No more back to school for us!


Fran Ostendorf, Editor

For the past nine years, the second week of August has meant only one thing. Time to pack up the minivan and take one child or the other – or both – back to college. Some years the van was packed tighter than others. One year, it was so stuffed that student and husband drove in the van, and I got on an airplane to meet them. I confess to being an occasional helicopter parent, but that was the first one going to college so indulge me.

There was a kind of ritual in all of this. Shopping for dorm supplies. Sorting through everything that returned home the previous spring and deciding which things would go back. Stuff is important to the student going away from home. At my house, everything was piled in the living room, sorted, packed and then carried out to the car. Sometimes, it seemed as if we’d just put it away and it was time for the return trip.

And the planning always involved negotiation. When would we leave? Who would make the trip? Where would we stay? Would we combine this with a vacation? Everyone had jobs, including the returning student, so final days and vacation days were factors.

This year, for the first time, there is no back to school transition for our house. We have graduated. All of us. I say that because I’m a believer in the expression “it takes a village.” The Bed Bath & Beyond coupons are piling up on my desk because nobody needs to shop for dorm essentials. I don’t have to worry about logistics or vacation days. Yes, it was the kids going back to school. But the whole family was always involved.

Now as I look back, it occurs to me that this is a radical change from the way I grew up. And I know other parents are saying the same thing. Our parents didn’t jump through hoops to get us to college. I went to school more than a car’s ride away from home. Freshman year, we packed everything in a trunk and got on a plane. My parents came with me and helped me get settled but that was it. Next year, I was on my own (and, by the way, all my stuff went into storage over the summer… at school).

Of course, I didn’t have the “things” that college students now expect to take to school. And we had phones with cords in our rooms, so I guess that’s ancient history. 

Do I wish that I could have just waved goodbye for all of these nine years and not gone through the planning and packing and transport?

Nope, not for a minute.