Warmer days are finally here…makes me legit so happy! I feel like the winter was endless and that we would never see the month of May. I personally am loving the change of the weather, being outdoors more, cooking on the grill, getting the beds ready for flowers, all of it. I don’t even care that we really skipped Spring and went headfirst into Summer. I am a happy girl.
And that’s not all the change that is taking place in my home and in several of your homes. Our college babies are back as well as our high schoolers (or soon to be headed in that direction) and our neat and orderly homes and schedules have become chaos overnight…or at least mine seems to be that way. I am an old hand at integrating high schoolers back into the routine but this is my first time with a college student. And, to be honest, with my high schoolers being older and not so easily coerced into my way of thinking and my college troll all about her independence, let’s just say that it’s been an adjustment. And it’s looking like it’s going to be a long haul. Sigh…
How do we do it? Seriously, how do we survive having a houseful of adults or semi-adults and find that balance between our house rules and letting them have their independence? I do not have all the answers. In fact, I may have no answers as every household is run differently. What I do have is some advice from someone that is living and breathing it. And hoping I survive it. Some tips for parents, some tips for our troll babies, a sense of humor, a bit of patience and tolerance from both parties, a few prayers and Hail Mary’s thrown in. And some Titos for good measure. Okay, lots and lots of Titos. Cuz school’s out for summer.
Tips for Parents
I’ve put together a few tips and tricks and ideas for all of us parents out there that will hopefully help us survive the summer with our fabulous little trolls. Not foolproof by any means but maybe one or two will make the upcoming months a little more tolerable. One might even hope for a day here or there that is (gasp) enjoyable…memory making. Fingers crossed!
Be clear on your expectations
First and foremost of importance in my opinion is that you are clear on your expectations. What you expect out of your trolls while they are home for the summer. Crystal clear. Because I guarantee you 90% of what you say to them will come out sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher and you will have to revisit the conversation many times - amidst allegations of “You never told me that!”
Let them adult
Oh this is a great one. Because what I have learned about letting them ‘adult’ is that what they want is only the GOOD adulting. Use of the car whenever. Freedom to come and go whenever. Not to be treated like a child. I could go on and on about what that means to my adult or almost adult children but I’m sure you get the idea. Be quick to let them truly ADULT. Pay for their own gas, car insurance, haircuts, co-pays, etc. Get up on their own for work, figure out their meals, so on and so forth. Mine are all about being treated like an adult but not so much about the responsibilities that go along with it. A rude awakening is in their future.
Give them chores around the house
I have exercised some reluctance for this in the past simply because my older troll children work. This year all of my trolls will be hi-ho’ing off to work and leaving in their wake dishes in the sink, dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, dirty bathrooms, a lack of awareness for the fact that the universe does not revolve around them. I’m over that this summer. I work too. Everyone will be given chores. The expectation of chipping in will be made clear. Pick which day you want to do your laundry. I don’t care how it’s done but it will be done. And if it’s not - that leads me to my next tip.
Accountability is a must
Listen, we can’t discipline our older children the way we did when they were younger. I can’t putt my 6’2” 210 lb troll man over my knee and spank his backside when he misbehaves or when he doesn’t do what is asked of him. What I can do is say, “No.” No, you can’t do that. No, you can’t take the car. No. No. No. Oh and NO. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Have a conversation about having accountability for their actions or for their lack there of. “I forgot to empty the dishwasher” is not a viable excuse at their age. So therefore I “forgot” to do what you needed of me. That is how real life works - a boss doesn’t care about them forgetting. As parents, we do them no favors by letting them skate by because the battle isn’t worth it. It’s not about winning the battle, my parent peepers. It’s about winning the war. Teaching them to be responsible adults and ready to conquer the world on their own without mommy making their lunch.
Have a family meeting
This will be happening at my house. I will be dressed as Judge Judy and we will be having a sit down, nitty gritty conversation about what the rules and expectations are for the summer. Brains are tired from school? No problem. I will make it easy and straightforward for you - even write it all down should that make it easier. You don’t want to? Shrug. Me no care. We pay the bills, my house, my rules. You didn’t have a curfew in school? See above. House. Mine. Rules. Mine. No one else’s parents are like this? Awwwwww. Poor you. Here’s a tissue from your mean mother. Have a family pow wow, figure out beforehand what you can negotiate on and what you can’t, come up with a family plan and stick to it. Because the minute you waver or you cave - you’re a goner.
Insist on one family dinner, one night a week
Again, this is Sunday dinner in my house. We will sit down at the table, you can invite whatever friends you want but you will be home and you will be at that table. It is so essential, that connection as families and, believe it or not, some of the best memories I have with my children we have made at our kitchen table. Iron it out. One night is not too much to ask.
Sometimes our trolly trolls simply want a sounding board. An at home confessional where they can whine and moan and rage and do so without hearing a lecture. Advice. A verbal how to. If they ask you to just listen, than do just that. Bite your tongue and don’t offer advice. Offer a hug, offer an “I’m sorry”, what have you. And, as I have had to do, don’t be afraid to ask them, “Am I just listening or do you want my opinion?” Most are quick to tell you when they don’t want your expert advice. And respect what they ask of you.
Have a sense of humor
My trio of trolls drives me batty. We have a lot of strong personalities storming through this house and someone is typically being teased, insulted, moody, unhappy, stressed - you name it. But they are mine. And they are the very best of me and my Rob and the very not best of me and my Rob. You have to approach the summer with a sense of humor because the alternative is being in a constant state of agitation.
Give them some space
This will be one I have to work on because I want to mom all the time. Get up in their business. And that’s not always what they want. Back off a little and give them space to spread their wings. Trust that the intent is going in the right direction. They will for sure screw up - that’s the nature of the troll beast. But us breathing down their neck or questioning their every move only pushes them further away.
Give them your time
Again - something I really need to work on. I am what some would call ‘high energy’. A lot going on, you’ll rarely catch me sitting, I work from home, have fifty thousand things on my plate and the desire to get them all done in an hour. I don’t take the time to sit and be with them a lot of the time. Just sit and chill. The nagging thoughts of what needs to be done are always beckoning and I need to learn to turn off that voice. And chill. And just be. Because all too soon those days will be gone.
Tips for students
Oh my little student trolls…yes, we love that you are home. Truly do. And I encourage you to approach the summer with some perspective and maybe take a gander at some of the tips and hints I’ve laid out for you. Might be a few things here and there that will save you some headaches this summer when dealing with mom and pops. (hint, hint)
You are a cog in the wheel
For most of you, you are one of many in the house. A cog in the wheel of your family dynamic. I realize that you are coming from a place where you were the center of your own universe, doing your own thing, at your whim, on your schedule. I suggest you put that thought to rest for the next three and a half months while you are home as that way of thinking will not bode well for you. Your actions, your reactions, your day to day activities no longer just impact you but also the rest of the cogs in the wheel. Be aware of that fact.
Be careful what you wish for
It has been expressed to me that certain trolls would like to be treated like an adult. With two at or almost at the age of adulthood and one creeping up behind, the desire to be treated like a grown-up is a common thread of discussion. And I am all for it. And they will be treated like adults with adult responsibilities. And a lot of adult responsibilities are not fun. And cost money. And time. And energy. Welcome to my world. Be aware and careful about what you throw out there because it might just boomerang back and you’ll find out that ‘adulting’ is far less glamorous than what you think it is.
Oh my good God - know when to be quiet. When to stop talking. There is a time and a place to argue your side and there is a time and a place to zip your lips and say nothing. Nine times out of ten I guarantee you that your parents are doing what they can to keep you on the straight and narrow, help you out, keep you from making mistakes that they made. Give us dinosaurs a little bit of credit for knowing what it is we’re talking about. Open up your ears, stop talking and try some constructive listening. You might actually be surprised with what you hear.
Talk to your parents
I am learning this now. Talk to mom and dad. Don’t talk at them but talk to them. And don’t be afraid to be honest and say, “I’m just venting. I’m not looking for an opinion, feedback, advice, etc. I just want to talk and just need you to listen.” Most parents will readily take a back seat, zip their lips and allow you to get whatever you need to off your chest.
Support the way your family loves and operates
Not every family is run the same way. In fact, I guarantee you most families are different. Different doesn’t mean bad - it simply means different. Respect and support the way that your family loves and operates. We have four drivers and two cars. And all the cars are in our names, not the trolls. We have training and jobs and camps and commitments and there are times when I’m sorry you cannot take the car - I’ll have to drop you off. Other families have kids that come and go as they please. Great for them. We don’t do that. Other families have kids that sit on the Xbox all day and don’t have to work. Super. We don’t do that - you have to work. It’s not your job to defend or explain your family to anyone - friends, significant others, anyone. Support all the hard work and dedication your parents have put into raising you and respect it. Which leads me to my next point.
Show your parents respect
I guarantee you that you have been missed. That your presence back at home has filled the empty void in the house that was like the Grand Canyon while you were away at school. And that you coming back will bring some upheaval and some adjustment for mom and pops to the school year established routine that has been developed while you were away. Respect your parents and what they ask of you. Easy as that. You don’t have to like everything, you don’t even have to understand it. But unless you are paying rent and helping to pay house bills, etc. it is their home. And it is their rules. A little bit of respect goes a long way.
This goes hand in hand with the above. I personally will go from a family of three to a family of five. Two more people that now need to be fed, cared for, carted around, etc. Two adult children. That is a significant adjustment. Chip in and do so with a smile on your face. Fake it if you have to. A lot of arguments will never come to fruition, you will find genuine smiles and appreciation when you simply make a concerted effort to do your part. If the dishwasher is full of clean dishes - take a few minutes and just put them away. Without being asked. And then load the dishwasher with dishes that are in the sink. Dirt on the floor? Sweep it up. Dad out mowing? Go out and finish up for him. Again, a little bit of situational awareness, thinking of someone other than yourself will go a long way with the parents. And think of it this way…mom and dad spent years taking care of you. Doing it all themselves. Aren’t they worth a couple months of you helping out on a day to day basis during the summer? Doing your part?
Have a sense of humor
Ugh…y’all are some moody adults, I’ll tell you what. Find your sense of humor and carry it around in your pocket because you’re going to need it. Not everything has to be approached as if it’s the end of the world, a day ruiner because trust me - it’s not. Have a sense of humor and try to let things go and find the funny. Your mood will directly effect mom and dad’s mood and let’s face it - happy dad, no one sad. Don't take life so seriously and have a sense of humor on tap.
Give your parents some space
I will repeat number one - you are not the most important person in the room. Give mom and dad a little bit of space. From someone that works from home, I can tell you that my troll children have difficulties remembering that when I am sitting here tap, tap, tapping away at the keyboard I am actually working - not waiting for them to come ask me to make them a protein shake or find their favorite pair of shorts. WORKING. Give them space to do what they need to do when they need to do it.
Give your parents some time
Family dinners, playing HORSE in the driveway, sitting around the fire…all of that stuff is important whether you realize it or not. It is creating a foundation in your subconscious that when you have families of your own - you too will draw upon to create memories. They miss you when you’re gone - allow them the opportunity to get to know you as adult people. Talk to them about your hopes, your fears, your plans. Believe it or not, we want to know, we want to be a part of whatever scrap of your life you’ll give us. Make a point to give them some time.
Schools Out Chez Moi
As I said, I have one home and one on the way in a couple of short weeks. The one girl troll came in like a hurricane and despite the many conversations we had before she came home, her expectations versus our expectations are not on the same page. So we are continuing conversations, continuing a dialogue and mustering our way through it. Adulting is fully underway as we are learning about sharing a vehicle and the realization that where our way of doing business does not work for everyone, she most certainly respects it and has our back. Oh and as an added bonus, asked us to make her student loan payment as a birthday gift. Which we will do and give her a Hallmark card in June. And nothing else.
And man troll comes home in June and he will come in like a tsunami. A little more stress with him as he will be coming into his senior year with college applications, football camps, the responsibility of preparing for football and, as one of four captains, setting the expectation for the team by holding himself to the highest degree of accountability as an athlete. He will be resistant to family dinners and learning when to zip his lips is something that he does not excel at. But he will most certainly bring a sense of humor and add a little more electricity to the family dynamic.
Troll baby will be working and preparing to leave in the fall and what it means to earn dollars to pay for what you need. A laptop, school clothes, cleats and any number of incidentals are his responsibility and he has two jobs potentially that he will be bouncing back and forth between. He is figuring things out and finding his way - HIS way. I can’t wait to see him mature and come into his own this summer in preparation for being on his own.
My brother and his wife are in for a little bit of an awakening this summer as well. They have a middle schooler that is coming into his own and exercising some independence. Friends have taken a precedence and my little nephew troll will probably be seeing an increase in his responsibilities around the house given his age and growth over the past year. He has that middle school disease that causes the mouth to run like a leaky faucet and a sense of humor to be nonexistent as everything is life altering. It’s going to be a family education for sure and I have no doubt all parties will come out of it reasonably unscathed. I’m so happy those days are done for me!
That’s A Wrap
It really seems like yesterday. Three that were three and under and life was so hard. And so easy. Yes, they come in like a hurricane and they leave behind in their wake a mess of clothes on the bathroom floor, dishes piled high in the sink, a food bill that is several hundred dollars a week. And hugs where you are reaching up to put your arms around them. A resilience and strength that you marvel at because you never had it. A vision of moving on to greater and bigger things because in their mind there is nothing they can’t do. Embrace and open up your arms to the chaos. Because as I sit here, tap tap tapping on my keys, I am ever aware that these days are coming to a close all too soon. Schools out for summer, peepers. Wishing you tears of laughter, the warmth of their smiles, the constant of accountability. And a glass full of ice and Titos to wash it all down.