Are You There, Son? It’s Me, Mom (aka, Even Though You’re In College, You Still Have To Talk To Me)

October 28, 2013 in Parenting


NYU (Photo credit: jpellgen)

I am deviating from my regularly scheduled programming to treat you to a guest post written by my hilarious college roomie and dear friend, Julia. Although Julia is not a blogger, she is a talented writer who also has a thriving business at Write About Now, a writing service specializing in toasts, speeches and bar/bat mitzvah candle-lighting ceremonies.  Julia is also a mom to three boys, but started her family much earlier than me (she was pregnant with her second son at my wedding). With her wealth of experience in the raising boys department, Julia taught me early on to always keep my sense of humor with a house full of testosterone and to be prepared for a lifetime of disgusting poop, fart and burp jokes. She was right on with her advice and has successfully launched two of three boys (with the third not far behind) out of the house and into college. Here is her story of how she found a way to communicate with one of her sons while he is away at college. I know you will enjoy it!

I’ve always considered myself an effective communicator. I’m not in the habit of holding back when I feel strongly about something and I try to apply the same rules to everyone, including my children. Like my sweet college roommate, Oh Boy Mom, I too have three sons, aged 20, 18 and 17. Son #1 goes to college fairly close to home and we speak/see one another often. Son #2 chose to leave South Florida to attend New York University in Manhattan.

We dropped him off at the dorm on a sunny August day, excited at the prospect of the many new experiences awaiting him. We returned to our lives.

And I waited.

I waited for the first call. The one full of wonder and awe as he integrated himself into independent living. The one where he bubbled over, eager to tell us about his new friends, interesting courses, challenges of doing laundry.

It never came.

After two weeks, I saw him on Facebook one morning and IM’d “Hi how are you?”

Just a couple words in response and he was off to class.

I was disheartened. And then I was angry.

Did I really spend 18 years taking care of this child to be completely ignored? Disregarded? Even worse were my well intended friends that asked: “How is B doing at school?”

The truth was, I had no idea. I hadn’t had a conversation with him since he left.

I let my hurt feelings simmer until I realized that nothing would change if I didn’t step up and behave like an adult, like a parent. Finding a new approach was the only approach. Because B, in the midst of New York City and his new adventure, had no idea how I felt. When Oh Boy Mom and I were in school, we called our parents weekly a) because it was expected and b) there were no other forms of instantaneous communication!

B is not a big fan of the phone, so I reached out by text. Each time I started a conversation, I got a response immediately.

I found he was happy to chat, on his terms.

And I realized that my expectations of him were rooted in a very different time and place, based on MY experiences. When we went up to visit last week, it was a pleasure to see how easily our suburban boy had acclimated to the big city.

And there was much to discuss and enjoy…face to face.


JuliaJulia Steiner is a mom of three sons, the last of whom will graduate from high school in 2014.  A practicing certified personal trainer, she loves to write, bake and hula hoop.  Julia and her husband the doctor live in South Florida and hope to one day own and operate a cat sanctuary ☺.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorothy October 28, 2013 at 9:01 am

Your story resonates here for this mom of 3. Our eldest, a daughter, is a junior at a school 300 miles away and I find communicating with her is usually on an “as needed” basis (like when she needs to talk to us.) I finally figured out that when she really has a problem she calls in a heartbeat. But texting works great- gets a pretty immediate response and from to time she actually writes an email. Now that our second is a high school senior I am much better prepared emotionally for her to leave and know that when they don’t call it’s probably a good sign! Thanks for the insightful post!!
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Janine Huldie October 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

Even though my girls are still young, I think I would have reacted similar initially as you did. Just glad you figured out a way to communicate with your son on his terms that worked for both of you. Funny how growing up in a different time though, we never would have thought of trying to text, but so just the thing to do now, I suppose.
Janine Huldie recently posted…The 80s Never Looked BetterMy Profile


ohboymom October 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm

So true – we never would have imagined that a text could be a lifeline so to speak…


kat October 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

One needs to level off with them. You are cool to find that middle ground. 😀
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Stefanie October 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Love this. Dropped my son off this fall for college as well. So grateful for texting and the occasional google hangout or facetime moments. And? That he always needs something. Because he has to text me first during those times. Makes me look way less needy :)
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ohboymom October 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Ha – yes, good to know that they will still need us too. :)


Kristi Campbell October 28, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I remember gathering together quarters to use the payphone in our dorm’s hallway. But never for my parents, as I called them collect. Still, though, I did call each Sunday. It’s weird how instant communication is these days and I’m SO NOT ready for my son to go off to college. Luckily, I have a bit of time before I need to worry about it. Great guest post, Emily! Love it!


ohboymom October 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Quarters for the dorm phone?! Wow, you are old! I’m kidding of course, and yes we both know I’m older than you! But yes, the good old days of using a landline to call long-distance. And, I think the phones were rotary phones in my dorm!


Diane M October 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm

WOW! Great advice from some of my favs from college. I have 2 boys and a girl…. I get it… girls aren’t much better. Great to see you both out there sharing advice. miss you and love you both.


ohboymom October 28, 2013 at 9:13 pm

As a mom to 3 boys, I always am comforted when I hear that girls aren’t that different from boys when it comes to certain traits that a parent struggles with…thanks for reading and commenting, Diane! xoxo


Julia October 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Hi Diane! Have heard wonderful things about your veterinary practice…so glad to hear you are super successful and happy–as we knew you would be. Thanks for commenting and we are both JEALOUS that you have a girl! xox


Kelly October 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I was just PM’ing with my 25 year old girl…she’s in the middle of the woods, camping in New Mexico somewhere…but boy her Avatar looks as gorgeous as ever so I know she must be doing just fine! Lol. She PM’ed to assure me she’s eating and not freezing to death:)

Gotta love it!


ohboymom October 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Ha – love that line about the Avatar! Sounds like you’ve got nothing to worry about because your 25-year-old sounds like a very independent (and adventurous!) girl who knows when to check in from the wilderness. Good for her!


Julie Burton October 28, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Emily and Julia, this is awesome! As Emily knows, I just sent my daughter off to your ladies’ alma mater this fall (Go Blue!), and have grappled with the separation and finding the “right” method and amount of communication. As you said, there is nothing like that face to face communication, as we too just visited her a few weekends ago. But during the times when she is there, doing her thing (just as we want them to be), I appreciate any and all of the ways she chooses to communicate with me. Thanks for sharing this great post! (And P.S., Emily, tell Julia that David says hi :)!)
Julie Burton recently posted…Parents: Sometimes Saying Yes Is Not About Giving In, It’s Just About GivingMy Profile


ohboymom October 29, 2013 at 9:51 am

Thanks for reading and commenting. I had a feeling you’d be able to relate, having just “launched” your first to college. And I will definitely pass on the “hello” from David.:)


Julia October 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Many thanks for the kind words and a big hello to one of our favorite AEPis :-)


marina October 29, 2013 at 9:40 am

As a mother of 3 with 2 in college (boy/girl) I totally agree that texting is the way to go. It provides the right amount of contact without being overly intrusive. When I can combine that with Facebook peaks I feel satisfied that all is ok. They do call when they really need something. Great post thanks for sharing Emily!


ohboymom October 29, 2013 at 9:51 am

Thanks for reading – I knew you’d be able to relate to this one. :)


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