So. Your kid got into a college. Or maybe a few colleges. And the decision has been made. You think you can sit back and relax now because that year of stress and arguments, all those months of waiting, they're all behind you, right? Um, not so fast. No sooner will you send in that acceptance deposit than you will start to receive offers for items that will make your child's college life the dream come true you've been hoping for. And the most insidious of these offers will be for dorm gear. If direct marketing dollars are any barometer of importance, you will quickly start to feel that there's nothing in your life more urgent than purchasing dorm sheets.
My son's school sent us a brochure -- ok, many brochures -- about "packages" they offer for the dorm. Sheets, towels, blankets, a hamper. A little light that clips onto a headboard. The brochure guarantees everything will fit his particular dorm furniture. It says the package can be sent directly to his room, there when he arrives at school. It says I can save hundreds of dollars buying it all this way. Who wouldn't want to do this? It's such a great deal! They even throw in a memory foam mattress topper!
No, don't get the package sent to the school! You need to wash all the sheets and towels first. Plus, the memory foam needs to be opened up so it can "breathe" a bit. Of course. I knew that.
The brochure provides no actual details about the sheets. Only colors. You can't tell how they feel or what they're made of. But if I buy it from a regular store, how will I know I'm getting all the right stuff? What if he needs under-bed storage? A clip-on bed fan? A mini-fridge? A microwave? Who knew that buying sheets for college would be more stressful than the application process itself?
I asked about the dorm package on Facebook and got 63 responses.
Do the package.
Don't do the package.
It's a bargain and convenient.
It's a rip-off.
The package is for losers.
The package sheets are fine.
They fall apart.
I would never send my child to school with "package" sheets.
Try Garnet Hill; they have 100 percent cottons in extra long.
Garnet Hill? I don't even buy sheets for myself from Garnet Hill.
ME: Do you want the package sheets or should we go shopping for sheets?
HIM: I don't care.
ME: The package sheets are probably some kind of poly/cotton blend.
ME: They say we have to order really soon if we want our choice of patterns.
ME: So, should we order?
HIM: I don't care.
ME: But they're your sheets. It's your bed.
HIM: Mom, just do it however you want.
I know. I know. I know. They're just sheets. Why, then, does it feel like they're so much more?
When I went to college, I took sheets from our linen closet and stuffed them in a milk crate. Actually, now that I think of it, I totally bought new sheets. I can still picture them: ivory with pale blue and orange paisley, a little brown detail. I remember the brown because the second set of sheets were solid brown and I sometimes paired the brown pillowcase with the paisley one since they complemented each other. I can't believe I remember my college sheets. It's settled. This is too special. No package.
ME: Do you want one set of sheets or two? If you bring only one set, you have to wash, dry and put them back on the bed all in the same day. If you bring two sets, you can take one set off, put the new set on and then wash the first set when it's convenient.
HIM: Wait...you need to wash sheets?
Don't buy the memory foam anywhere but Target or it won't fit properly.
I just got one somewhere else.
Can you return it? It's going to be too short.
But it will just be short down where his feet are, right? His feet don't need memory foam, do they?
Ok. But don't say I didn't warn you.
Of course we all managed to get through college without memory foam mattress toppers. But when I google dorm beds, it looks like the mattresses haven't been replaced since the eighties.
ME: Honey, pick out the sheets you like. They need to be extra long.
HIM: I like these.
ME: Those?! Those are 400 thread count! After the year you just put me through, you don't deserve 400 thread count. Two hundred, tops.
From mid-August to mid-September, my Facebook feed is littered with parents' pictures of their kids' decorated dorm rooms, each one looking like a page straight out of a catalog. One friend confided that her son's room looked too much like a prison cell and she might find a local designer to put together some window treatments.
I'm feeling guilty about the thread count.
He doesn't care about the thread count.
But what if he gets sick and he doesn't feel cozy?
He'll be so happy just being on his own, he'd be fine sleeping on a rock.
But what if there's a bellyache, a fever, a day when a bed must be crawled back into -- a pillow hugged, a blanket pulled up and over a head? Don't those days deserve the best and softest sheets money can buy? If anyone told me 18 years ago, while my son was still wrapped in his first tiny flannel blankie, that I would someday give his college sheets more than three minutes of consideration, I would have deemed them insane. Yet, here I am, having spent three months on it. Is that to obscure the fact that maybe I haven't prepared him enough to go out into the world on his own? Or simply because I'm terrified about what will fill my brain once his day-to-day care is out of my control?
Is buying sheets my last chance to mother him? No, don't answer that.