It’s that time again. Summer’s done, and Rachel is heading back to college for her second year of dorm living.
For the past few days, our living room has been the staging area for her duffel bags, freshly laundered clothes, school supplies, and boxes of Important Stuff that Must Not Be Forgotten.
1. Don’t bring the family dog.
(Or cat, budgie, rabbit, or gerbil).
Last year’s move-in went well, despite my gimpy ankle and the fact that we’d brought along the dog, who had to be dog-sat, since it was a blistering hot day and leaving her in the car would have been out of the question. Hey, it never occurred to any of us that dogs are verboten in residence! Duh. This time, Maydeleh will be staying home with Adrian, where she’ll be much happier.
2. Don’t bring the kitchen sink.
We weren’t guilty of this one (mostly), but last year we watched gape-mouthed as families pulled up with UHaul trailers full of STUFF. Weird-ass stuff. Like: An apple corer. Flat screen TVs. A giant wooden wardrobe so Missy can hang her clothes up (as if). Dressers. Huge monster flats of bottled water.
In fact, I from my vantage point as dog-sitter in the parking lot, I watched as countless well-meaning mums and dads lugged wagon-loads full of water bottles from car to dorm. And I thought, “Holy mackinaw—do they really think Toronto is under a boil-water advisory or something? Will their precious little flowers wilt if they must survive on tap water? And what will happen to all that plastic when the kids have drunk their fill?”
Yes, bottled-water parents, I was judging you.
But just on a practical level, when your kid is moving into a tiny dorm room, there will only be so much space for stuff like bottled water and matching dresser/bookshelf sets.
Leetle tiny room + GREAT BIG FURNITURE = Not a good mix.
Plus, Rachel will attest that water is not the preferred beverage in res anyway—if you really want to give your kid bargaining clout, arm them with a case of these puppies:
Meanwhile, if you think your baby might just be okay with good old water, do yourself a favour. Teach them to turn on the tap and hold a glass under it.
3. Order books in advance.
This isn’t about residence per se, but last year Rachel made the error of actually believing the bookstore when they said they’d be stocking all the books for her program during the first week of school.
Turns out they were just kidding. What they really meant was, “When a prof says they want all the students in a class to have a particular book, we say, ‘Sure! Let’s see, 60 kids in the course, that means we should order…oh, hell, let’s just order 40 books. Let’s see how these kids are at scrounging for the remaining 20! It’ll be fun!”
Which means, of course, that you get one-third of the class standing outside the bookstore sobbing, “What do they mean, ‘It’s on back-order’? My prof said they’d have it!’”
This summer, Rachel got wise. As soon as the book list came out for her classes, she started searching for second-hand copies of the books she’d need. They’ve been arriving in dribs and drabs, but currently she’s got all but one. And hey, guess what? It’s coming from the Humber Bookstore. And it’s on back-order.
4. You can’t bring hot plates to residence.
For good reason—no one wants the place burning down. Which it totally would, if you left a bunch of stressed, Palm Bay-guzzling kids in charge of a hot plate and several reams of paper.
But Rachel will be in a suite, which includes a kitchenette with sink, fridge, and microwave. She was able to improvise a fair bit last year, and wowed her friends with her ability to cook pasta in her kettle:
This year, she’s in a suite again, and she’s decided to take it to the next level. She’s taking along a Crock-Pot (with automatic shut-off), so she can make healthier, better-tasting food than the fat-laden dreck that’s usually available in the cafeteria. She’s already planning for soups, stews, meatloaf, and pot roasts.
I expect she’ll find a line-up of dorm dwellers outside her door, clutching bowls and looking pitiful, but hey. That’s the price you pay for being a good cook.
On a related note, it’s not a bad idea to take your dorm-bound kid out grocery shopping a few times before they head out to live on their own. Again, life skills.
5. Make friends with your RA.
Whether they call them “res fellows,” “res assistants,” or “dorm coaches,” they’re some of the most important people your kid will meet on campus. RAs live, eat, and work with kids in res, and they’re there to help solve problems, hold hands, and enforce residence policies. They’re senior students, who’ve lived in res a few years and know the ropes. They’re chosen for their social skills and their ability to work things out. Why would you not want to know someone like this?
6. You’re not moving to a desert island.
So your kids probably don’t need nearly as much stuff as you think they do. You’ll be surprised at how few clothes people actually use in res—most students don’t bother dressing unless they’re on their way to class. Pyjamas and sweats are the order of the day. Clothes are for losers.
Do make sure your kid brings slippers, for the shuffle between their room and the cafeteria. And if they’ll be using a shared bathroom, they might want to bring flipflops to avoid unpleasant fungal consequences.
But don’t worry too much about remembering to pack everything your kid might need, or thinks they might need. Two things will save them if it turns out they forgot something: online shopping, and the postal service. Oh, make that three things, if you count “ingenuity.”
Rachel points out that it’s not a bad idea to allow kids to figure things out for themselves. McGyvering is a highly prized skill in res, and the sooner your kid figures out ingenious but unintended uses for everyday implements, the happier and more competent they’ll feel. And the more their dorm-mates will admire their mad skillz.
For instance: a tennis or badminton racquet can strain macaroni. An iron can be used to heat up pizza. Duct tape is useful for…well, just about anything, actually. It’s all about imagination, and learning to fend for themselves.
Okay, that’s it for this time—by the next time we talk, I’ll be back from Toronto, and Rachel will be settling into residence. Catch you on the flip side!
- The empty nest: Advice for beginners and old hands (AftertheKidsLeave.com)
- I Like to Move It, Move It: What I Wish I Knew Before Moving Into a College Dorm (jennmeadows.wordpress.com)
- The 7 Most Mind-Boggling Things About Bottled Water (huffingtonpost.com)