Coming Home

The parenting rules blur when your son or daughter is in college. You may want to guide them, offer advice from your years of learning and experience and prevent them from making mistakes you may have made. Well, forget it. For the most part, your college-aged children want you to let them go.

We have one child – everything is one and done; we go through experiences once and move on to the next experience. Since September, I’ve learned that our son rarely wants to hear our advice. He’ll listen to our friends or just about anyone else when it comes to college-aged advice – but not us. After I got over my slightly hurt feelings along with the desire to impart my wisdom on our son, I’ve realized, he just wants us to LISTEN.

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Son & grandparents – Dec. 2012

He called us last week. We talked – or mostly HE talked for much of the 30-minutes. We asked questions showing our interest – he answered. In an earlier call, he went on about how the spring semester is so very different from his fall semester. In my had I was thinking, “Gees, didn’t I tell him that?” Of course I did; taking a look at his spring course selection, I knew he’d have a ton of reading and I told him so. This got more intense when he made the honors program. He did NOT want to hear that from me. He had to experience the challenges himself. No warning from mom was going to penetrate his defenses.

Which leads me to my final revelation. Weeks ago, our son chided us for making plans so far in advance: vacations, dinner reservations, parties, etc. He called last night – Tuesday – to say he was thinking about coming home this coming weekend and did we have any plans. That is HUGE for him. Normally, he’d call us 15 minutes before – or after he wanted to do something. I can clearly see that he is starting to manage his schedule and look forward.

So, when he calls, I listen – and take notes. That way I am forced to listen; I have a record of what he talked about and I can ask good, relevant questions that engage him in the conversation. I guess I’m growing up, too. And I can’t wait to see our son this weekend.

 

Ya Got To Have Friends

Nearly 24 years ago, Doug and I met. We met through a group that formed out of the kindness and creativity of a man named Carl. That group of singles – then called Voorhees Single Professionals – was created long before the internet, Match.com or any other online dating service. Carl created the group out of a desire to connect single people in their 20’s and 30’s to a social life that was tough to find beyond the bar scene at the time. An earlier article in the Philadelphia Inquirer mentioned the beginning of the group in the fall of 1989.

Day10_20100817_27Tonight, more than  23 years later, Carl, his wife Ramona, Rick, Mary, Doug and I – who all met because of this group – had dinner together. I am exhausted. It was as though we had just left a group meeting and had planned weeks of events. We now are planning to get together for a boat ride – the six of us – on the Chesapeake – this coming summer. Ramona volunteered to start a Facebook page so we can begin to plan a September 28th ‘reunion’ of sorts. We want to revisit what Carl started so many years ago – a group of people who want to get together for social activities – a MEET market he proclaimed at the time – NOT a MEAT market – which was the big problem for singles.

The six of us met at our house for drinks and appetizers for about an hour. Our kitchen was filled with non-stop talk. Catching up; talking about our children – successes – failures; things on the horizon. When it came time to leave for our dinner reservation, we continued to talk. The car ride went by in a flash.

At the restaurant, we ordered and continued to catch up on each others’ lives. We talked about people who have passed away; who’ve divorced – but best of all, we reminisced about how each of us met. To remember those days as if they happened yesterday makes you feel as if everything that you’ve gone through – suffered through – survived – is even more meaningful.

What it all comes down to is – as the character Billy Crystal played in “City Slickers” said is ONE thing: if it were not for Carl and his one idea to put an ad in the local shopper’s guide and reserve the community hall in Voorhees on that September night in 1989 – none of us would have met. Our lives would be completely different.

Thank you Carl – forever; we love you. And we’ll plan that reunion for September 28, 2013.

When Do You Stop Worrying?

The book I read to my son over and over when he was little had a memorable verse: “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” It seems no matter how much time passes, I am always thinking about how he’ll turn out. Will he make the right decisions and choices that will lead to his happiness? Will he get in over his head with his schedule? Is what he is doing already in college sustainable?
I suppose this is all about letting go. He is 18 and testing his limits. Right now he’s succeeding beyond all our expectations and probably his own. He’s discovering the world is his oyster and he wants to take advantage of every opportunity.
The hard part is tripping and falling on your face. While he’s done his fair share of that already, I just hope and pray he finds everything he’s looking for. Perhaps he doesn’t know what IT is just yet, but it will be wonderful to hear from him when that light bulb goes off. I long for the day when we may hear, ” Hey, Mom and Dad, thanks for everything you did to get me here. I couldn’t have done it without you.” I may not say this out loud to him but, “as long as I’m living, my baby he’ll be.”

And Nobody Got Hurt

Parenting an 18-year-old is no box of chocolates. No matter how many times you try to press to your young adult that the truth is better than a lie, he or she seems to want to test you every single time. Our son is no different. Without divulging details, Adam has tested our trust several times in the past months (and probably years), and I can only hope nobody will be hurt in the end. The problem is, every time he tells us where he’s going or who he’ll be with, I wonder, “Is that REALLY what’s going on?”

Whether finding out he was with a friend who wrongly took a parent’s car out that ended up with damage or drove to a young lady’s house when he said he would be with the guys, you have to wonder, “Is this how we raised him?” Of course it’s not. Of course we taught him telling the truth is always the right course to take in life. We taught him lies only get bigger AND that we’ll probably catch him in the lie. We often have and will catch him.

Understanding why young adults lie is difficult. We were that age once of course – which holds absolutely no weight when you tell your son or daughter that fact. A

Frontal lobes- not fully developed until around age 25.

Frontal lobes- not fully developed until around age 25.

major part of the problem is simply that young adults’ brains are still under construction. Yes, they think they know everything and you could not possibly understand anything they are going through, but that again points to their maturing brains. In an article I found on a U.S Health and Human Services site called “Maturation of the Prefontal Cortex,” you can read plenty on the development of the brain, risk taking and this part of the anatomy that some call “The CEO of the Brain.” This section of the referenced article sums this up – albeit clinically:

“Adolescents take risks to test and define themselves. Risk-taking is both beneficial and harmful. It can lead to situations where new skills are learned and new experiences can prepare them for future challenges. Risk-taking serves as a means for discovery about oneself, others and the larger world. The natural and normative proclivity for risk-taking plays a central role in adolescent development, making it a time of both great potential and great vulnerability.”

This fact does not make me feel any better; the researchers say the mortality rate for 15-24 year-olds is more than TRIPLE that of the rate for grade school children. Friends, we cannot live in fear everyday that something horrible is going to happen. We can only love our children; let them know we care and are concerned about their behavior and that there will be consequences for risky behavior and choices.

For now, I can be thrilled and quite proud about one very special achievement: our son earned a very respectable cume of 3.53 in his course work for his first semester at college.

The Freshman and the Freshman Parents

Image  One and done. That was the baby plan for us. We have gone through all the parenting and child-rearing activities for the past 18 years once and then moved on to the next challenge. Now, it appears this chapter is even more challenging than potty-training. This is parent training.

During the past weeks and months, chatting with other parents who are either sending their oldest or only child off to college for the first time or sending a second, third (or fourth) child off to college, the experiences wind up in the same place: Our child was: 1. NOT ready, 2. NOT ready to pack, and 3. had virtually no clue on how life without the parental units to back them up would be like.  For me, all of that has led to a potpourri of emotions.

I’ve gone through wanting to ‘help’ our son by making lists or offering advice on a myriad of topics ranging from choosing classes and finding the syllabus and textbooks to relaying tales from my college years and roommate dilemmas. Apparently none of what I say has any bearing on what my son will need for college. I am beginning to reconcile all the emotions into an understanding that somehow, our son will be OK. Getting through the freshman year is the toughest part of college. Transitioning from 12 years of school in which teachers usually had the students’ backs and there were checks and balances to be sure students progressed as expected. That of course, is NOT the case in college. It’s like a job but with a sizable tuition bill and certainly no pay check (that amounts to much).

The game changer for our son (I hope) is Widener University’s Presidential Service Corp. Adam applied and was accepted into this program and received a sizable scholarship to participate in this program. He’ll be teamed with a group of students in the program and they will not only carry out 300 hours of community service during the school term but have a social and support network to keep the students moving toward the goal of graduating with a social consciousness that can help a student find his or her passion in society. Adam seems to be looking forward to this program. He’ll have a group of like-students all ready for him to get to know, work and socialize in various teams. We’ll see how things go.

Has Adam connected with his roommate? No – but not for lack of trying. E-mails, texts and Facebook messages have gone unanswered. What are THAT student’s parents thinking? Is Adam packed? No: you DON’T want to know what his room here looks like. Move-in is Friday morning; 72 hours and counting. Has Adam completed all of the required online questionnaires and other items? No. Does he know his mailing address? No. BREAKING NEWS- Adam JUST informed me of his P.O. box and his adviser’s name and email (just for our records; not for becoming a helicopter parent-which we have never been).

My husband’s thinking seems to make some sense to me: as long as Adam has a change of clothes, linens for his dorm bed, a pencil, some paper and a toothbrush, he’ll survive. Move-in is Friday. Will I survive? Let me know how YOU are doing and I’ll report back on MY progress.

 

 

The Year of Living Gingerly

I have this thing – I like even numbers; 2011 is not an even number. Despite the pains of 2011, the year is turning out OK after all.

Let’s get the pain out-of-the-way: about four years of pain led to a right hip replacement in May 2011. Just a few weeks of therapy led to a nearly perfect summer. Then, I tumbled down the steps of our vacation house in New Hampshire and punctured my face on some boating gear at the bottom of the steps. Four doctors and many antibiotics later and the clutz who is me – healed. Finally, in my left shoulder diagnosed as frozen shoulder – has led to

Adam & his electric razor - wasn't he just needing a pacifier?

weeks and weeks of therapy that will lead into 2012 – but I’ll be fine. What is frozen shoulder? Women of a certain age can develop this real pain-in-the-joint affliction; some men and diabetics can develop frozen shoulder as well. The ligaments and tendons literally freeze which leads to restricted mobility. Try reaching up for a plate in the kitchen cabinet or scratching your back with the affected arm. You quickly learn the stages of frozen shoulder: freezing, frozen and thawing. I got to the doctor and physical therapist during the freezing stage. Now, I’m thawing. Thank you Meryl Goldstein, physical therapist at Excel in Cherry Hill. While the therapy is extremely painful – for her as well as me – I’m about 80% cured. Woo-hoo!

Enough of the pain already! Emotional pain has been the hallmark of our son’s senior year in high school. Adam is a bright, happy, overall well-adjusted young man. He’s just not as enthusiastic about life as perhaps he should be at this critical stage of his life. Senior year in high school means applying to colleges, financial aid applications, boy scout eagle project responsibilities and many other details. Detail-oriented – he is not. I constantly struggle over pushing him to get things done to completely backing off and letting him fail. Either one of these options is not the way to go. Striking the balance is extremely emotional. Somehow, I know Adam will succeed and do very well wherever his college career and career path leads.

Do you spend time looking at yourself from a distance? I wonder how I’m going to turn out; how my relationship with my husband will evolve and adjust; which hair color to choose. The thoughts go much deeper than a hair color, but I do spend time late at night or early in the morning thinking about my mortality. That’s pretty painful.

So how are things, really? I must be thankful and grateful for so many blessings: my family – both sides – and all their accomplishments and growth. I became a great-aunt late last year so I have a new family member to get to know. My physical fitness is definitely on the rise; my trips to the gym (and physical therapy) keep my head clear most days. When you see people at the gym who are a decade or two older than you and still getting there every day, you have to at least keep up.

Seeing the stories of our returning troops makes me wonder how they will spend the next year or two or longer adjusting to their stateside lives. The turbulent economy and changes in their families has to be stressful. In the end, I hope they find peace and happiness in their lives and know that so many of us are ever grateful for their service. I want to do something in 2012 to help as our service people return home.

As we opened our Christmas gifts this morning, I couldn’t help but remember that it seemed like a minute ago when my son was spitting up on my shoulder. Today, his favorite gift was the electric shaver we got him. Hearing the whir of the shaver made me nostalgic for the Christmas morning we spent wrestling with the hermetically packaged toys that needed assembly and running around looking for the right sized batteries to make the toys work.

The roast will go in the oven soon and the family will gather again for another Christmas. After the leftovers are put away and the last holiday light goes out, I wish for all the family and friends near and far a much less painful and much more happy New Year.

Wanted: Parent for Life

 

The parents & Adam in 2006- Now Adam is taller than us.

This item below has been around for some time. Looking at it today reminds me that there are probably so many of us in the same boat (hopefully, not a sinking ship). We have our silent support group always out there and always ready to help. So enjoy this post and pass along to your “colleagues” who are in the same boat.

 

PARENT

Job Description

This is hysterical. If it had been presented this way, I don’t believe any of us would have done it!!!!

POSITION :

Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma

Dad, Daddy, Dada, Pa, Pop

JOB DESCRIPTION :

Long term, team players needed, for challenging, permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities! Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES :

The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs R50.00. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.

Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be a willing to be indispensable one minute, and a total embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.

Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.

Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION :

None. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE :

None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION :

Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS :

While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love, and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.

** FOOTNOTE **

“THERE IS NO RETIREMENT  —  EVER!!

Forward this on to all the PARENTS you know, in appreciation for everything they do on a daily basis, letting them know they are appreciated for the fabulous job they do…or forward with love to anyone thinking of applying for the job.