THIS week, my neighbor Lisa, who owns a smallish Honda, asked if she could borrow our minivan to help move her daughter to college in New York City, about 40 minutes away.
No problem, we said. But as it turned out, with all the belongings her daughter was taking, Lisa needed to supersize and borrowed a friend’s much larger sport utility vehicle.
“I thought we’d have the most stuff of all, but far from it,” she said. “People were there with U-Hauls.”
And remember, this is to move freshmen into furnished dormitory rooms.
What’s going on? I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but when I went to college, I took a couple of suitcases. And nothing was brand new. I used whichever sheets and towels my mother decided she didn’t need anymore.
Well, things have changed. Now stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Walmart make it so easy to buy so much. They offer convenient college registries and remind you to tell your friends and family. In many cases, you order everything at home and it is all delivered right to your college.
是的，时代不同了。现在有了像寝浴百货(Bed Bath & Beyond)、塔吉特百货(Target)和沃尔玛(Walmart)这些商店让人动不动就买一大堆东西。它们设有方便的大学入学订购目录，而且还会提醒你去告诉亲友。很多时候，你从家里订购所有东西，货可以直接送到你的学校里。
“We’re not keeping up with the Joneses anymore; we’re keeping up with the Joneses’ college kid,” said Nancy Berk, a clinical psychologist and self-published author of “College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kids Get Into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship or Your Mind” (2011). “A friend’s daughter is coordinating comforters for their dorms, and they’re doing it with $300 comforters.”
“我们已经不是在和邻居攀比了，我们是在和邻居上大学的孩子攀比，”临床心理学家南茜·贝尔克(Nancy Berk)说。2011年她还自助出版了一本书《被束缚的大学：如何和谐、理性又省钱地帮助子女走进理想大学》(College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kids Get Into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship or Your Mind)。她说：“一个朋友的女儿负责给她们宿舍准备被子，结果她们买来的是300美元的被子。”
There is a psychological component to all of this. First of all, as with every other milestone in our lives, we have become convinced that we need to observe our children’s college transitions by purchasing things. And the more the better.
Also, for a generation of parents intimately involved with every aspect of their children’s lives, sending them off on their first real-world experience without us is a big deal, said Ms. Berk, who has seen two sons off to college. One way we think we can smooth that adjustment, she said, is “by buying stuff.”
Or, as Chris Seman, president of Caring Transitions, a relocation and estate liquidation company, said, “I think parents are trying to duplicate their home for their kids.”
又或者，就像一家房屋迁移和房产清算公司“Caring Transitions”的总裁克里斯·塞曼(Chris Seman)所说，“我觉得父母是想把他们的家复制一个给他们的孩子。”
In addition, Ms. Berk said, parents are more invested financially in college than ever before. “We’re paying a fortune, and we want it to be all so wonderful for our kids,” she said.
So how do we rein all of this in? I collected some advice from the experts, including parents in my neighborhood whose children are in various stages of the college experience.
Now, I know I will hear cries of sexism, but everyone I spoke to agreed that packing for a boy was completely different from packing for a girl.
“For guys to get dressed up, they need one polo shirt,” Mr. Seman said. “Girls bring a lot more.”
But, he said, for boys it is electronics that take up space.
One of the first suggestions from Mr. Seman and others was that your children should contact their roommates to avoid duplicating items. If your children are just starting college, they have most likely been communicating with their roommates online; otherwise, they are probably rooming with people they already know.
My neighbor Kim, whose daughter is entering her sophomore year at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said the first year the roommates planned over Facebook who would bring what.
我的邻居金(Kim)的女儿现在在北卡罗来纳大学威明顿分校(The University of North Carolina at Wilmington)读书，即将进入大学二年级，金说在第一年的时候，室友们就是在Facebook上商量好谁负责带什么东西。
“The people who lived the closest brought the big things like the futon couch and the microwave,” she said.
My neighbor Pam, whose older son just graduated from college and whose younger one is entering this year, chuckled when she remembered the first online exchanges between her older son, Daniel, and his roommate.
“His roommate talked about ambient lighting, and Daniel had no idea what that was,” she said.
Pam decided not to use the registry options made available by various stores, because she thought it was best for her sons to figure out what they needed.
“When you get to the college, emotions are running high and everyone is tense,” she said. “The best thing for them to do is go with their roommate to get what they need.”
After all, few campuses are going to be out of reach of a store where students can stock up, and some college bookstores even carry all the basics.
I asked my group of parents what advice they would offer from their hard-won experience.
Mr. Seman said that when he took his first son to college, they had bought so many unnecessary items, like shower curtains, “that I returned $150 worth of stuff to Target. With the second kid, I figured it out.”
Also, tempting as it is, don’t buy six dozen bottles of shampoo at Costco to last the year. “There are plenty of places they can buy,” Ms. Berk said, “or if they want to buy in bulk, they can do it online.”
Kim warned against packing items in plastic bins. “We took them all down there and there was nowhere to put them, so we brought them back,” she said. “Use cardboard boxes or those big Ikea bags — those have been a godsend.”
Ms. Berk said she had discovered the wonders of space bags, which allow you to pack and then expel all the air. “That’s how we packed all the items that could be compressed, like bedding and down jackets,” she said.
Don’t send anything that you don’t want beer spilled on or nail polish dripped on, Kim said, and don’t buy anything, no matter how sensible, that your child just won’t use.
“The college made a point of suggesting you have a lock for your computer, because kids tend to leave doors open,” Pam said. “We know a girl who lost two computers. You can also bring the lock to the library. It seemed like a good idea.”
But, she recalled, “we went through all sorts of gyrations to get the lock installed. We had to call a friend who lived in the suburbs to get a drill to drill a hole into the desk.” And did her son use the lock? “No.”
This, however, seems like an easy, workable plan: Kim said she scanned all of her daughter’s important papers, like her birth certificate, driver’s license and high school records, onto her computer so she and her husband would have access to them if needed. Then her daughter took the originals in a colorful rubberized letter-size holder, like a laptop case.
“Everything she shouldn’t lose was in there, and it was bright red so it stood out,” Kim said. “It went under the mattress.”
The most important thing in the end is not the Ikea desk or the Target sheets you buy. Instead, my advisers said, you should remember that it’s your children going to college, not you.
“If you take control away from them, it makes it even more stressful,” Mr. Seman said. “They’ll make some horrible decisions, but let them make them.”
And please, don’t be the parent who sends rolls of quarters overnight so her son or daughter can do the laundry.“The guy at the post office said he’s had a parent do that,” Kim said.
Really? We’ve come to this? Please, stop yourselves before you mail again.