Tag Archives: college

Mom and the Man

JackFour years ago, he graduated from high school. Four days ago, he graduated from college. I thought I couldn’t be more proud of my oldest son as when he boldly and confidently marched himself into his Kindergarten class without so much as a look back at me; not until he boldly and confidently marched across a stage to accept a high school diploma. Well, paint me ignorant because neither matched seeing him pause mid-handshake with the president of the university, diploma in the other hand, while a photographer captured that moment he became a college graduate.

And so the washing machine that is my life hits the spin cycle again. You’d think I’d get used to this. You’d think.

What I’m realizing about being a parent, now that my babies are turning into adult people is, if you do it right, they go away. Suddenly, that seems really messed up! If you invest your heart, you’re life’s allotment of patience, a small financial fortune, and any hope of developing a solid sleep pattern, your reward is to see the back of their heads as they charge off boldly and confidently into their lives. Just when you finally get them to the point that you really want to hang around them, they leave! So messed up.

But, too, if you really do it right, you give them a phone. It’s like one of those tracking devices they put on dorsal fins of orcas. Even as your kids get all adult-y, they’ll still use that phone to call you about the really important things in their lives: How long does it take for hard-boiled eggs? What do bedbugs look like? Where do you get pants altered? Yes, your role in their lives is basically to be their personal Google search, but that’s okay. It means they can handle the big things in their lives themselves.

So as my oldest spreads his big, strong wings to fly, I watch the back of his head as he marches off to do big things. He’s bolder and more confident than ever, but I know, too, he’ll glance back. When he does, I’ll tell him hard-boiled eggs take about 12 minutes, bedbugs look like little apple seeds, the dry cleaner can alter the pants, and I’ll always be here, always proud, always loving the man he’s become.

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Bird-brained in Bio

TomThere’s one in every family: that kid who comes out of left field every time; the one who gives you gray hairs, who only survived to adulthood by the grace of his undeniable charm and a benevolent God. Yeah, that one. He called me from college this week, starting the conversation with “OMG Mom you’re not going to believe this!” Oh yes I will. He forgets I’ve known him his entire life. There’s not a whole lot from him, at this point, that’s going to catch me flat-footed.

So the son-who-will-remain-nameless (but there’s only two to pick from and it’s not the oldest) is enrolled in a biology class and has dutifully been attending class since the semester began over a month ago. At least that’s his story and he’s sticking to it. As many classes are, the lecture portion was held in a large lecture hall with a seating capacity equivalent to the Rose Bowl. All seemed to be going along swimmingly until the first test and then the space/time continuum shifted.

He’d spent a good portion of the weekend studying for the test, making sure he was well-prepared. Monday arrived and he slid into his seat with time to spare before the start of the test. But looking around, he notices that no one else has a test sheet. In fact, they’re taking out notebooks and pencils to take lecture notes. This doesn’t seem right, so he turns to the kid behind him and asks if there isn’t a test. No. No test, according to this kid. What?! Wait. Here comes the next obvious question: What class is this?

Well, it was a Biology class. It was even a Biology of Plants class. It just wasn’t HIS Biology of Plants class. He had been in the wrong lecture hall the whole semester attending the Biology of Plants that’s part of the pre-med program. Had he not asked, he’d have ended up in medical school wondering what the heck happened.

A mad dash to the other Biology lecture hall, he made it just in time to take the test. Of course, afterwards he had to introduce himself to the professor who had never actually seen him in class before. I can only hope this professor has children of his own and that there’s one in his family just like that!

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Stories of My Starving Student

Peanut butterCollege. It’s the place where you pay big bucks to learn big things. My youngest son is currently close to finishing up his first semester at college and is learning some really big things. Like how not to starve to death. Last August, we settled him into his new dorm room with clean sheets, a manageable class schedule, and an ample meal plan. By Thanksgiving break, his checking account was dry, his gas tank empty, and he had $1.19 left on his meal plan until the end of the semester.  Desperation is the mother of invention.

He reports that he’s started hanging around with sorority girls and his scrawny friends. Obviously, these are people who are not utilizing their meal plans and are happy to let him mooch a lunch now and then. I’m hoping the parents of those kids are all socialists or at least voted Democrat in the last election.

It seems that since the days when my dad let me starve in college, they’ve upped the age that you can sell plasma. So that option is out for him, at least for another year. But, by then, I’m hoping he’ll have wrestled his budget to the ground.

He “rented” his car so an international student in his dorm could take his test for his US driver’s license. He convinced drunk fraternity boys that he was cheaper than Uber (he wasn’t). He found a $5 bill in the dryer. He’ll be fine.

Discovering a new, hunger-fueled resourcefulness, he used his last nickels to buy a four pound jar of discount peanut butter at the Dollar Store. He can’t afford bread, but, no worries, the plastic spoons at Chick-fil-A are free. Coffee creamer and ketchup packets are yours for the taking just about everywhere. And if he tags along with someone going out for Mexican food, there’s that big bowl of free chips. I hardly worry that he’ll waste away to nothing.

I know, though, that college is making him smarter because he hasn’t asked me for money. Eating crow and swallowing your pride just aren’t that filling. On a positive note, I bet he’ll never run out of money again. Of course, he may also never be able to face another box of no-name mac-n-cheese ever again either. So college really is making him a better, healthier, smarter person!

(The peanut butter is real. The story is real. Because I just can’t make this stuff up.)

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Sheets Happen

Dorm roomAfter nearly two months of living in his college dorm room, my youngest son proudly sent me a text message (because you know college kids can’t actually dial a phone and talk on it, they text), and he proudly declared that he had actually washed his sheets … for the first time. As a mother with at least a marginal sense of parental responsibility, I wasn’t sure if I should be overwhelmed with a sense of “Where oh where did I go wrong” or actually proud that I got this text at the end of September and not March.

I try to place it on a scale of what are normal ranges for college freshman. On one end of the spectrum, I know his roommate is still living out of the suitcase he showed up with. At least my kid has his clothes on hangers. Okay, they were on hangars when I left him at the beginning of the semester, so in my mind, they’re on hangers. Just give me this delusion, will you? On the other end, there are the dorm dwellers with beds that would make a military drill sergeant misty-eyed. Of course, those are the kids who also have mothers driving to campus regularly to pick up laundry and drop off lunch. (I can’t even type that idea without cringing.) I guess that makes him pretty normal.

I’m reasonably certain that he has done laundry since he’s been gone despite the failure to include the bed sheets… reasonably certain, but not wholly positive. Which is why, a few weeks in, I sent a care package with socks and underwear, just in case. He’s probably too old for CPS to take him into custody for parental neglect, but, at the same time, I try to keep up appearances of being a good mother.

So I sent a reply to his text asking if he’d also gotten the sheets back onto the bed. And he had. I mean, to clarify, they were piled up on the bed with the rest of the laundry, so that sort of counts. I’m not sure if the bed was ever actually made again, and, honestly, I didn’t pursue it past there. As a parent, you have to chalk the wins when you can and let go of the rest. He has clean sheets – I’m a happy mom.

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Mowing: #1 Parenting Mistake

IMG_0070As I have just recently graduated my last child out of public schools with no interaction with CPS, the court system, or Federal Law Enforcement Officials, I feel I have credibility to pass along advice to parents coming along behind me. While I believe that half the fun of parenting is discovering new and better ways to screw up your kids and ruin their lives, these are tips to keep them from screwing up yours.

Big Parenting Mistake #1: Teaching your children to mow the yard. Do this and you’re setting yourself up for disaster. After a couple of summers, you’ll be fat and lazy, sitting on the porch with an ice cold watching them work like rented mules. Next thing you know, they’ll graduate from high school and go to college, leaving your much older, fatter, lazier self alone to push the mower. Don’t think you’ll pay the neighbor kids to mow because you’re paying college tuition, so you can’t afford those things.

Do not let your children learn to drive. Driver’s training is Big Parenting Mistake #2. Sure, those first few times they run to the store for you on their own is great, but then they start realizing they have freedom. This is a dangerous thing in a child. Suddenly, it will occur to them that they can drive other places besides the store, like out of state. Then one day they get in the car, drive away and don’t come home to mow the yard. That’s going to hit you especially hard if you’ve already screwed up and made Mistake #1. Plus, they took your car.

Have you allowed your children to start becoming free-thinking, independent people? Wow. You’ve just made Big Parenting Mistake #3. This almost completely guarantees that your children are going to screw up your life. Count on them wanting to think for themselves, be independent and not stay home to mow your yard. Probably with your car.

Children with no skills, ambition or transportation are more likely to stick around and take care of you in your old age. They’ll gladly heat frozen pizzas, apply bunion cream and pluck the hairs out of your withered, old chin until you die. And with the money you save not paying college tuition or financing a new car, you can pay someone to mow your yard.

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So You Wanna Go to College

collegeThere are a lot of things you learn as the parent of a high school senior. Mostly you learn just how stupid you are, but that’s been building in varying degrees since the kid developed cognitive reasoning skills, right? Nothing, though, shows exactly how dumb you probably are quite like your child deciding to go to college. Who knew it requires a college degree just to fill out the college application?

(This is where I start sounding like my dad.) “Back in my day…” it wasn’t this complicated to apply for college. I filled out a paper form front and back in ink, then stapled a piece of notebook paper to it where I’d answered some random essay question. It was probably the same question that every Miss America winner answered for the past 40 years, and it required saying something about world peace, saving pandas, and the importance of dietary fiber.

Now you have to write seven short novelettes that deeply explore the workings of your subconscious mind, prove that you’ve mastered Chinese algebra, and demonstrate your capabilities for leading a Marine combat unit. Oh, and they must be written in the ancient Aramaic language and professionally bound and published.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start this process either. If your child is past the third grade, you’re behind. By that point, you need to be pushing little Johnny into professional sports and performance art. If your child has not solved the world’s dependence on fossil fuels by age 8, just know you’re in the college application loser pile. It’s not really an “early acceptance letter” unless the student receives it before the start of middle school. Naturally, your student has to have a 28.9 GPA on a 4.0 scale and be ranked in the top 0.00094 percentile of their graduating class. Never be afraid to administer some Tonya Harding tactics to move into medal contention if there’s ever any doubt. Then follow up with written recommendations from Gandhi, newly sainted Mother Teresa, and Harambe the Gorilla.

If I had to apply for college now with the way I looked when I graduated from high school then, I’m not even sure I would be accepted at Tulsa Typing School or the Iowa College for Deaf Musicians.  Let’s hope getting through college these days isn’t nearly as hard as just getting in.

(photo credit: explodingDog)

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No Do-Overs

010In just a few shockingly short days, my oldest son will graduate from high school. It brings on a spin cycle of emotions and memories and moments when I’m not sure I can breathe. Throughout the run up to this major life event, I have learned a few key things that might be helpful to others who are in the same boat or see the boat pulling into the harbor in the next few years. If this is a been-there-done-that for you, see if you don’t back me up on this.

First of all, if you’ve never been involved in community theater, do that now. You’re going to have to learn to be an actor. For example, you’ll need to act like you’re not having your heart scooped out of your chest with a grapefruit spoon all the time – last school dance, last birthday at home, graduation ceremonies, college acceptance letters. You have to act convincingly like you’re really ok with this black hole vacancy that’s going to move in when your baby moves out.

Consider magician as your new career field. It’ll come in handy when you need to magically produce cash for prom, grad night parties, announcements, dorm deposits, tuition payments, and, oh by the way, “I outgrew my dress clothes last week” so throw in a new suit and shoes. Magician Mom will benefit from a little mind reading to know when this young adult is feeling more adult or a little too young for such a big world. Not to mention, you’re the one who will magically make all the details of this transition happen because your soon-to-be-graduate is far too caught up in finals, friends and fun.

Then, prepare to be baffled. I’m constantly baffled at how we went from chicken nuggets and nap time to charging off to conquer the world in just a few minutes. It was only minutes, right? And why is that as soon as they start becoming these really cool people that you actually want to be around, they leave? Why don’t they go off to college when they’re teething or colicky or in that horrible hormonal stage that renders them unrecognizable? Just when you’ve gotten them turned into great people, they move out.

Is it too late to rethink raising that baby into a strong, intelligent, independent young man who is ready to spread his wings and fly? Probably no do-overs at this point, huh? Then all I can do is hold my breath and watch him soar! Go get ’em. Jack!

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