Katie came home from college and got rested up for the first couple of weeks, applying for jobs and doing various little things adjusting back to life in Washington. Then she went down to California for a wedding, and I think she got a little shot of the peer-life that she's been enjoying in the college realm. On the way home from the airport, she started saying how quickly she connected not only at the wedding, but that Sunday with the congregation at the church down there (even her friend remarked on how quickly she connected with people there); and she described how lonely she is up here. Aaagh.
I understand how great it must be to be a young woman in a college environment; all the more for a girl who was homeschooled and dealt with some degree of loneliness or isolation much of the time growing up. A Christian college dorm can't help being an "in the salt-shaker" kind of habitat. She's made lots of Christian friends, all varying levels and varieties of wonderful. I know to an extent what that is like when I go to church, experiencing it maybe for a few hours, or maybe off at a women's retreat, but to live in it, I have just never experienced it--never knew to miss it! Never stayed in a dorm; the only time I shared an apartment with a girl friend, neither of us were Christians, and actually it didn't work out that well. Still, when I come home from a women's retreat, I'm actually relieved to get back to life as usual, back to the regular routine; the ongoing excitement of dorm life would probably kill me!
We changed churches a few months before Katie left for college, and between that change and then changing to a church near her college, then back again to our new church, it's short-circuited her connecting with either congregation all that well. That disconnect creates all the more adjustment back to everyday home life. We're just the same 3 other family members every morning, and no doubt we are so much different in our level of energy or affirmation or activity than what she's used to at college.
So I see what used to be our adult-oriented daughter becoming so much more peer-oriented. I would have balked at that during the years that we were homeschooling, for family strength and character-building reasons. Now, though, it's not entirely unhealthy. It's time for her to stretch her wings and start flying into her own world a bit, from the safety of her home environment. The peer influence in elementary to high-school years has a way of causing more of an emotional separation from parents that is premature, undermining authority and bringing the children to strive for an independence for which they aren't prepared, but she's 20 now, and those priorities have changed in importance, and will all the more as she ventures further into adulthood.
Still, the fact that she so struggles when she leaves the peer life and comes home to us is disheartening a bit, when we're not used to feeling so inadequate for her perceived needs. She's hooked on a level of social interaction that there's no way that we can provide or imitate; it's a sensory deprivation that is a relief during the short visits on holidays; but for the summer months, that relief turns into feelings of boredom and isolation. I know when she gets a job, that will help, but in the meantime, it's a struggle.
Knowing what she's experiencing now, would I regret her having gone and returning with this disenchantment? Never. I don't exactly know what to do with her now that she's home, but I'm glad she's gained the friends she has, the new perspective, the confidence, the input of someone other than her old mother...even if her impression of home life has become a bit faded and dull. When she needs the safety and support, we're here; when she doesn't so much, she's free to explore the many great possibilities that will be opening up to her. Maybe if being at home doesn't fully suit her, she'll be working harder to achieve her independence, and maybe that will be a healthy thing.