I have two college kids. One lived in a dorm room a couple hundred miles away during the school year, the other lived in a big house with friends just a short drive from here. Both have come home for the summer, joining their two younger brothers, the dog and me. Yay!
Our house is almost 80 years old. It's been updated, of course, but one of the less-charming aspects of living in a older home is there are lots of nooks and crannies which are the perfect size for mice to squeeze in. Every fall we get a few. It's nauseating at first, but they are dealt with and life goes on.
Those two facts don't seem to have anything to do with each other, do they? Except, oh my God. They have so much in common, college kids and house mice. Have you had either of them? Then you know exactly what I'm talking about.
For those of you who are new to this experience, let me give you some insight. Here are ways that having your kids home from college for the summer is a lot like having a mouse infestation.
1. They leave tell-tale signs. With mice, you find droppings. With college kids, you find wet towels everywhere, dirty dishes in bedrooms and Bob Marley posters.
2. They will eat anything and everything. With mice, you will find holes chewed in cereal boxes, chip bags, sacks of dog food and pretty much anything else you haven't shoved in the freezer. I once found a half-eaten stick of butter with tiny mouse bites all over it during one particularly grueling mouse season. College kids are the same, only sometimes they'll open boxes with their hands instead of their teeth. And they tend to avoid dog food.
3. Sightings of either one are rare. If you go into the kitchen late at night and quickly flick on the lights, you may spot mice scurrying along the baseboards. You may also spot a large man/child, motionless in front of the open refrigerator. Both are easily startled and will flee back to their nests.
4. Speaking of nests... Mice like quiet, dark, undisturbed spots for their lairs. They will shred paper and cloth to make it soft and warm. College kids home for the summer oftentimes build nests in their old bedrooms using several Rubbermaid storage tubs, every single blanket in the house and various articles of your clothing. They will sometimes overtake sectional sofas as well.
5. You can hear them at night. With mice, you will hear scuttling, gnawing and scratching noises. With college kids, you will hear scuttling, gnawing and scratching noises along with the THUP THUP THUP bass drops of Skrillex and Diplo.
6. They kind of stink. Mice emit a musky odor. Depending upon the sex of your college kid, the odors emitted may be musky in an Old Spice/dirty laundry way, or it may smell like a Bath and Body Works store has exploded in what used to be your daughter's bedroom.
7. The excrement of mice can be dangerous. The excrement of college kids isn't so much dangerous as it is annoying. Did all of your roommates get pee on the bathroom walls, son? Or is that just your way of marking your territory here at home? And oh, my darling daughter: toilet paper might have been "free" in the dorm, but it's not here. Ease up, Miss Wipes-A-Lot.
Those are just a few ways a mouse infestation and kids home for the summer are alike. Of course, we deal with the two issues in entirely different ways. With mice, we set traps and call the Orkin guys. With the kids, we sneak hugs and have intelligent conversations and marvel over how fast the years have gone by.
The hardest part of this experience is knowing that the mice will always be back. The kids? There will come a time, very soon, when they will nest elsewhere and your house will be quiet, mess-free and the fridge will remain full. It's going to be pretty cool, I'm sure... but I have a feeling it will always seem like something, someone, is missing.
Enjoy them, and the summer, while it lasts.