Just a few days ago my friends and I meandered around off campus talking about money and family when something my friend said stopped me in my tracks. She announced that she gets $100 every month if she calls her parents at least once a week. I trailed the group, flabbergasted at what I was hearing. You get paid to talk to your parents? It was something I couldn’t really grasp after discovering firsthand the way that open communication with my parents enhanced my college experience.
For the last few weeks before I left for UW-Madison, I could see my mom was getting worried. She was continually telling me how much she loved me and how proud of me she was. At that point I thought it was just nostalgia for all the childhood days we had spent together. When she left me in my dorm room she said, “Make sure you call, okay?” I rolled my eyes and assured her I would, like so many other promises in my life that I didn’t think I would keep. And the first few weeks were busy. Setting up my dorm room, rushing sororities, going to parties, meeting new people. I didn’t call for a while and only texted short replies to her loving messages. But after those two weeks passed by at lightning speed, something shifted.
I sat in my dorm room alone, longing to be at home on the couch, sandwiched between my mom and dad, drinking sleepy time tea and watching Friends. My fingers scrolled three weeks back in my recent calls and hit “Mumsie.” It crossed my mind for just a brief moment that she would be upset with me, maybe even refuse to answer after I neglected them. But no such thing happened when I heard the ever familiar “Miss Mike” hit my ears closely followed by my dad’s strange and comforting greeting, “Mike Van!” To my extreme delight, they were not upset at all, just outrageously happy to hear from me, and curious as to how my college experience was going thus far.
It was not the first time they had expressed their never-ending support for me, but it was the first time that I could truly comprehend how far that love stretched. They were the people that would be there waiting for me no matter what I did or what happened. After that, I’ve called them almost every day. Not necessarily to talk about something specific, but just to say, “Hi” and “I miss you” and, most importantly, “I love you.”
This open communication about school, life and college in general has been crucial to my own happiness and the strength of my relationship with my parents. All of those conversations with my mom venting about what I was stressing about and every single cup of coffee that my dad sat down to talk with me over at Panera has made my life happy, fun, easy and blessed.
A little secret to those phone calls, texts and coffee dates–they aren’t only for my benefit. They mean as much to my parents as they mean to me. My parents need them as much as I do. While my life may be busy, and talking to my parents isn’t on the top of my to do list every single day, it is something that enriches me as a person and enriches all of our lives.
So the next time you instinctively ignore your mom’s texts or send your dad to voicemail because you don’t have the time, think about everything they have given you. Think about the years they drove you to and from school so you could be at college in the first place. The truth is you always have time for a quick phone call at one point or another. Don’t let school and geographical separation break down the most important relationships in your life. A text saying “I love you” takes less than five seconds to send, but the outcome lasts a heck of a lot longer.