“18 years. I lived with these people for 18 years,” I think to myself after another long dinner with my over-dramatic parents and my 14-year-old trying-to-be-cool brother. It’s always been like this: the drama, the fights, the exaggerated statements of love. But it wasn't until I lived away from home for eight months that I realized how hard it is to live with my family.
Of course I survived for 18 years in “the cave.” I didn’t know any better, or maybe I did know better and was just too distracted by the light at the end of the tunnel to notice or do anything about it. The truth is, I love my parents - on the phone, that is. And that’s okay because I have a feeling they feel the same way about me. George Burns said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family… in another city.” This quote, for me, wins most relatable quote of 2013.
Eight months spent living away from home, and I am a different person. I have experienced college life at the University of Northern Iowa. I have woken up in the hospital at 7AM wearing diapers with no memory of what happened the night before. Little did I know, going back home for the summer was going to be harder than my hangover on that cold February morning.
Despite all of this, I have managed to survive my summer at home by developing and putting into action some (pretty basic) techniques, which I suggest anyone college student use during their time at home. It's easy to forget where you came from, but when returning home, it's crucial to remember what real life was like before you transitioned into the fantasy life that is college.
Spend dead periods of time with your family.
This creates a win/win situation. Have dinner at home, watch a movie with your family after dinner - you weren’t going to do anything, anyway. Your parents will appreciate the time you spend with them, and you get a free home cooked meal. Dinner is the best meal to have with the family because they are usually tired from a day’s work. Avoid breakfast at all costs! I have learned from years of experience that breakfast is the most conflict propelling meal. You should either wake up earlier than the folks, or later - save yourself!
Show an interest or at least pretend to.
Wow. I wish I had thought of this right before I came back home. There is nothing worse than making your parents feel like you don’t give a sh*t about what they’re saying. Yeah, you might not, but it’s rude to show no interest in what’s going on in their lives. Try to make an effort. Remember that - although you discovered how highly irresponsible you are when on your own - you have developed some grownup skills in your time away. Convert your passion for Jager bombs into an exquisite taste for red wine. Parents love red wine! Not only will they see you as a more mature person, but you can also enjoy the perks of free alcohol!
Try to get along with your siblings.
When you return home after a long time away, tension builds between you and your siblings. You get all the attention, your parents suddenly want to take everyone out for dinner, your opinion is the most valued, and for a bit, it’s like you’re the only child. Meanwhile, your brother is thinking of ways to get rid of you while you sleep. You were never good friends, so what? You are a total social expert now - talk to your siblings! Tell them your college stories and show interest in their lives. Be productive by asking them for advice on how to handle your parents. Parents love it when you get along with your siblings, so keep the peace to show your parents you are more mature!
If are avoiding spending time with your parents, don’t ask them to take you shopping.
Want to really piss your parents off when you come home for breaks? Then completely disregard them except when you need money to go shopping, or need them to do you a favor. Yes, it is normal to use people in college. This is, however, not acceptable at home. Although you certainly didn’t mean to offend your parents by treating them like piggy banks, which should only interact with you when you need something from them (which, well, you did), try to be subtler when asking for favors them if you haven’t been spending time at home. Give love; get money …or something like that. This leads me to…
Try to remember who you were before you went away to college.
Yes, you have changed, but not that much, really. When you think about it, only your habits have changed – you have become an egotistical prick. Try to get in touch with your true self when you’re heading back home, go back to your old habits, and stop acting so selfishly in a fantasy world. Obviously you are different, and you want your loved ones to meet the new you - THEY want to meet the new you. Just try to show them the good person inside, rather than the independent, every-man-for-himself person you have become.
Family is very important. Your parents raised you, they made you who you are today, and it’s important to never forget that. Don’t neglect the people who have been there from the beginning. Treat your parents and siblings with respect, no matter how hard it is to live under the same roof. Although it feels like your college friends are your family now (the coolest parents ever who don’t tell you to eat your veggies and instead encourage you to skip class to drink beer), they are not. Your real family will always be there for you, they will never abandon you, and they will love you no matter how self-centered or slightly alcoholic you get.
Photo courtesy American Pie