Ready for School….Again?

Here we are, about three weeks away from Calvin returning to college to start his sophomore year. He is very “old hat” about it and knows his move in date. We have enjoyed having him home this summer and seeing him in different eyes. Many people have told me that I wouldn’t be able to wait to have him return and I have to say…..they aren’t entirely wrong, but they aren’t completely right either.

I see that Calvin is ready to go back. He has been in contact with his Texas friends and they’ve been discussing the new school year. He is making a life away from us, which is normal and right. I want him to be strong and capable, but I hope strong and capable doesn’t take him far far away and we don’t get to see him very often. (However, don’t tell Calvin, but if he moves someplace really neat and starts having grandchildren, we may have to follow him.)

So, I am excited for the new school year, but I’m going to miss him. (again)


A Grand Adventure and Parenting

A Grand Adventure and Parenting

I haven’t written much about the last few weeks, preferring to keep all those thoughts and emotions to myself for a while.  As many of you know, we’ve spent that last year getting our son ready to go to college.  We’ve experienced college visits, college letters, orientation, buying and packing and finally, move-in day.

It is extremely exciting to get to see a loved one off on a grand new adventure in their life and probably the only thing more exciting would be starting your own adventure.  There is a curious mixture of pride, excitement and sadness, and each emotion is ready to overwhelm you at any time.  You want your son or daughter to live life and go forward with their plans, even if it means not being in your house or town, but then again, you will miss seeing them as much as you want.

I wonder, if prior to having a baby, if we were provided with a list of job duties and responsibilities of a parent, that culminates in working one’s self into an advisory role, would we take the job?  Would I have taken on this role if I had known that I would have a decade of pukiness and I’d have to learn how to get over the urge to sympathetic vomit?  Or that after the years of early teen disdainment, we’d have a wonderful and loving young man in our house and that would be the time that he would need to leave?  If parenting was logical, then – no, who would do it?  But, parenting is not logical and aren’t we glad our parents did it and that many of us get to do it?

I’ve been thinking about Jack London’s “Credo” and I think it is applicable to our young people going off on their adventures and to those of us parents who have got them there.

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

So, cheers to all of you parents who are seeing kids off on college/new job/new country/etc. adventures.

As for the kids starting their new chapters – Call your Mom.

Sunrise in Copenhagen – by A. Greenvoss

Wants and Needs

I know I haven’t posted much lately and it’s probably because I’ve been practicing denial. However, the fact is, we are 7 days away from moving Calvin to college.

We have been gathering stuff here and there. Even as late as yesterday, I ordered another set of twin xl sheets because I am not certain that my son will timely change and wash his sheets and at least this way, he can have a clean set and a set in the laundry bag waiting to come home to Mom.

I know that we still lack things, not only because the Bed Bath and Beyond checklist says that we are, but because it’s hard to envision what it is like sharing a small room with another person and just getting what you really NEED versus what you WANT.

This move is a tough choice. My son’s close friends are remaining in our hometown to go to the local university, which I noted in a previous blog, was not the place where my son wanted to go. It comes back to that WANT and NEED again.  He could have fulfilled a NEED to go to college at a local university and lived at home, thus getting an inexpensive education.  However, he chose to fulfill a WANT to go off to college and now we are facing all the changes that are about to be put into motion.

So, here is to wants and needs and a new school year.  I know that all of our students going off to college are facing the changes that their choices have put into place.  It’s all a part of taking that next step on the path to becoming an adult.

Summer vacationI haven’t said much lately because we’ve been busy and I think we’ve all tried to pretend that it is “just another summer”.  But it’s not.  We have 25 days until we take Calvin to college.

After much insistence that he didn’t need any more clothing, my son acquiesced to going shopping yesterday and we added to his casual wardrobe and a little to the slightly dressed up wardrobe.  That also gave me a chance to talk to him about what’s going on in his head about going off to school.

Turns out, some of those mornings where he was incredibly tired from what I thought was gaming into the night, were actually from lying awake thinking about college.  It seems that he is a little worried, not so much about the academics, but more about making friends, where to sit in the dining hall and missing Junior the Cat.  (Which I interpreted as missing home)  He is going from a 2,000 student high school campus to a 17,000 student college campus.  His close friends are staying in our hometown to attend the local college and living at home in order to save money and not get into debt.  (Both excellent choices!)  Now that we are this close, he is seeing that this is really going to happen.

My mother’s heart wanted to make it wonderful for him.  I wanted to say, “Oh, let’s just enroll you in MSSU and you can stay home and hang out with your friends,” because that would be easy and fun and I’d love to have him around the house a few more years.  But, I also know that this will be good for him to stretch, to be a little uncomfortable and to try something harder than he has ever done before.  So, I said the right thing.  I told him I was proud of him choosing to take the harder path at this time and that I knew that he could do it.

So, here we are.  I’m trying to prepare him (and me) by making lists each day of “things” that need to be done.  As if, somehow, being busy with car repairs, buying dorm supplies and running errands will ready the  both of us for him going away to college.  I am thinking that we both have chosen the harder path, but I am confident that both of us will be even better for traveling it.

Oh What a Ride

roller coaster 2There is this great scene in “Parenthood” (the movie from 1989) where Helen Shaw, as the grandmother, relates a story about roller coasters.  “Up, down, up, down…oh what a ride. You know, it was just interesting to me how a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together.”

Our life has been a bit like a roller coaster the past few weeks.  After Calvin finished the Fellowship interview at University of Arkansas, we started our wait of 11 long days to find out if he was selected.  I’m not sure if it was a good or bad thing, but in December, we had scheduled wisdom teeth removal right during the middle of that 11 days, so we actually had something else to think about.  Things like ice packs, NO STRAWS, swelling and relief that we didn’t have to do “that” again.

I had been keeping a running dialog in my head those 11 days about how could they NOT pick my son for a Fellowship and how would I help him with the disappointment  if he wasn’t selected.  There is always that urge to turn everything into a teaching moment, but I had decided we had enough of those growing up – we would just be disappointed for a while, pick ourselves up and go on.  In addition to my dialog, we began receiving emails confirming the scholarships that college had offered Calvin, so I had the feeling that they were trying to let us down easy.

On the night before the big decision day, I went to my 26th and last public school Parent-Teacher Conference for my son.  I, along with many other senior parents, found out that our kids were experiencing an extreme case of “Senioritis” this year.  I had one teacher tell me that we were ahead of the game as my son was at least getting up in the morning and attending school, unlike some of the other seniors.  However, I felt that “just attending school” wasn’t quite enough as I wanted him to finish well.  Runners don’t run the 26 miles in a marathon just so they can just walk the last .2 miles; they dig down and try to find the energy to sprint to the finish.  (At least that’s what  my runner husband tells me.)

We’d been up about the interview, preoccupied with the wisdom teeth extraction, excited about the confirmation of scholarships that were guaranteed, (but troubled as well) and now concerned about finishing well.  So, it was amazing when we came home from our semi-annual post conference fast food and waiting for us was an email congratulating Calvin on being selected for a Fellowship at University of Arkansas!  Grandma knew what she was talking about.  Life is a roller coaster!

Here is a link to the scene where Grandma describes the roller coaster ride.  If you haven’t seen “Parenthood”, rent, borrow or stream it.  It should be required viewing for all young couples starting a family.   (Ashley, have you watched it yet?)

Remember Your Luggage

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Fayetteville, Arkansas.   Around the square, people were enjoying late lunches, walking and window shopping and getting nervous at the Chancellor Hotel.

You see, 150 students were gathered to start the Fellowship Interview Weekend and about that many parents were helicoptering around, trying to help in some way at the last minute.  You could hear instructions being murmured, phones and watches synchronized and some patting and hugging going on to reassure the parents that the student was okay.   In fact, I think this weekend could have been harder on the parents than the students.

We tried to be very cool and not helicopter around.  Our biggest worry about the weekend wasn’t the essays or interviews, but since the students had separate hotel rooms, would our son be able to get up on time, get ready, get his luggage back to us and get on the bus in time for 8 am interview?

On Monday morning, we alternated between picking up our phones to text Calvin and reassuring each other that he had it under control.  As the minutes ticked by, I reasoned that he ultimately was responsible for his success at this weekend, but I sure didn’t want his usual sleep habits to get in the way of a scholarship.  Then came the quiet knock at the door.  It was our son, fully dressed and ready to go, handing over his suitcase and starting his day.  Yippee!  At that moment, I was as proud as if he had already received the Fellowship.

Checking out later that morning, we were behind a father who was trying to retrieve his son’s luggage that had been left in the room.  We exchanged smug smiles.  OUR son had paid attention to the information session and had gotten his luggage to us in time.  Feelings of happiness that our son would be able to “make it” in the world washed over me as well as the self-satisfaction  that our son was just a little bit better than that guy’s son.  Hey, it might have been wrong, but I felt it.

After our respective sessions and lunch, we all connected up together again and came home.  I viewed the weekend as a success.  How could they not choose my son?  The one who was able to get up in time and get his luggage to his folks?  It was a no-brainer.  I was hearing the Cranberries’ “I’m Walking on Sunshine” playing in my head.  All was  great.

However, my son has just informed me this morning that his shaving kit is still in Fayetteville.





Parental Support not Parental Bankrolling

Just in the nick of time, I have proof that I shouldn’t bankroll my son’s college education.

This month, the American Sociological Review published “More Is More or More Is Less? Parent Financial Investments During College,” by Laura Hamilton.  Dr. Hamilton, a sociology professor at University of California, Merced, did a study on the relationship between parental financial contribution, GPA and college graduation.  She found that parents who contributed the most didn’t get necessarily get the best ROI.  Their students tended to be less serious about college and wound up with lower GPAs than students funding their own educations.  For affluent families, this didn’t pose a problem as they had the connections to get their recent graduates into jobs.

However, the study did show that parental financial support yielded higher graduation rates.  In a nutshell, if a student can’t pay for college, they can’t stay in college to graduate.  So, how do we decide what to do?  Raid our retirement accounts to get our student to graduation with less than exciting grades?  Or, saddle our recent out-of-the-nest student with the full financial responsibility of college and life and see them rack up debt or drop out?  (or both?)

I think the best take-away from the study is parental support, not parental bankrolling.  Dr. Hamilton says that parents providing financial support should communicate clear cut expectations on grades and graduation.  I agree, but want to suggest that regardless of where the financial support comes from, parents still need to be involved with their fledgling adults, whether in college or not, and offer love, advice (carefully given) and help when necessary.

So, I’m thinking that my job as a parent didn’t end when we received the college acceptance letter in the mailbox last month.  I’m okay with that, how about you?