Nineteen Years Ago Today

Nineteen years ago today, I woke up after feeling a huge rubber band snapping in my belly.  Of course, it really wasn’t my husband snapping me with office supplies, but my body and my son deciding that was the “big” day.

I had been pregnant for the previous 41 weeks and like many other moms during that time frame, had put together a nursery, bought and washed little clothes, stockpiled diapers and gone to classes to learn how to give birth.  However, none of that prepared me for the reality shock – I was about to have a baby!  I was about to become responsible for a little person for the rest of my life.  How would we afford braces and a car, when would I do potty training, would it harm him if I went back to work, how would I discipline him, and……..the list of questions went on and on.

With a first baby, the only thing that hits you harder than a labor pain is reality.

Over the last nineteen years, my time was spent doing things things I knew, such as cooking, cleaning, driving and laundry, laundry, laundry.  I also spent a lot of time doing things I didn’t already know how to do, from learning how  to differentiate between baby cries, standing up for my decisions on child rearing, to constantly shifting how I balanced comfort, discipline, expectations and fun.  There were times I was not prepared and had to take action on the fly.  There were other times I was so totally prepared, but didn’t have to use those skills.  (We didn’t have the terrible twos, but the independent threes were something else.)

Nineteen years after my beautiful baby boy was born, I’m still learning.  I’m in the learning curve of being a parent to a (almost) grown up.  I can see my earlier work in his decision making and his reaction to the occasional bad decision.  I still worry and still do his laundry when he is home from college but I’m learning to sit back and let him take the reins of life.

So, Happy Birthday Calvin!  I’m so happy you came home for your birthday and brought your laundry!

Living on Campus

My son has already locked in his housing choice for 2014-2015 year at college.  He informed me that all his friends were selecting “the Quad”, a residence hall made up of units with four private bedrooms that share 2 bathrooms and a “living room”, and that he was selecting that option as well.

I think this is a great idea.  There are cheaper options, including living off campus, but I see this as a way to have some of the good stuff of living off campus while still having some control of the surroundings.  Having lived in different apartments in this same college town, I remember the different venues offered different life lessons such as: you can wear three sweatshirts inside to stay warm, walls don’t always keep you from hearing your neighbor’s conversation and apartments feel more claustrophobic if you don’t clean and declutter occasionally.  Already Calvin is learning about the last lesson in his 14 ft x 11 ft dorm room that is shared with a roommate.  Calvin has always been a bit of a “horizontal filer” (meaning all his belongings are on any horizontal surface) but now with limited space that must be shared, he is becoming a little more creative.

Other great things about living on campus: fire alarms and sprinklers in the buildings, tornado shelters and campus wide warnings, and from a student’s perspective, the ability to get up 15 minutes before class starts and still make it on time.

Like many young people, my son is chomping at the bit to be grown up.  To be on his own. And I’m glad he feels that way.  However, there are so many years ahead of apartment living, commuting and paying bills that I think he should enjoy these years on campus that are relatively carefree when it comes to housing, food and commuting.  Perspective is a funny thing.



Our Christmas Present – Another Grownup in the House

Christmas break is drawing to a close.

We have been experiencing the first Christmas break of our college student and it’s not been too bad.

I was prepared for daily battles of what time he thought he should come home and I would be moping around because he was spending more time with friends than family. But that’s not so…

It actually started prior to the break. We were on the phone catching up about finals and the end of the semester. Two important things stood out in our conversation. He had aced Physics and he wanted to pick up a few hours of work while on break to get some spending money. I don’t know which made me happier – good grades or the desire to work.

Throughout the break, he has done a good job of balancing work, friends and family. Even last night, he spent some time with friends and then came home to Mohaska Farmhouse pizza and a Red Box rental and spent the rest of the evening with us.

Could it be that college is not only helping my son get ready for a job, but helping him become an adult?  Or that he’s experienced more things and now home doesn’t seem so bad?

Whatever the case, I’m enjoying it.

Loosening Apron Strings, the Saga Continues

I’ve been quiet for the last few months.  Sorry about that.

We managed to get our son off to college and in some ways, I thought this blog should be over.  After all, my intention was to talk about that final year of high school, getting ready for college and how we dealt with it.  However, I realized that with the title “Loosening the Apron Strings” could mean a lot more than just that one year.  So, here I am, a parent of a freshman in college. If you read “Chrisman 2 College” (another blogger, who may be having waaaay too much fun in college) perhaps my blogs will offer the parent view point.

In a nutshell, the summer seemed to drag and fly by.  Each day I wanted to accomplish something to get ready for college.  Things like, 1) my son communicating with his roommate, 2) buying necessary residence hall supplies, 3) washing things (not sure what things – but they needed to be washed) 4) getting a new cell phone that is dependable and the back stays on, 5) well, you get the idea.  I had a list of things that I felt needed to be done.  In the middle of summer, we took a family vacation/family reunion trip to Portland, Oregon and an older nephew worked on luring my son over to the dark side of computer programming.  Considering the nephew is now living and working abroad for Microsoft, maybe that isn’t such a bad route after all.  My son worked on procrastinating for the summer, resulting in a flurry of activity the week before he moved into the residence hall.

By the way, does it really make it so much better to call a 10 ft by 15 ft room that you have to share with a stranger, the “residence hall”?  While on campus, we were corrected a few times when we referred to his temporary dwelling as a “dorm room”.  It might be a longer and fancier name, but it’s still a dorm room.

So here we are, right before Thanksgiving.  My son made it home yesterday.  All 85 miles by himself.  I’m still not used to him driving the highways by himself, but at least I know that he can find his way home.  In the past couple of years, he has demonstrated himself to be geographically challenged, which made our selection of University of Arkansas almost a must.  If he can find the highway and go north – he’ll find his hometown. And thankfully he did.

We’ve already spent one evening grilling him about every detail at college.  It seems strange to not have a part of his daily life, but it is great to find out that we still do have a part of his life.  I used to hear about “cutting the apron strings” but I hope that we never cut them entirely, just stretch them out a bit.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you with apron strings that extend all over the world.

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.