Wednesday, June 18, 2014

After We Invest: How Our Graduates Still Mess The Nest

                                                                 
illinois.edu

  Since our younger son moved back in with us after college graduation, I've noticed that some things haven't changed at all. Miraculously, he was able to get through finals, intern at both the high school and college levels, and still can't keep track of his cup. He goes through several different glasses a day, while scattering them around the kitchen and family room. Sometimes he'll even drink out of my husband's glass, if he mistakenly uses one from the same set. I try to use the same mismatched glass with an embedded lipstick stain to insure that no one will go near it. Yes, it's disgusting, but at least I know where it's been. After I was whining about my dishpan hands, one of my friends chimed in with another small skill that she wished her college graduate had mastered.

 When her son finally completed writing his thank you notes, she noticed that he had difficulty addressing the envelopes. Not only did he forget to leave room for the return address, but he wasn't even going to use stamps. It turns out that this isn't that unusual. Between texting and emailing everything from photos to resumes, many young people aren't used to actually mailing letters.

 This reminded me of when our older son was eleven-years-old, and went away to overnight camp. I made sure that he was equipped with plenty of stationary, so that he could write every detail of his first summer away from home. I remember how excited we were when his first letter came in the mail. I struggled to open it, as it was addressed upside down. Finally, I found a pre-stamped postcard inside the envelope detailing that the lake was too cold, and for swimming and water sports. The rest of the boys didn't seem to mind, as they were busy snapping towels at each other in the cabin. It took him two stamps to tell us what a terrible time he was having in less than three sentences.

 Another mom chimed in about how college life turned her relatively neat daughter, into a total slob. Clothes were thrown around everywhere, and junk was piled up so high that she continually lost track of her car keys. That sounded very familiar to me. Things were getting messier here by the minute, and the aromatic gym bags filled with everything from missing socks to half-eaten protein bars were starting to mysteriously pile up.

 Yes, it was time for a nice, calm talk. I don't know where he got this from, and my husband certainly wasn't willing to take any blame for it. As soon as I got dressed, we'd have ourselves one dandy of a chat. Just as soon as I found my belt. I know I wore it yesterday. Where could it have gone?  I searched for about twenty minutes until I realized I was already wearing it. I too am a college graduate. Heaven help us all.


57 comments:

  1. Or maybe your belt is so comfortable you don't realise you're wearing it. Obviously, your tummy is used to being compressed. As for the cup problem, just give your son a tankard which he can wear around his neck on a piece of string. It's an old trick used by Australian bushmen.

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  2. Hi Julie - I thought perhaps your son was wearing your belt .. I have enough trouble keeping myself in check if I had others around life would be interesting ... my mother used to say to a great friend "oh my goodness Hilary is coming ...I'd better tidy up" I was very neat early on .. not too bad now ... but getting your mother to run for the duster, or hide the piles is funny! I did hate dirt .. now not so much as it's of my own-making ... sweaty smelly gym bags - yugh!!! damp mould .. oh .... oh ... oh!!

    Cheers and I sure hope you can find the belt, your brains, and have had a shower at a time that suits your son to chat??!! Enjoy having him home .. cheers Hilary

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  3. Gorilla - Yes, I will try giving him a tankard to wear around his neck. It's a great look that's sure to add style to any outfit! The best part is that he could just wash it whenever he takes a shower! Thanks for the great suggestion, Gorilla!

    Hilary - If my belt did fit my son, I certainly wouldn't want to know about it! Great story about your mum having to clean up before you came over! I'm the one who panics when my mom visits me. Both my mom and my grandma were diligent dirt detectives.

    Julie

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  4. When they go off to college we are sad, but we adjust, and look forward to those short visits. Four years later, they return with that well-earned diploma and all their college habits and this time the visit has no ending date and we have to adjust again.

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  5. I've always been a neat person and fortunately college didn't change that. I do go through a dozen glasses and bottles in one day though. Drive my wife nuts.

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  6. They do keep coming back don't they? Sigh.

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  7. Oh, joy. My son is going to be a senior in high school next fall. He's still afraid of me, so he keeps his messes confined to his room. I fear college will destroy the power I hold over him and he'll rebel. Must start conjuring a solution now! :P

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  8. I cracked up about your son's letters from camp. Poor kid LOL. I've noticed that young people don't really know about writing letters now. It's understandable but still seems strange to me. Another sign that I am really getting old.

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  9. LOL! So true. I'm forever searching for something - usually my phone.

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  10. Oh Julie, I just loved this! You crack me up. You're such a great storyteller-writer! My youngest son is in grad school and hasn't had to move back home since he left for college....well, actually that first summer or two when he lived in the dorm, he had to live with us for the summer, and that was nice! He's always been a "clutterer." (just like his father, I must say) I learned a long time ago to just not go into his room and let it bother me. Like some of the other women here, I USED to be quite tidy and all my grumbling never solved a thing. And that's about the first time I heard the phrase, "Choose your battles." Those three words changed my life....seriously! Both my husband and my son are wonderful guys, and being messy is about their only fault, so gosh...I realized how lucky I was/am. *Sorry, I didn't mean to ramble on...* Anyway, about the letter writing...if schools don't teach those kinds of things in class, or parents do it, how would they know about such things? Another thing I "used" to do...wonder why the heck this brilliant, messy son of mine didn't know what were "common sense" kind of things.....Well, he'd never heard of them! The only one I can think of at the moment is how to write a check! His life as always been paying by cash, debit card, or automatic withdrawals! I bet I showed/told him half a dozen times....over a period of about three years, how to write one! LOL...*And one more thing...I have become a messy, cluttered, can't find stuff, person over the past years...and I blame most of it on when I started writing! Mind full of so many things...and no time! :)

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  11. Arleen - Yes, it is an adjustment. Though I complain about the little things, I know I'll miss him terribly when he moves out. I still miss our older son too.

    Alex - You can always blame it on Mini-Alex!

    Luanne - I was always afraid of my parents too, but I never had that kind of power. I'm sure that you'll continue to cultivate your gift for many years to come.

    Julie - You're not getting old, it's just a case of using instant communication over snail mail. Thanks Julie!

    Carol - If it's not my cell phone, I'm also misplacing our cordless phones. At least it's good exercise!

    Becky - Those are definitely three great words to live by! It's so true about writing checks. With a cash station at every corner, young people aren't writing checks as often. Paying bills online also means less check writing for people of all ages. Thanks so much, Becky!

    Julie

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  12. Ah yes, they--college grads who know what it means to be an adult--can make life really different and exciting. Something is always happening. My youngest daughter went to live with our oldest son and his wife after she had been away. She had a lot of reasons. I believe it was because she thought I would treat her like a little girl.

    She has married and changed. I enjoyed your story. I liked the ending it make me smile.

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  13. I use one coffee cup all day long. Hubby drinks water and has his own glass for that. We are both pretty tidy except for my computer desk which I have to make an effort to tidy up ever so often.

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  14. Yvonne - It was nice that your son and daughter-in-law looked after your youngest daughter. Yes, things are definitely exciting around here! Thanks Yvonne!

    Jo - One cup is all you need. When can you move in?!

    Julie

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  15. Dunno Julie, do you have a bowling alley handy?

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  16. Jo - We have Wii bowling if you like to bowl in your pajamas; otherwise, there's a bowling alley about five minutes away. On second thought, my family might want you to take my place, because you're such a good cook. Maybe we should just be pen pals!

    Julie

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    1. Never tried bowling in my PJs.

      OK I won't come over.

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    2. Jo - Maybe we can meet halfway...

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  17. Loved this, Julie, and with two sons of my own both in college right now, I can relate. I do see them changing and growing little by little from one visit to the next though. Don't lose all hope. :D

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  18. Julie, perhaps you should tell your son he will be responsible for washing all of the dishes by hand if he continues to keep using so many drinking glasses each day. Dishpan hands might be a great reminder to him, LOL.

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  19. Daisy - I haven't lost all hope, yet! When it comes down to it, we're very lucky that our sons have such big hearts, and don't mind spending time with us. We just have to work on these other details.

    Susanne - His version of washing dishes isn't the same as mine, but it's definitely worth a try.

    Julie

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  20. You've gotta "assign" him a designated glass... and then hide all the rest. Fun post. (Especially since none of MY kids live at home, using fifteen glasses a day, and tossing stuff into the laundry basket that they've worn for all of ten minutes...)

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    1. Susan - Ah, the old laundry basket trick! Why not toss it in with the dirty laundry, instead of hanging it back up? Less work for them, more work for us, but who's counting?

      Julie

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    2. When our younger son was going to school up in your neck of the woods, rather than do laundry, he'd buy more clothes. When he came home for a visit, you would not BELIEVE the mountains of dirty clothes he brought home with him! (And I didn't kill him or anything...)

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    3. Susan - That is so funny! Our older son never brought home his dirty laundry, but all of his friends did. Then at the end of the year, I noticed spotted shirts hanging in his closet. He just hung them right up without even looking. I don't know which one of our son's was worse. Maybe we should call it a tie! Sorry, I didn't see this sooner. Anyway, I'm glad they both survived!

      Julie

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  21. I had to move back with my grandparents for a while after my first stint in college, but it worked out well for all of us. I helped them with work and yard stuff, and they helped me with love and life :)

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  22. We have Tervis tumblers that all have different pictures. We have been through the assign the glass deal (you just have to remember your picture).

    I don't think that college makes us more forgetful... I think that leaving home allows us to be ourselves (for good or for ill). And the things that we don't do on Repeat we tend to not do well at all. That is why college is often fraught with firsts (laundry, cooking, cleaning up after self) and some of these tasks we manage well and others not so much.

    I remember at my first job the day my boss assigned me the task of writing a letter for her. Make that typing the letter. She dictated it to me and I was supposed to write it. I learned SO MANY THINGS in college but formatting a letter was not one of them. I sat IN A PANIC at the typewriter until one of the senior publicists walked by and noticed that I was on the verge of tears. He pulled out a letter from his files, copied it, and allowed me to use it as a reference letter until I got the formatting down.

    College teaches so many things that we will never ever use. And neglects so many things that we need to know on a daily basis. Ah... and that is life.

    Glad you found your belt.

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  23. Optimistic - I'm sure that your grandparents loved having you, as you were very helpful, and appreciative. Though I pick on the little things, I also realize how lucky we are. Thanks Optimistic!

    Robin - This reminds me of the Flintstone jelly glasses that we had growing up! Thank goodness that the senior publicist was there to show you the ropes. Great summation of the college experience. The problem is that after we graduate high school, it is assumed that we have already learned the necessary skills for day-to-day living. Some of us already have, while many of us are still learning. Thanks Robin!

    Julie

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  24. I'm probably one of the few people who's always been neat, even since childhood. Then again, I didn't have one of those college dorm room experiences, so after tech school classes I'd go home to my single bedroom apartment (roommate free by choice), and cook myself a nice dinner in peace which I'd then enjoy alone. Which either sounds really serene or like something a serial killer would do, depending on your take on things.

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    1. Bryan & Brandon - I think that it sounds more like something a creative genius would do. Although some creative genius types have turned out to be serial killers. I'm glad that you're using your powers of cleanliness, and solitary confinement to spread good cheer throughout blogland and beyond!

      Julie

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  25. I want to believe you are are wrong and this won't happen to us. My teen is already a slob, I can't imagine it getting worse. LOL - I have spent time looking for my glasses that I was wearing.

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  26. I made a rule. They can't come home after college. The problem was, I couldn't enforce it. Been there. Good luck.

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  27. Rhonda - My mom couldn't believe how neat my dorm room was when she first came to visit me, so there's still hope for your daughter! Thanks for making me feel better about losing my mind!

    Lee - Some rules have to be broken. In our case, the pros far outweigh the cons on most days!

    Julie

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  28. The stamp made me think of a rotary-dial phone. Because we owned it for years, we have one in our bedroom. Our daughter doesn't know what to do with it. We've shown her, but she runs to the push-button phones every time.

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  29. You should be very proud of your son, and I'm sure you are. I am as well. I look at him as the future of America.

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  30. Liza - I almost forgot about rotary phones! Your daughter must think that they're even more ancient than black & white TV!

    JJ - I've read your frightening stories about what the "future of America" holds for us. On the brighter side, there have been many articles written about brilliant men who share some of the same characteristics of disorganization, and forgetfulness including Einstein. Though I may pick on my family, (not nearly as much as I pick on myself), I'm not worried about my son's future. He has a strong work ethic, and puts his heart into everything he does. I focus more on the silly things, because I believe that more people can relate on some level.

    Julie

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    1. Not a doubt in my mind. Congrats again!

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  31. It's useless trying. You can't get rid of them. LOL

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    1. Michelle - Though I complain about the little things, I'll probably become a basket case when my son does move out!

      Julie

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  32. Oh my, Julie. Upon reading your story, I actually got to the thinking. Wonder if I'd miss cleaning up after my 25 year old son who just wont leave. I know, once they go, suddenly we realise how much we miss them. Actually, to heck with that, I'm going to move and see if my son gets the message :)

    Great story and I can relate in my own weird way.

    Gary

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    1. Gary - There's nothing weird about it. Why would your son possibly want to leave when he has you and Penny taking such good care of him?! He has the perfect bachelor pad, complete with an Internet star who likes to cuddle up with him! Besides, if you left he'd find you! Thanks Gary!

      Julie

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  33. A college education assures zero knowledge about real life. It's pretty sad. As I was reading this, Julie, I remembered how much a part of my life penpals were. I loved exchanging letters with them. As an extra treat, we put stickers on the letters or envelopes for each other. That experience was the true start of my writing career. Geeze, my writing would be utterly appalling if it started via text messaging, u no? =)

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  34. Robyn - I had a pen pal when I first started high school. We met at a Catskills resort, and she lived in New York. Now that you mention it, I also tried to put a lot of creativity into our letters. I 'm not sure if she noticed, because my handwriting was so bad. Funny about texting!

    Julie

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  35. "Empty Nest Insider" has been included in our Sites To See #382. Be assured that we hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2014/06/sites-to-see-382.html

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    1. Thank you so much, Jerry! I'm honored that you would include me on your wonderful blog! I'm heading right over! Thanks again!

      Julie

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  36. I came over from As the Crackerhead Crumbles to have a look around. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading through several of your posts.
    My son didn't go to college but joined the army instead. He left home a slob and while overseas he told me he had turned in to a bit of a neat freak. Funny thing is as soon as he got back home he forgot how to be one :)

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  37. I just discovered your blog and think it's great. You are an excellent writer. I'm your newest follower and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I hope you'll check out Chubby Chatterbox sometime. Take care.

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  38. Ann - Too bad that you're not a Drill Sargent! My sons always listened to their coaches, but I was never able to instill that kind of fear in them. Not only did you raise a hero, but it seems like they run in your family. It's so nice to meet you, and I appreciate your kind words.

    Stephen - I already checked out your wonderful blog, and I will definitely be back. Thank you so much, Stephen!

    Julie

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  39. Great post. Can we really just enforce that they stay on their own?

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  40. Good post :). I still have a few years to go till till University, but until then I'll TRY to be tidy.

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  41. Nas - Maybe it could be enforced once they reach a certain age. I would be perfectly happy if he just cleaned up his room more often. Thanks Nas!

    Sarah - You've already accomplished so much at a young age that I'm sure you'll do just fine. Thanks Sarah!

    Julie

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  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  43. The heir to the Penwasser fortune has graduated from Virginia Tech and is now working in Norfolk, Virginia, as an engineer (not the cool kind that wears nifty hats and rides trains, though). He's well on his way.
    His sister graduates college in two years.
    She may need lessons in how to mail letters.

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  44. The deleted comment was a repeat of what I wrote above. I guess I've lost the hang of how to do this commenting thing.
    My daughter is a lot like me.
    Maybe I should learn how to mail letters.

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  45. Al - Congrats to you and your son! He chose an excellent profession, and I'm sure that you helped point him in the right direction! As for your daughter, if you practice addressing envelopes with her now, she may very well be ahead of her class!

    Julie

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