When Babies Go to College

by Joy Donovan on July 30, 2009

Earlier this summer, Lisa Grossman, a very intelligent, earnest and probably perfectionist mom, assembled a group of  her friends in her Colleyville home.No ordinary night out of bunco playing or margarita swilling, this evening had an agenda.

The purpose? To figure out what she’s supposed to do, as a mom, for her daughter who is off to college this fall. When they’re babies, there’s the handy Dr. Spock to tell you how to feed them, bathe them and potty train them, but where do the moms get info on their much older babies?

Even if they’re 18, they’re still our babies, right, moms? And we all want to do it right, even if it’s launching them into the next big thing–college. So a gazillion questions need answers so a mom can continue to be the June Cleaver kind of mom she aspires to be. What sheets? How much money? Which computer? And just what to do about that awful roommate?

Lisa’s gathering was a mix of moms who were new to this, and moms who had been there, done that and got the parents’ weekend t-shirt. Even as the questions and wined flowed at comparable rates, our hostess was at work. Lisa–I’m telling you, she’s an over-achiever–took notes and allowed that I can share these tips with the rest of you.

As a mom who’s launched three girls and has lived to tell about it, I say don’t worry too much. I once interviewed Dr. Spock, and he said we–meaning all parents–are smarter than we think we are. You’ll muddle through, but know that they’re all different so if one’s homesick, the next one you may wonder if you’ll ever hear from again. And know that even after they go away for weeks on end, you’re still their mom!

Following is a list of tips from the mouths of moms:

 1. There are cable locks for laptop computers that look like small bike locks. A student can lock his laptop to a table at the library in case he needs to get up and walk around. Lisa found one with a combination lock instead of a key for $25 at http://www.tryten.com.

 2. The mattresses at college are thin and hard, so moms said that their kids appreciated foam mattress pads or down-filled feather beds on top of the mattress. Lisa found twin x-long, two-inch thick pads with terry cloth covers for $118 and free shipping at http://www.isoform.com under mattress pads.

3. You should put in a pass code so no one but your child can turn on his laptop. You can also buy LoJak protection for a laptop for $39/year or three years for $89. If it is stolen and then connected to the internet or a phone line, a signal will be sent to LoJak who can track its location and help the police recover it. http://www.lojackforlaptops.com/

4. For dorm rooms in humid areas, you may need a tub of DryOut available at the Container Store. It collects the humidity from the air into the tub where it is poured off and the tub is reused. Each tub should last one semester and costs about $5.

5. Yes, most kids in dorms have a refrigerator, TV and microwave. There should be an ironing board in the dorm, but moms thought a fastidious kid would want her own iron. If girls join a sorority, they can iron their clothes over there.

6. It is a good idea to send a little box of over-the-counter medicines for diarrhea, allergies, stomach upset, colds, etc. and include Bandaids and a thermometer. Show them how to clean a thermometer after use.

7. Moms said that girls usually come home to their regular hairdresser for haircuts and highlights.

 8. Students should set boundaries right away with their roommates about borrowing things, hours for friends in the room and sleepover guests.

 9. Suite-style living arrangements often cause bathroom cleaning and stocking problems. Moms suggested that students should set up a cleaning and supply-purchasing schedule right away with their suitemates. One girl got so frustrated with her suitemates, that she carried her own toilet paper into and out of the bathroom each time she used it.

 10. One mom said she found a shower curtain with pockets for the girls’ shower products at Bed, Bath and Beyond. One mom found a shower pole with four shelves at the Container Store. One college tour guide said that he always took his bucket of toiletries into the bathroom with him and then stored it in his room when he was done.

 11. Moms agreed that $150 was plenty of spending money a month if your child did not have to buy his or her own clothes.

 12. The computer salesmen at one Apple store admitted that they were not usually big fans of extended warranties, but they always bought an Applecare contract for their laptops.

 13. Moms advised parents to stay out of roommate issues and not to arrive and try to organize everything for all the kids. They suggested talking to your child ahead of time about possible solutions to potential problems and cleaning issues. They warned us to beware of one girl arriving first and hogging all the bathroom storage.

 14. Moms suggested requiring your child to stay at school the first three weeks to ensure that he or she gets involved with campus activities right away. They said this would help cure homesickness.

 15. If sharing a bathroom with another room, kids should lock their bedroom-to-bathroom door at night and when they leave, to prevent friends of friends from coming in and borrowing things.

 16. Students may want a nightlight, electric candle or small lamp to leave on in the room until the other roommate gets home and goes to sleep.

 17. Students may need over-the-door towel bars for extra storage.

 18. Everyone should have a flashlight for power outages.

 19. One smart mom gave her daughter a book safe (a real book with the center cut out to store things) and put $200 emergency cash in it. When her daughter’s debit card stopped working she was really glad she had it.

 20. Texas law now allows 16-year-olds to have their own checking account and debit card.

 21. Moms were encouraged to back off on phone calls to their children and let the children call as often as they needed to. The experienced moms said their kids called quite a bit but didn’t feel hounded by their moms calling them.

 22. When kids come home from college, expect some resistance from them about curfews and house rules. You may have to make curfew a little later than it was in high school, but it is still your house and you still have the right to make the rules. Besides, you will still worry about them when they are home but out late.

 23. Go to the Container Store College Night held in July or August. They have lots of good information and ideas. Sign up for an invitation online. http://www.containerstore.com/collegeinvite/

 24. Lisa bought fabric storage cubes (Container Store) with zippered lids for extra linen storage.

 25. Moms warned against taking “everything” on the first trip as the dorm rooms are smaller than you think.

 26. One mom, who was a resident advisor in the dorm, said the most counseling she had to do was about pet grief for pets that died while the child was away at college.

 27. Moms warned that there was a lot of underage drinking in private residences off campus. They said that many universities were very strict about alcohol in dorms and sororities. They wanted us to discuss this with our kids and remind them that it is still illegal to drink in college if you are not 21 and to tell them to never accept an open drink from anyone.

 28. Check out http://www.gordie.org for a true story of the affects of alcohol poisoning and share it with your kids. Students don’t know how dangerous it is to put a drunk friend in bed to “sleep it off.”

 29. Mothers also wanted us to remind our children that what is on their Facebook pages can come back to haunt them. One mom read somewhere that authorities are required to respond to complaints and if a complaint comes in about underage drinking by someone as shown on Facebok, they will investigate.

 30. One mom is going to encourage her child to drink two Mike’s Hard Lemonades in an hour at home so she has some idea of how hard alcohol hits.

Category: Joy Donovan's Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , One comment »

One Response to “When Babies Go to College”

  1. S. Wilson

    I loved your list of must haves and advice for a child heading off the college. The one mother who suggested getting her child to down two Mike’s Hard Lemonades should also have her child try to function after consuming so much alcohol in a short amount of time. Have him or her try to – walk a straight line, say (not sing) the alphabet forwards and backwards, touch their nose with their index finger while their head is back and their eyes are closed, and then if they pass all those tests…have them down another one and go through the process once again. This will help a child know when enough is enough! Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone underage drinking at all…but honestly, let’s be real here. They are going to drink no matter what we say as parents. So if they are going to do it anyway, make sure they know the consequences and just how alcohol affects the body.

    One last thing…I was shocked to read that no mother mentioned birth control as a must have item, which I find very disturbing. We must educate our daughters and sons about what happens when you have unprotected sex. HIV/AIDS and many other sexually transmitted diseases can occur if the boy does not use a condom. A must have for any college girl (who may or may not be sexually active) is a box of condoms and the knowledge on how to use them!!!

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