So last fall, millions of us sent our kids off to college for the first time. (Emotional pummeling, for sure.) We packed them up, crossed our fingers and toes, and sent them off into the big, scary world to more or less fend for themselves for the first time. The first time ever, in most cases.

Then we went home, curled up on their sweet little beds, grabbed hold of their ratty, old pink bunny rabbit, and cried until we couldnt breathe. (It was an emotional, snotty mess.) And then, faster than we could ever have imagined, were packing them up all over again. Only this time, its to come home for the summer.

Its crazy, really, how fast that first year goes. And how much they change being out on their own.

They go from living under our roof and following our rules and mixing their lights in with our darks to living on their own, making all their own choices, heading out for the night at 11 p.m., and doing most of their color sorting themselves.

And its a mind shift for sure. For them as much as for us. And since this is my first time experiencing the re-entry, Im honestly not sure what to expect. It could rip us all to shreds, or, bring us closer than ever. (You can probably guess where my money is.) The over-under around the house, though, is around 50/50 right now and my palms are actually a little sweaty thinking about which way its likely to go.

I mean, Id be lying if I said I wasnt praying for a harmonious lovefest for the next four months, but I think thats just straight-up delusional. Rileys been on her own since September, answering to literally no one and regardless of how chill Dave and I may be (very, if you ask me), the simple fact is that now she has to go back to considering us in her day-to-day decisions. And that can be stressful. Definitely enough to throw off anyones rhythm.

But what I never really considered, since she was our first to go off to college, was how her living on her own for the last year would impact her coming back to live with us again after school was over for the year. Sorry, but my brain was kind of preoccupied with the whole notion of sending her away that I really didnt spend an awful lot of time thinking about the back end. But lemme tell you, it was a sobering thought once it really started to seep in.

Will she just slide right back into the family routine? Will it be business as usual? Will she all of a sudden start doing the food shopping, food-prepping, and cooking healthy, well-balanced meals three days a week? Will she introduce herself to the washer/dryer? (Because theyve never met.)

Or, will she reject all forms of authority? Will she even consider any advice I may have to offer from this point on? Will she bother to tell us where shes going, who shes with, and what shes doing? (Because its bad enough knowing shes out til whenever with whomever doing whatever when shes away, but its a totally different ballgame when all thats happening and shes back living across the hall.) Will she and her sister kill each other before June?

All these unanswered questions and so many more are now floating around in my head just waiting for answers. And thats why Im trying to stay hyper-conscious of the fact that re-entry is probably, no, definitely, going to be a sticky wicket.

So in an effort to stay sane and maintain some sense of normalcy in my house, Dave and I have decided not to get too far ahead of ourselves predicting how this is all gonna go. In fact, as far as Im concerned, Im setting my own personal expectations bar low. Like ground-level low to avoid any unnecessary disappointments. Although I do have to say that Im optimistic.

Thats why weve decided to buy ourselves a little dry-erase white board (Daves idea) so we can keep track of the Number of Days Since the Last Incident. You know, a tally board to help us track of how many amicable days we have together. To date, shes been home for one day and weve got one hash mark. So far so good. Fingers are crossed and were hoping that watching the tally marks add up will inspire everyone to stay in line. I know this may sound slightly redick, but I really dont have a better idea for keeping the peace so were going with it for now.

So I guess the big question is, will we still like our kids when they come home from their first year away at school? (God, I certainly hope so.) But its definitely a crapshoot. And, maybe more importantly, will they still like us? Time will definitely tell.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.