September's turmoil is over. Bed Bath and Beyond has been depleted, dorm move-in has been successfully accomplished, and classes are in full swing. As parents, we can stop worrying about the transition to college and plan the visit. If you live close enough to your college age child and do not want to wait until Thanksgiving to see them, well, it's time for a little journey. Some schools have an established Parents Weekend or you might just be head to school on your own... either way, here are some things to think about.
Bring food -- after all they are teens, need I say more. If you bake, you are a goddess. If you can't bring provisions, the grocery store makes a nice family outing.
In my informal poll (okay my Facebook page) there was a strong feeling that "Parents Weekend" was not really the best parents weekend, that the crowds and the staged events were not the optimal atmosphere in which to visit offspring. Many parents had attended the formal Parents Weekend once and said that hence forth they would visit on other weekends instead. Personal opinions will need to prevail.
If you are going to take your kid and, perhaps, their friends out, book early, really early. You will be unpleasantly surprised how fast reservations for hotels and restaurants in a college town will fill up for Parents Weekend.
If your kids left their heavy things home, heavy coats, gloves, boots, hats and the winter comforter, it is time to bring them. They may have moved into their dorms during a 90+ degree heat wave but by the time they come home for Thanksgiving there may be snow. You are still the parent, do they have the right clothes? My kids both underestimated the "nice" clothes that they might need for fraternity rush or dances and dinners. Sometimes jeans and a tee shirt just don't cut it.
Ask about any expensive (in college student parlance) items they might need. My kids were out of things like razor blades. I call those necessities, they called them expensive.
Don't clean their room or bathroom, not matter how much it is killing you. This is their turf, not yours. If ever there was a moment to turn a blind eye, it's that bathroom.
If you have a hotel they may want to sleep there for a night. They are just getting used to the crowds, noise and chaos of their dorms and on visiting weekends there can be roommate's siblings in their room as well. A rollaway bed in your hotel might look pretty nice.
Alcohol. Buying alcohol for under 21s is, of course, illegal and even though your college kid may not have imbibed in high school, or at least very little, it would not be a surprise to find out they are drinking in college. They may ask you to buy a bottle of something before you head home. Be ready with your answer, parents weekend is not a moment to start making family policy decisions.
It may be difficult to sit around in their dorm room, particularly if they share it with others, so do a tiny bit of research about activities in the area. This may be no more than a lunch reservation or scoping out a park, but your student may not have left campus yet and after he gives you the 20 minute tour, what's next?
Things have changed. In this very short time since your child left home he or she has had a major life experience, so prepare yourself. There may be subtle and perhaps slightly uncomfortable ways your relationship has shifted. Be open minded, take a very deep breath and remind yourself that each stage in their lives has been a period of adjustment.
If there was one subject about which there is parental consensus it is that kids will not want to spend as much time with their parents as their parents might hope. Get ready to watch CNN or go to a movie. College kids have parties, sports, activities and academics to squeeze in during a visit. They will be nice about it, but at the first sign of a good party or an a capella practice, parents will be dumped and, when we really ask ourselves we know, this is entirely as it should be.