"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘college’ Category

Let the Next Chapter Begin

Tyler (right) and one of his good friends at the Graduation ceremony.

Tyler (right) and one of his good friends, Jeff, at the Graduation ceremony.

At the end of May, Tyler graduated from high school and we celebrated with a party a few weekends ago.  Thankfully, after a week of continuous rain, we dodged a bullet and had a dry day for it.  We needed to put down a couple of bales of straw purchased at the last minute so the backyard volleyball court didn’t turn into mud volleyball.  Other than being the typical Midwest hot and humid, it was a great day for an outside party.

This past weekend, we visited his college campus for Freshman First Day; a day to meet Academic advisors, finalize schedules and explore campus.  As we settled in at the hotel the night before, I realized that it was at Freshman Orientation at the University of Missouri that Darrell and I first met almost 26 years ago.  I tried to remember what my parents had been like back then, but honestly I couldn’t remember very much other than they came with me.  The main thing I remember from that day was the reality that I was going to have a heavy course load that first semester and I thought that blonde guy who sat next to me at the Orientation was really cute.  I had a boyfriend from high school at the time, and had no idea that cute boy would eventually become my husband. (Let me tell ya about it sometime—it’s a great story.)

I’m not sure why it came as a surprise to me when I was reminded that our firstborn is the same age that we were when we met.  With everything going on these days, I hadn’t had time to process that our little boy was on the brink of adulthood.  Yes, the kid who can’t keep track of where his car keys and shoes are most of the time is moving four hours away where he will be in charge of himself completely.  While I know that we will miss him doing Tyler-esque things like walking around the house, strumming his guitar and bugging his sisters with impromptu songs about whatever it is they’re doing, I can’t help but be excited for him as he starts this new chapter in life.  Where he has trepidation about making all the right decisions, I see nothing but a blank slate of potential.  I’m not so old that I don’t remember the uncertainty of being 18, but I wish he knew that when it’s all said and done, he’ll look back at this time and wish he’d savored it more instead of wishing it away to be an adult in the working world.

When you’re 18, your family, high school and the people you’ve been in school with over the past few years are truly your realm of experience.  For many, college is the first point in life where you step into your own.  It’s a time for learning more about yourself and how you fit into this big, wide world.  You meet people with personalities and ideas that you may have never been exposed to before.  It can be a little intimidating, but ultimately shapes you into the person you were meant to be.

I am convinced that the timing for a child’s (ahem, I mean young adult’s) departure for college correlates perfectly with his parents’ patience (aka tolerance) level for having another almost-adult present in the home.  Little things Tyler does, like leaving shoes all over the kitchen—nothing new—seem to get under my skin a little more than they used to.  I think it goes both ways, because I feel like Tyler gets annoyed with us about things, too.  In these waning days before he heads off to school across the state, I look at my son with a little more tenderness.  I overlook the empty Pop Tart wrappers he leaves around the house and grumble a little less when he forgets to put his dishes in the dishwasher.  (I said a LITTLE!)  I find myself giving in a little more often when he asks if we can do breakfast for dinner.

At the heart of it all, I’m proud of all he’s accomplished, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

The happy graduate with me and his dad, that cute blonde boy from Freshman Orientation all those years ago.

The happy graduate with me and his dad, that cute blonde boy from Freshman Orientation all those years ago.

The Search is On

college-choice

Our family is in the throes of checking out colleges for next fall. In truth, Darrell and I had wished this whole process would have started a few months ago, but the person at the heart of where to search did not feel it was necessary at that time. Consequently, with early August application timelines just around the corner, we’ve looked at one college so far, with two more scheduled for this week and the next.

We really liked the college we toured a few weeks back. Drury University is a small, private college in Springfield, Missouri. I was surprised that the dorm featured its own bedroom within a four-person suite. The students share the bathroom with just one other person—that’s a better gig than Tyler has at home! Tyler seemed to like the school, but we’re checking out larger schools as well. I don’t think he realizes what a totally different atmosphere there is with a larger, state school. So those are still on our “to do” list in the coming months.

One of the things that’s made this process difficult is the fact that Tyler is just not sure what he wants to pursue for a major. I don’t think that’s so unusual—how many seventeen-year-olds have the life experience to know what they want to do for the next sixty years of their life? Over the past two years we’ve attempted to get across to him that he needs to start thinking about where his skills and interests lie. And while we’re trying to steer him into getting a feel for what classes are really interesting to him and go from there, he seems overwhelmed with the notion that he will be making a decision that will affect him for his entire adult working life.

Ironically, many of his good friends have already graduated from high school and have gone through the process of selecting and attending schools. Some have gone away to colleges, some have gone to the Community College and at least one will be living in a dorm on campus at the local University here. He seems to be waiting to get a great epiphany from how their experiences turn out. Not a bad plan as long as he realizes that he is his own person with unique talents and interests.

My college experience was as close to community college as it gets. I went to the University of Missouri in St. Louis, which, at that time, was only a commuter campus. I went to class full-time and worked part time all four years. I was in a sorority, but other than that, it was pretty much going to class and going home/work. I changed my major from Elementary Education to Communication about halfway through, when I decided I loved kids, but not necessarily their parents. After I graduated, I worked in the student loan industry; a far cry from my major that involved Public Relations, but I did get to use my writing skills on the company newsletter, developing training and commenting on federal regulations and policies. All of the things I did in my first job out of college were not things that I had even really considered as career choices when I was choosing what to major in.

So the search continues and we are learning together how all of this works, from FAFSAs and admission essays to student housing and meal plans. It’s a lot different from Darrell and my college experiences. Mostly, I wish Tyler would realize that he has great potential to do whatever he chooses, and now is the time to see that blank slate stretched out before him—before he has a mortgage. I can only hope that his dad and I can hammer that point home!

Do you remember making these decisions? What motivated you? How did you decide where to go to school and what to study? I’d love to hear your comments!

The End of Ordinary Summer

In truth, life is anything but ordinary while raising kids. There are ordinary seasons in life, of course, (the potty training stages, the pre-school years, the middle school years, etc.) but the seasons string together in such a way that they fool me into believing they are a seamless stretch of time. Sometimes it’s not until something new starts up that I realize that something else has ended, having gone away quietly without a formal goodbye. School is the obvious exception—each year has a definite start and end.

I have school bus-shaped picture frames for Tyler, Emily and Erin that have places for every school year’s photo. In the fall when they return to school and get their yearbook picture taken, I dutifully put in their new photo in their School Years’ frames. Right now as the school year winds down for the kids I’m once again reminded that they are growing up with another grade under their belts.

Except this summer is different. It is the last ordinary summer. Tyler’s picture frame will be full next fall.

One could argue that last summer, the first summer Tyler had his driver’s license and got his first job, was our first non-ordinary summer. After all, it was the first time that we had to consider his employment when we made our annual vacation to the lake. But to me, last summer doesn’t count. His part time job at the golf course didn’t interfere with our family’s plans, and his boss was very accommodating with letting him have time off, so it wasn’t an issue. He was still home sleeping in his bedroom almost every night, like he will be this summer. But he’s a Junior in high school now, so I know that next summer will be different. He will have graduated high school and be preparing to go to college in the fall. Thus, the end of the era and life as we now know it.

For the last fourteen years, every fall began a new school year, whether it be in pre-school, elementary, middle or high school. And while each beginning brought new friends, interests and classes, as expected, there was a continuity with kids being in school in the fall. It’s been our way of life as a family almost as long as we’ve been a family. The kids can’t remember anything else, and life PK (pre-kids) seems so very long ago it’s like it was lived by someone else.

While I don’t mean it to sound so gloomy and melancholy, it does make me stop and think—and appreciate—all this summer as a family will be. I know that I probably am a little overly sentimental about my kids growing up. I thought I’d gotten better than I used to be about it. When they were little I put off going through their closets to weed out outgrown clothing because all I could hear in my head the whole time I did was the song Puff the Magic Dragon. Those too short pants and shirts were a physically tangible sign that my babies were moving on and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I tortured myself with dwelling on that fact—masochistic, I know.

As a parent, I want my kids to grow up to be healthy and independent, so it’s rather hypocritical of me to be sad when they do exactly that. After all, if Tyler was 30 and still lived at home with us I’d be upset then, too. Ironically, Darrell and I have been encouraging him to go away somewhere for college. I lived at home when I went to college, and although I joined a sorority and enjoyed my college days, I never felt like I had the same type of college experience as my friends who went away to school. I want my son to have the opportunity to be semi-independent in the way that only being a college kid away from home allows. But that requires me to accept that he is growing up and is no longer a little kid. And I will, because I never want to hold him back from being the person he was meant to be.

Time with our kids—these short seasons—shouldn’t be taken for granted anyway, but this summer I plan to especially cherish the time we spend together as a family. It may be the last ordinary summer as we now know it, but it can also be the first summer of a new season and a new chapter in our family’s history. Long live summer!

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