavish cruises or vacations for my husband and me because our son is taking our money with him. But it does mean an end to coordinating his schedule with mine, to having less time to get things done, and to teacher conferences.

(Did that sound like ­boasting?)

And it means my husband and I will be able to ­selfishly redirect energies that were once focused on our last child's bumpy matriculation through elementary and secondary school. We can do adult things.

I am free to make crafts that embarrassed my ­children and attend plays that bored them.

The only problem is ­trying to remember who I was before I became a mother 32 years ago. I've had at least one child in school for the past 27 years, nearly half my life.

The house will be ours. The dirt will be ours. The food in the refrigerator might have a chance to spoil. (Oh, goodness. I did that bragging thing again.)

We parents of older ­children can have wild parties again if we choose or simply get to know our mates as ­individuals instead of as Mom or Dad. We could even rent an RV and disappear.

Well, maybe not me and my husband. We still have to pay for college. I'll save that dream for later years.

Our new freedom is predicated, of course, on the children staying gone.

So, that brings me back to the subject.

For those parents who, like my husband and me, are sending a child to ­college, make sure you send care packages often. That ­lengthens the time between visits.

Fill them with non-perishable foods: ramen noodles; candy bars; ­cookies; individual bags of chips, cereal and oatmeal; protein bars; drink mixes that can be added to bottled water; and even canned meals like meatballs and spaghetti.

My daughter said her packages were anxiously awaited by all the girls in her dorm.

I am sure this ­youngest child, who could be ­nicknamed ”pigpen,“ will be leaving soap in the communal bathrooms along with ­toothpaste and toothbrushes.

So his box also will ­contain replacement items, along with fresh towels and washcloths and hygiene products.

I've always mailed the items in cardboard boxes, but one mother suggested plastic containers so that my son can use them for more storage.

That should limit visits to about once a month. If he wants to visit more often, he'll need to call to find us.

That RV thing, say in the middle of October, still sounds like a great idea.

(And I didn't even try to keep a smile off my face when I wrote that.)