From a trio to a bunch
My only child is not quite prepared for the dorm-living experience
“Here’s the story of a lovely lady, who was bringing up one very lovely girl…”
That’s right — one. With a distinct lack of our own Marcia, Greg, et al., the past 18 years haven’t exactly been like living among The Burke Bunch. There are three of us all told, which means that when my only child goes off to college in a couple months, she’s in for a potentially jarring wake-up call.
She’s never had to share a bedroom, the Xbox, food or the bathroom. She’s always been free to roam about untethered by siblings.
To my free-range progeny: Dispose of your sense of personal space, because the throngs are nigh. Picture, if you will, roommate(s) just an arm’s length away, laundry aplenty, one of those tiny refrigerators jammed into a corner, and laptops scattered to and fro — all in a living space roughly the size of a thing that’s really small.
I grew up one of four kids, so sharing space was a normal way of life. My brother and his wife have eight kids, though I should check in with them — they may have added a few more since I started writing this. Half of their kids have completed or are in the midst of their college experience. I assume their adjustment was fairly wrinkle-free because they trained for it.
We wanted to prepare her for living among others who aren’t a dog or her mom or me, so we sent her to campus for a “shadow day.” She attended classes, played bass in a couple of ensembles and loved the experience. When she got home, however, one of the unexpected takeaways was “there’s no way that room should’ve been a triple.”
Welcome to inhabited spaces, kid.
This upcoming challenge, though admittedly inconsequential in the big picture, would’ve been slightly easier if she had a bunch of brothers and sisters. The closest we’ve come is by adding our own Cousin Oliver to the mix.
When she was about five, I told her she had an older sister named Sally who had to live in the attic because she wouldn’t take a bath and go to bed when we asked her to. It didn’t have the effect I had hoped. She started signing Sally’s name to greeting cards and referring to her around holidays.
Ultimately, I think she’ll be happy with the change. I don’t remember much about my first college roommate other than his name was Chuck. He’d put on headphones and sing along with the radio at 5 a.m., but other than that I had no complaints. If she doesn’t draw a headphone-singer, I think she’ll be fine.
The barbarians aren’t exactly at the gate, but her daily life is about to get a bit more populated.
Bill Burke lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter in a house with avocado-colored appliances and a live-in housekeeper who dates the butcher. He is also managing editor of custom publications for McLean Communications.