I’m Such a Smart Empty-Nester

I’m such a smart empty-nester!

Want me to tell you how much I know about empty nesting? Here’s how smart I am: I know absolutely nothing…nada…diddly. But the fact that I realize I know nothing about it makes me absolutely brilliant.

Remember when your kids were toddlers? You had survived the whole newborn and infancy thing, and so you felt pretty confident going into toddlerhood? And then, BAM…your kid knocked you right back into reality with a tantrum…or climbing up the stairs on the outside of the rail (it happened)…or pushed another kid down…or hurled a plate of food across the room.

Well, empty-nesting is a lot like that. Just when you move your kid into his/her new dorm or apartment, you think, “Wow! I got this! I am a pro! My kid is officially launched into adulthood, and my life is my own!”

Wrong…wrong…wrong.

What they forgot to tell you when you brought that child into the world is that your life will never be your own…never, ever again.

My husband and I were stupid enough to think we would get our daughter moved into college, and everything would be rainbows and confetti afterward. Nope. We could not have been more wrong. Soon after we dropped her off, she developed an infection where she had a heel blister, and because the doctor was afraid it would move into her Achilles’ tendon, she had to get an antibiotic injection, take oral antibiotics, and use a topical gel. Crisis averted. That was our first gut punch letting us know how stupid we are.

Soon thereafter, we went on vacation to the Bahamas thinking everything was great. We came home, and I had gallbladder surgery. I took a week to recover, and then, I went on a cruise with a friend from my college days. We had a great time. And then…the last night of the cruise, I received a call that our daughter had been in a car accident. Everything ended up being fine, but wow! Things were not going as expected.

That was just last weekend.

My husband and I had planned to leave this Tuesday to go to the Bahamas again but canceled the trip when we received a call that the resort restaurants were closed till November 1. At first, I was annoyed, but then it looked like Hurricane Fiona was going to move through the Bahamas this upcoming week, and I was glad we had canceled.

Here is the thing: we thought empty-nesting would be a walk in the park, but every plan we have made has been changed somewhere along the way. So I finally realized something: the only constant is change.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible. That vacation you have planned? It might not happen, and if it does, you might have to come home early to help your newly launched child with a problem. Sleeping well at night? Don’t expect it to last. You’re likely to get at least one jarring late night call. Think you know where your college-age kid is all the time? Bahahahahaha…think again.

Here is how you will know you are a smart empty nester…

You will know you are a smart empty-nester when you realize and can admit to all your friends that you have no idea what you are doing and you likely won’t ever know. If we could have just admitted this freely when our kids were toddlers, we would be a lot better off. If I could have just said all along that I am learning on the job (as a parent), and I am an absolute novice, I would have looked like the smartest parent in the history of the world.

As it is, I had to learn that I don’t know a damn thing.

If you’re going to be an empty-nester soon, hold onto your hat. Enjoy the ride, because you will never know what is around the corner…just like when your kids were infants, toddlers, elementary school age, middle schoolers, and high school students. Admit it. You were and still are as clueless as I am.

The sooner you can admit it, the smarter you are.

College Students/Adult Decisions

College students/adult decisions.

Oh, it’s the Facebook parent page for my daughter’s university again! A parent posted that her son stopped going to class after his computer broke. They are four weeks into the semester, and she is getting him a new computer, but he seems to have given up. The mom doesn’t know what to do to motivate him, and she wonders if maybe she should just cut the losses and bring him home.

Of course, there were lots of suggestions. Some said, “Rent a laptop from the library.” Others said, “Maybe he’s not really ready for college.” Quite a few said, “Maybe you should encourage him to get back in the game. It’s early.” And then, someone said, “When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?” That one made me think.

When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?

That’s a tough question. Should we allow our college students to make their own adult decisions with no input from us, their parents?

The first thing that came to mind for me was, “I’m paying for it. I’m paying a lot of money for our daughter’s college education, so yes, I have input.“ I can have an opinion, and I can tell her what I expect from her. I make no bones about it. Our daughter is very social, so even before she went to college, I stressed to her that while her social life is very important, she has to take care of business first so she can stay in school to enjoy the social aspects. Does that mean she remembers that conversation? Not necessarily, but I ask regularly, “Are you taking care of business?”

Another thing that came to mind about “allowing her to make her own adult decisions on her own” is that I don’t always make adult decisions on my own…and I’m 55 years old! When I was in college, I regularly got my parents’ input about big decisions. Heck…until my parents were dead, I regularly got their input about adult decisions! And now that I don’t have my parents, I often turn to my spouse, other family members, or friends. I get lots of info and do my research before making big decisions. And you know what? I don’t want my college-age daughter getting all her advice or input from other college-aged people. I have always told her it’s good to get input from friends, but she needs to remember their brains aren’t fully developed either. They don’t have any more life experience than she does! I have stressed that she should come to me for advice, because I have a lot more life experience, and I always have her best interest at heart.

Think about it. What are college students like? There are some who do their schoolwork and work toward an educational goal with no distractions or interference. That’s not my child, and honestly, I don’t want her to be that student. There are college students who quickly find a good balance; they enjoy some social time while working hard in school. There are those who play a lot, and the academic part is secondary. And then there are all kinds of students in between.

My daughter falls somewhere in the balance/having fun category. The first semester of college is quite an adjustment! And since she is at an SEC school, football season is a big deal, and she pledged a sorority, which does take some time. I want her to have fun. That’s why I encouraged her to take the easiest classes she could this first semester, so she can learn to manage her time and become accustomed to college. It can take a while for them to learn how it all works! I remember! By my sophomore year, I knew how college worked, and I had a system for “taking care of business” while still having a good time. I think some kids jump in with the hardest classes they can take freshman year, and for some of them, it causes problems/stress. They need some guidance. Mine’s not taking the hardest classes, and she might not even need my guidance, but I “check in” regularly, and I always remind her that I am always ready to help.

She’s almost 19 years old. That means she has less than one year of adulthood experience. Would you hire a lawyer who had one year of experience and no mentors? No. Would you want a surgeon who had one year of experience and no assistance? No. I’m not expecting my almost-19-yr-old to make all her own decisions. In fact, she’s going to get my input whether she wants it or not right now.

So when will I allow her to make adult decisions on her own? She makes some of them on her own every single day. But the big decisions? Personally, I don’t think she really wants to. As long as my husband and I are on this planet, she can come to us. And if it’s something I know nothing about, I will encourage her to go to someone with more knowledge…no doubt. Will I make all her decisions for her? No way. But if I think she is making a bad decision or needs my help, I will let her know it…even from 450 miles away.

I’ve said it a million times…no matter how old they are, their still our “babies.”

Mom, We’ve Been in an Accident

“Mom, we’ve been in an accident.”

Those are words we don’t want to hear…ever.

Recently, the night before I was getting off a Caribbean cruise to return home to Charlotte, I received a phone call from my daughter saying those words. The next words were “I’m ok, and [driver friend] is OK, but [college friend] might be a little hurt.” My head started to spin. I just sent my daughter off to college a little over a month ago. She had called me in the middle of the cruise and asked me to get airline tickets for her and a friend to come to Charlotte over the weekend, so I did. And ten minutes after they landed, they were involved in an auto accident. Another friend from high school was driving.

I was happy to hear that two of the three were OK, but I was worried about the third.

My daughter calmly told me the people from Life360, a phone app, had called her immediately to tell her they detected she had been involved in a crash, and the police had been dispatched to the scene. To learn more about Life360, click here. I highly recommend it. Our daughter said the person at Life360 asked if they needed medics, and she asked them to send them, because one friend might be injured. Our daughter seemed fine when I was talking with her, but I could hear her friend from college crying in the background. It was breaking my heart. And to top it off, my husband was at the beach in another state with a friend, and I didn’t have real phone service, so I was having to make all calls using FaceTime and WhatsApp through Wifi…spotty at best. I asked my daughter, “Do you want me to call a mom to be with y’all?” She immediately answered, “Yes.” One name came to mind. I called her via FaceTime audio, and she was on it. As soon as I told her the situation…I was out of the country, and my daughter had been in an accident…she said, “I have my keys in my hand and I’m on my way.” Fortunately, she lives near where the girls were, so she could get there quickly.

I then called the college friend’s mom and explained to her that the EMTs were checking her daughter’s elbow and head, and the girls were in good hands. Ultimately, the EMTs decided the girls could go on to our house. I explained to her that my friend would be arriving soon to wait with them and take them home. Once there, my neighbors would check on them right away and periodically till I could get home the next day. Fortunately, my very calm, very responsible 25-yr-old nephew and his girlfriend were in town for a concert, so they would be at our house all night, and I would be arriving the next day. My daughter could call any of our neighbors at any time for anything. And I was explaining all this through FaceTime that was spotty, but it got the job done.

Thank the Lord.

After I had contacted everyone I knew to contact, I could sit down and think. I called my husband once I knew everything was handled and told him the news. I started with, “She is OK, but Milly has been in an accident.” I hung up the phone and finished packing. But honestly, I didn’t sleep that night. We were scheduled to arrive in Miami at 7:00am, and my flight home was scheduled for 3:15pm…a long wait. When I arrived at the airport at about 10:00, I went straight to check-in and asked if I could be moved to an earlier flight. Lucky me, there was one seat left. The flight wouldn’t leave till 1:25pm, so I went to the American Airlines Admirals Club to wait it out and distract myself with college football. And of course, while I was there, I called my nephew to get updates on the girls…hoping they were still sleeping…and they were. I spoke again with the mother of my daughter’s college friend, knowing I would want as much information as possible if I were in her shoes. She said she really wished her daughter would wake up, so I called my nephew and asked him to go in to wake them and ask the friend to call her mom.

When I arrived home, I could finally breathe. I hugged everyone and looked over the girls, who appeared fine. Their smiling faces told me they were feeling well. My nephew and his girlfriend left for the concert soon after I got home, and the girls asked me to drop them at a favorite restaurant in Charlotte’s South End…just like old times.

And I was thrilled that something seemed normal. Normal is good.

It was the first time I had relaxed since the “Mom, we’ve been in an accident” phone call. After dropping them off, I rushed home and took a shower. My nephew and the girlfriend came home from the concert, and I cooked them a late night breakfast before going to pick up the girls at a friend’s house at about 1:00am…just like old times. And after we got home, I crashed right to bed and slept better than I’ve slept in a long time.

I can tell you this: you do not want to receive a call from your child saying he/she has been in a car accident. I felt helpless. But I heard from all sources, including both friends who were in the accident with her, that my daughter was a champ through the whole thing. She kept the other girls calm and handled things with the police and medics. I am proud to hear that and happy to know she was able to help her friends.

I did sit down with the girls over breakfast and told them they should reflect back on what had happened and what they had learned from it. I said, “I’m sure you learned just how quickly your life can change. No one goes out expecting to get into a car accident, and it can absolutely change your life in seconds.” The driver of the car they were in was not at fault, but accidents happen. Thank God they were OK.

And I will tell you what all mothers know: they are always our babies. Their pain is our pain. And it’s a lot harder to deal with from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Sometimes we just need to put our eyes on them, and I was so glad I could do that fairly quickly.

They flew back last night and made it to their dorm without incident. I was able to sleep.

Normal is good…

College Nesting?

College nesting?

Nineteen years ago, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our daughter. She was due on October 11, so in August and September of that year, I was in full-on “nesting mode.” Anyone who has ever expected a baby knows what I’m talking about…that need to get every detail squared away before the baby arrives. Back then, we read all about it in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, so we weren’t surprised when we found ourselves lining drawers and washing everything in sight.

Fast forward 19 years, and I find myself doing the same thing.

Why am I “nesting” for my soon-to-be college freshman?

Why am I nesting for my soon-to-be college freshman? It had never occurred to me that this could happen, but a couple of days ago, as I packed up some IKEA bags with dorm bedding, lighting, and other items, I realized, “I’m nesting.” Unfortunately, I haven’t ever found a book called What to Expect When You’re Sending Your Child to College, so I don’t have any reference. Sure, I have called my friends who have college kids and asked them about it. They all assure me that what I’m doing is perfectly normal…that it’s a way of dealing with the transition. I just wish I could see it in writing somewhere.

Is the transition going to be easy? No. I am beyond excited for our daughter. She is going to enjoy the full college experience at my alma mater. Sure, there will be days she is stressed out or even homesick, but hopefully, I will be able to talk her through it. Or her friends will distract her. Or she will get busy and forget about homesickness. As for me, I don’t know who will talk me through it. I will miss her like crazy. Will I be able to handle it? Yes, of course. No, I’m not planning to move to be near her college. In fact, I have three big vacations planned for the month following her departure. If that doesn’t help take my mind off it, nothing will.

But that’s why this whole college nesting thing happens…for the parents. Any good parent is likely a little worried about their college bound kid. I’m not worried about her handling the school work. She will figure that out. I know, too, that she will make new friends quickly…especially since she will be living in a dorm. It’s more of a concern about her spinning her wheels trying to get everything else done. I know she can and will do it, but my nesting instinct is making me prepare everything I can for her room. Cold/nausea/pain medications? Check. I don’t want her to have to run out to look for meds if she is feeling poorly. Cleaning supplies/vacuum cleaner? Check. I have no idea how often she and her roommate will clean the bathroom in their dorm room, but I want to make sure the tools are there. Laundry supplies/clothing prep? Check. I have packed a stand-up steamer and laundry supplies, including Static Guard, a wrinkle releaser, an on-the-go spot remover, and a small sewing kit. Basic school supplies? Check. Having a few things in advance won’t hurt. Bins and organizers for the room? Check. They likely won’t be used as planned, but they have them if they want them.

I know she and her roommate will need to go out and get more things after we, the parents, hit the road. It will give them an excuse to get out of the dorm for a little while. Do I think they will end up doubling up on some of the things I have carefully packed and organized for them? Yes, because they won’t even look at a lot of the things I have packed. They won’t even realize they already have rubberbands and paperclips. And that’s OK.

Whether they use the things I have packed or not, I will know I sent her off prepared for most things. She might go out and look for Band-Aids for the blisters on her heels even though I packed them in a medicine box for them. And again, that’s OK. I know those Band-Aids are there for them. That’s why I’m “college nesting,” just like other parents are all over the country right now. Sure, it’s for them, but mostly, it makes me feel better about her departure. By focusing on mundane tasks, I am not focusing on the fact that this child (adult?) I have nurtured and loved for almost 19 years is flying the coop.

She is leaving us and will never live in our house again on a permanent basis. I think that’s the fact I am trying to process while I’m preparing her for the next school year. We are proud parents. We are happy that she is moving into this next phase of life, and we are excited about what it means for us too. But it’s going to be a transition, for sure.

I guess I should get busy packing up some clothes for her today.

Preparing for Launch to College

Preparing for launch to college.

Boxes are piling up in the foyer of our house…Amazon, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, Target, Walmart, Zappos, more Amazon…you name it, we have it. Seriously, the foyer is starting to look like a warehouse. And it’s all because we are preparing to send our only daughter off to college to start her freshman year.

She moves in the first week of August. Are we ready? Well, we don’t have everything she is going to need. But I guess we are as emotionally ready as we will ever be. Who knows? We likely won’t know until we drive away from her dorm. I’m sure there will be tears at some point. Will we cry in the dorm room? Will we cry over dinner after we get everything moved in? Will we cry in the car after we leave? Or will it be a delayed reaction? Maybe we will cry after we get home and see her empty room? I have no way of knowing, but I will gladly answer all those questions after the fact.

Freshman move-in day is a day she will remember for the rest of her life. She already knows her roommate, but she will make lots of new friends on the very first day of dorm life…just like I did back in 1985. I have written before about my first college friends. You can see that here.

My friend, Angela, whose daughter is a junior in college (fortunately, at the same college where our daughter is going), tells me she didn’t cry when she left her in the dorm the first time. However, she did cry after she got home, and she occasionally still cries.

This whole “preparing for launch” thing is real. It’s a lot these days. When I went to college as a freshman in 1985, I feel like I took the bare minimum…linens, towels, enough clothes to last me a couple of weeks, some shoes, toiletries, an alarm clock, photos and posters to hang on the bulletin board in the room…and that’s about it. I wasn’t abnormal for the time, I don’t think. But wow, times have changed.

Now, you can look online and find all kinds of dorm decorating ideas. Girls decorate their dorm rooms with lots of stuff: pillows, rugs, lamps, curtains, extra shelving, headboards…all kinds of stuff. Fortunately, my daughter’s roommate’s mom is an interior designer. Yay, me! When I first talked with her on the phone, she told me, “I can do this in my sleep.” Thank you, Lord! It wouldn’t be left up to me! No one wants me to decorate a room. I think there are two types of people: the ones who see surroundings, and the ones who see faces. I am the latter. You could ask me right now what color the walls are in different rooms of my house, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. In fact, I am working in our guest room right now, and even though I have been in that bathroom numerous times over the last few days, I couldn’t tell you what the cabinetry in there looks like. Is it white? Is it black? I’m not sure.

But back to the dorm…

The roommate’s mom and I agree that the girls’ room should not be so stuffed with extra things that it feels claustrophobic. It’s a small dorm room for two girls…two XL twin beds, a desk, two wardrobes, a refrigerator/microwave combo, a vanity area, and a bathroom with a shower. Obviously, we need to outfit it with the basics. They’ll need a shower curtain, a bath mat/rug, linens/bedding, towels, hangers, clothes, and their personal belongings. We have added some bed pillows, headboards, two throws for the beds, a rug for the bedroom, curtains, a couple of lamps, a few wall hangings, laundry bags, under-the-bed shoe storage compartments, a stand-up steamer, a vacuum (for the rug), Clorox toilet wand, and a table to put between the beds for the lamps. We aren’t taking extra shelving. We just want them to be comfortable, and I think they will be.

But for now, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the boxes in the foyer. I just walked into our daughter’s room and told her we need to go through the boxes to see what is “keep” and what is “return.” She just looked at me. I’m sure she feels overwhelmed by the boxes too. Looking at the ever-growing stack of boxes, it seems like a daunting task to open them and make decisions right now.

Last year, I purchased lots of big, blue IKEA moving/storage bags well in advance of this endeavor. A friend told me to purchase them early, because by the time I realized I needed them, they would be out of stock. So they’ve been in a closet just waiting to be used. And tonight, we will carry some of them downstairs to start sorting through the boxes. We will start packing the “keep” items in the moving bags, and we will start putting the returns in my car for me to transport to the store, UPS, or FedEx…wherever they need to go.

I need to get out my checklist and start checking things off. There are checklists all over the internet. I found a helpful one on the Colleges of Distinction website. You can see it here. Some of the items we definitely won’t need, so we will redline those items, but then we will finish collecting all the other items we need and getting them packed. We also have to remember we must be able to fit it all in the car when we go! Sure, we could ship things ahead to the university post office, but honestly, that just sounds like a bigger pain to me, because I’m sure parking would be difficult, and there will be lines to stand in. No thanks. We will simply have to figure this out with the space we have.

Am I dreading the process? In a word…yes. But I’m not dreading it because we will be leaving our daughter behind. I’m dreading it, because we actually have to get all the stuff there and into the room. Even though we are trying to take a somewhat minimalist approach, we will have lots of “stuff.” Once the stuff is in the room and put away, I’m sure I will dread the actual departure without our girl.

Preparing for launch to college is no joke.

Happy Mom

Happy Mom.

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first). When our daughter was a toddler, a local amusement park made me a happy mom during the spring, summer, and early fall months.

Carowinds is a Cedar Fair amusement park in Charlotte known for its gigantic rollercoasters. Most moms roll their eyes at the thought of going to Carowinds, but not me. Carowinds saved me.

My husband and I first took our then 2-yr-old daughter to Carowinds on his 40th birthday. I had driven past the park many times and seen the rollercoasters. I will readily admit that I love rollercoasters, so Carowinds looked like a fun way to turn 40. I love a song by David Wilcox called Top of the Rollercoaster that was a metaphor for turning 30. Personally, I think it can be a metaphor for any of the big birthdays. You can hear it on Apple Music or listen to it here. My husband didn’t think Carowinds sounded like fun, but I talked him into it, and afterward, he was glad I did. No, we didn’t get to ride any rollercoasters that day…we had a toddler with us…but we had a great time! He rode the little boats with our daughter. I rode the little cars with her and the helicopter ride. We rode the Dora Train and yelled “Swiper, no swiping!” at the appropriate time. And our daughter laughed and laughed. And we all went to what we referred to as the “Dora Show.” It was a live show in the kiddie section of the park…based on the Dora the Explorer cartoon show. At the end, we all did the chicken dance with the rest of the crowd, and we laughed! It was a great day, and even though my husband thought he didn’t want to turn 40 there, he has great memories from that day.

My husband’s birthday is in May, and after we went on his birthday, I realized Carowinds would be a fun place to visit regularly. I just didn’t realize how regularly we would go.

We got season passes for all of us, and one morning in June, I got up and took our 2 1/2 year old daughter to Carowinds by myself. After we entered the front gate, I rented a stroller. The park’s strollers had steering wheels, and even though the steering wheels controlled absolutely nothing, our daughter enjoyed thinking she was in charge while I was pushing her around the park. And after that visit, I realized we were both happy there. No, I didn’t get to ride rollercoasters, but back then, the park was owned by Paramount, so some of our daughter’s favorite cartoon characters were roaming the park. She loved seeing Dora the Explorer, the Fairly Oddparents, Little Bill, and the characters from Spongebob Squarepants! Oh, we have so many pictures of her with them! She also loved riding the little rides in what we referred to as the “kiddie” section of the park…swings, a little rollercoaster, the boats, the cars, and the Dora Train. And she loved seeing the Dora the Explorer show at least once on every visit.

As for me, I loved being outside with a happy child for a few hours every day. Yes, I said every day, because after that, we visited every day that we were in town and weather permitted. With the season pass, it was a cheap way to spend a day. Sure, the food was pretty expensive, but we often had lunch right there in the park…always having French fries. She had at least one Icee on every visit, and sometimes, she enjoyed a frozen lemonade. I walked miles on every visit, pushing the stroller and chasing a toddler.

We went so often that Mr. Bob, the usher for the Dora the Explorer show, knew us. Seriously, we would walk in, and he would greet us like old friends. In fact, after we had seen the show 20 or 30 times, Mr. Bob would tell her, “If anyone doesn’t show up for the show today, we can let you stand in for them, because you know the whole show.”

Sometimes, our friends from our toddler playgroup would go with us, adding another element of fun.

We were, quite possibly, the best customers at Carowinds for several summers (yes, several summers, because we were regulars for several years), and I was a happy mom. I got out in the sunshine without worrying about my child in a pool! I got exercise with my happy toddler accompanying me! We played games (one summer, sometime between age four and six, she climbed the wiggly rope ladder to win a gigantic, stuffed purple dog!).

As she got taller, she could ride bigger rides…eventually the giant rollercoasters…new adventures for us to enjoy together!

And we made great memories. Seriously, I would not trade those summers for anything. They were some of my happiest times. I love being a stay-at-home-mom, but I didn’t enjoy being stuck at home all the time. I loved getting out with her on a regular basis, and Carowinds was an easy way to keep both of us happy.

Yes, Carowinds made me a happy mom.

To see more about Carowinds, click here.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.

I just returned from running some errands, and as I approached the back entrance of our neighborhood, I saw the perfectly ripened yellow and white blooms! Honeysuckle! Big bushes of it!

Back when our daughter was a little girl, she and I would watch that area every year, waiting for the honeysuckle to appear. But we didn’t dare approach it too early. From my childhood, I knew we needed to wait until it was just right…wait until it’s bursting with nectar and the fragrance is overwhelming. A few years ago, though, someone mowed down all the honeysuckle, and I haven’t seen it since…until recently. A few weeks ago, I noticed the first sign of it…the yellow buds…and I thought, “Is the honeysuckle really coming back? Just before our daughter goes off to college?” Since then, every time I drive past, I open the car window to look and sniff…and today, after an afternoon shower, it smelled perfect.

I had never really thought to investigate the honeysuckle habitat before today. For some reason, I always thought it was a southern thing, but after a little research, I learned it is definitely not just a southern thing. People all over the world use it for its medicinal purpose, and lots of people make simple syrup from it. I have never done that, but I’m up for the challenge!

When I was growing up in Alabama in the 1970s, we watched for three things as summer approached: lightning bugs (fireflies), backyard or roadside blackberries, and honeysuckle.

We knew summer was almost here when we saw our first lightning bug of the season. To this day, at the ripe age of 54, I still look out into the trees around our house as summer is approaching…watching for the first flash of a lightning bug. I haven’t seen one yet this year, but I’m watching. When I was a little girl, we would catch them and put them in Mason jars…poking holes in the top of the jar so they could get oxygen. We never kept them for longer than an hour or so, and we always released them. It was just fun to see how much they would glow in a jar.

As for the blackberries, at one of our houses, we had a big blackberry bush in the back corner of the yard. We would watch for the blooms and then wait for them to ripen before picking, but I only picked right on the leading edge of the bush. They were full of “stickers” (briars), and there was no way I was inviting that pain…not even for blackberries. I was also under the impression that snakes liked blackberries, so I was afraid of that too. I guess I thought the snakes wouldn’t hang out on the leading edge of the bush. If there were more ripened blackberries on the interior limbs of the bush, they went untouched by me…they likely rotted if no one else picked them, because I wasn’t sticking my arm in there to get them.

And then there was the honeysuckle…a sweet little treat that packed a lot of happiness and sunshine. We would go to the honeysuckle bushes/vines in our neighborhood and search for the ripest blooms. We knew the really ripe ones had the sweetest nectar. We would find the perfect flower and pick it whole…making sure to get the calyx (the little green bud that connects it to the stem). With the flower in one hand, we would pinch just above the calyx…not all the way through…just enough to break the edges. We’d then slowly slide the “style” (female part of the plant) out of the flower by gently pulling. As the end of the style approached, we could see the glorious nectar, or “honey.” Once we saw that little drop, we’d stick it to our tongues and taste the sweetness of summer! And that is the glory of honeysuckle! It’s a childhood treat.

As I mentioned before, when our daughter was a little girl…probably about four years old…I showed her how to get the honey from the honeysuckle, just as I had learned as a little girl. After that, she and I would invite neighborhood friends to walk up to the back entrance with us, sharing the glory of the honeysuckle with those who had never had it before. Hopefully, some of them remember how to do it.

Our daughter is not home tonight, but you can bet tomorrow, after brunch, we will be walking up to the honeysuckle at the back entrance of our neighborhood. It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I can’t think of a better gift than spending time harvesting honeysuckle with my 18-year-old daughter who is headed off to college 450 miles away in August. I think Mother’s Day is the perfect day to revisit the honeysuckle. For a little while, we will relive some precious moments from her childhood.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve Already Graduated from College

I’ve already graduated from college.

When our daughter was in third grade, she came home one afternoon and asked me to help her with a math problem. She didn’t ask for help often, and I was happy to oblige. I sat down and worked with her, showing her how to do a problem. When I finished, she just looked at me and said, “That’s not how my teacher does it.” I said, “Well, that’s how I do it. I won the math award in high school…I know what I’m doing.” Again…”that’s not how my teacher does it.” My response? “Then ask your teacher in the morning. I have already passed third grade math.” And honestly, that was the best response for lots of reasons, the main one being that I don’t know how to do “new math.”

It reminded me of my mother when I was in school. I remember asking her for help with geometry, and her response was, “Honey. I don’t remember. That was 30 years ago. I’ve already passed geometry.” And with that, she turned back to continue watching Dynasty, because what Krystle Carrington was wearing was important. At that point in my life, I guess I thought moms retained every bit of math knowledge they had acquired in school. I guess I expected her to be able to recall the Pythagorean theorem on demand…30 years after passing her geometry class. My daughter has not asked me for math help (or any other kind of help in school) since. I guess, if she needed help along the way, she asked a classmate or a teacher.

And now, she is finishing high school in the next few weeks and preparing to leave for college! Exciting times at our house! She is enrolled, but she has lots of things to do before she can go off to college.

Back in the 80s, when I was applying to college and preparing to leave, I did it all. I don’t remember my parents helping me at all. Sure, they paid for everything, but I did all the legwork. I remember brochures and packets coming in the mail from different colleges and universities. My mother put a bag in my room to deal with that. Every day, after the mail arrived, she would bring all the brochures and packets up to my room and drop them into the bag. Every now and then, I would weed through the information and throw away the information from the schools I wasn’t interested in. When I applied to colleges, I simply asked her for checks to mail with the applications. I wrote the checks, and she signed them. I’m not even sure if she knew which schools the checks were going to. And that was OK, because I was the one going to college. She had already graduated from college.

Now, as my daughter is preparing to leave for college, I have joined some Facebook parent pages for her university, which is also my alma mater. I have written about the parent pages before. They are annoying, to say the least. Moms asking how to send baked potatoes to their kids’ dorms. (Not kidding.) Moms asking where their kids should park. (Not kidding.) Moms asking about tutors for their kids. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to do their kids’ schedules. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to drop/add classes. (Not kidding.) Rarely, there is someone who asks a question or shares information that is useful.

Why did I put “not kidding” behind each of those items I listed? I will tell you why: because those are all things the kids should be handling themselves. And do you know why? Because they are the ones going to college. Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t asked me to handle anything for her (I don’t have any login information for her student account). She likely knows I would say, “That’s something you need to figure out like I had to do when I went to college. I’m not going to college; you are. I’ve already graduated from college.” Does it mean I don’t care? No, it means the opposite. It means I care enough to let her do it herself. She needs to learn to solve her own problems. She needs to know how to get her own questions answered. She needs to be responsible for herself. I have full confidence in her, because I have let her figure things out for herself for a long time. Heck, it’s easier for them now than it was when we were in college! Now, all the information they need is on the website!

Back in the good ol’ 1980s, if we had questions about college stuff, we had to search through the university catalog. Or get the university phone book and make some calls to get answers. If we were wondering about where to order a baked potato to have delivered to our dorm, we had to find the yellow pages and look it up. Only, we couldn’t look up “baked potato delivery.” We had to look up restaurants and search for one with an ad for delivery. We also had to have some idea of which ones offered baked potatoes. Or we could walk down the dorm hall asking people if they knew where we could order a baked potato…that often worked. But back in the 80s, our moms were not ordering food to have delivered to us. No way. Honestly, I’m not even sure my mother knew the name of the dorm I lived in freshman year! No joke.

All this also makes me think about something that happened when our daughter was about six years old. My friend, Wendy, and I had taken my 6-yr-old daughter, Wendy’s 6-yr-old son, and my twin 6-yr-old nephews to Great Wolf Lodge one weekend. When we took them to dinner, my daughter was holding her own plate, but standing next to me at the buffet. Wendy’s son was holding his own plate but standing next to her at the buffet. I looked around for my nephews and saw one at the prime rib station, asking the server for a slice of prime rib. The other one was navigating the salad bar on his own. When we sat back down, Wendy and I talked about how awesome it was that they handled it all on their own! I called the nephews’ mom the next day and said, “Wow! They handled the buffet like champs!” And I still remember her response. She said, “That’s what happens when parents ignore their kids. They become self-sufficient.” I laughed, because I knew she didn’t really ignore them, but she didn’t baby them. They handled things for themselves at six! And I learned a valuable lesson. l didn’t ignore my daughter, for sure, but I let her handle things on her own. Those same nephews are off to college this fall too, and I feel sure they can handle anything that comes their way.

When we get my daughter moved into the dorm in August, I will feel pretty sure she can figure things out. She can handle it. She has always been a decision-maker. She is like me; she can make a decision…it might not always be the best one, but she can make a decision, and that is a life skill. Why can she make decisions? Because I have always stepped back to let her make her own decisions. I might present the facts before she makes it, but she makes her own decisions. I’m proud of that, because “the road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” If your kid is about to leave for college, and you haven’t let them make life decisions, you have a few more months to let them practice, so they don’t become a flat squirrel.

I’ve already graduated from college.

Why I Drive to the Game

Why I drive to the game.

Yesterday, my daughter’s high school lacrosse team had a game 125 miles away in Durham, North Carolina. Her school had a bus taking the team, but as always, I drove my car too. When I was talking to a friend, she asked, “If they can go on the bus, why do you drive up there?” There are lots of reasons…

  • I have one job. Seriously, I have one job. I don’t work outside the home. I manage parts of the household, and my husband manages other things, but we have a very nice lady who cleans our house for us. So seriously…I have one job…to take care of our daughter. It is a job I have always taken very seriously, and for me, it is the single most important job in the world. I said “for me,” so don’t come at me if you work outside the home and think I’m judging you. I’m not that person. Again, for me, this is the most important job I could ever have. I’m not a helicopter parent or tiger mom. I looked up “7 Signs You Might Be a Helicopter Parent” on WebMD, and I don’t fit the description. You can see the article here. I readily admit that when our daughter was younger (elementary school age), I did call a parent after lots of issues (#1 on the WebMD list), but there were lots more times I told our daughter to handle things on her own. I learned a valuable lesson from that call and taught our daughter some key words and strategies to use when fighting her own battles…even practiced using those tactics with her. The six other items on the “7 Signs…” list do not apply. I’m definitely not a helicopter parent. I encourage her to take chances. I let her make her own mistakes. She makes her own decisions. And I’m definitely not a tiger mom, which is defined on Wikipedia (yes, I know I shouldn’t cite Wikipedia, but their definition is accurate on this one) as a “strict form of parenting, whereby the parents are highly invested in their children’s success.” I’m not that mom. First, I’m not strict. I encourage fun and living well. I want her to have academic success, but mostly, I want her to have a good life. So no, I’m not a helicopter mom or a tiger mom. But I’m trying to do my one job the way I want to do it.
  • My daughter wants to get home quickly. Again, I have one job. Our daughter doesn’t even ask me if I’m going to the away games, because she knows I’m going. I know she wants me there so she has a faster, more comfortable ride home. I remember being a teenager. I remember how important my social life was to me. I understand why she wants to get home. And honestly, I understand why she doesn’t want to ride home on a school bus. Don’t get me wrong. Our school has nice buses and super-nice bus drivers, but it’s nice to ride in your own car. If she wants food on the way home, I’ll stop for her. If she needs a bathroom, I’ll stop for that too. I remember when she was riding a team bus years ago and texted me, saying, “I need to go to the bathroom.” I said, “Tell the coach.” She didn’t want to tell the coach. I think she eventually had to tell her, and they stopped, but she was embarrassed. She’s never embarrassed to tell me she needs to take a bathroom break.
  • I want to see every game. I think I have only missed three or four games in her entire sports career…since she was four or five. Any missed games were due to valid reasons…my husband’s brain surgery, my mother’s emergency surgery, running a team errand…and once I missed a field hockey game, because I simply needed to get out of town with a trip to California after months of being home during the COVID pandemic. Of course, I missed seeing her cheer at some high school basketball games, but only because no spectators were allowed during the pandemic. I watched the games on the livestream, though.
  • She’s only a high school senior once. I have been saying this for years. I remember when she was eight years old and wanted to go to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. My husband thought I was nuts when I mentioned it to him, but I explained to him, “Come on. She’s only eight once.” And we went to the Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles that year and a few more times too. Some special event has come up every year for her, and I catch myself saying, “She’s only 11 once” or “she’s only 14 once.” Now, I’m saying, “She’s only a high school senior once.” And honestly, this is the end of her sports career. She won’t be playing a college sport. I will never get to cheer from the sidelines for her again. I am savoring every moment.

Does it mean I think every parent should be driving to away games? No. In fact, I am very much in the minority on this. I just love watching her play, but I also just love watching sports and competition. It’s what I grew up doing. My parents would stop at any sporting event anywhere. Random high school track meet? Yep. Random tiny college baseball game? Yep. We watched sports all the time, so it’s just what I do.

Tonight, we don’t have a lacrosse game to drive to, but I did just discover the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards are on at 7:30! Seriously! While I was typing, a commercial for the KCAs came on! I don’t know what our daughter’s plans are for tonight, but I’ll be recording the KCAs for us to watch together later! It’s a tradition. It’s what we do.

And that’s why I drive to the game. It doesn’t mean I think other moms should do the same. It’s just what I do.

Forever Friends

Forever friends.

We never really know who will be our forever friends, do we? I have had friends in my life I thought would be forever friends, but for different reasons (sometimes my fault, sometimes theirs, sometimes no one’s fault), it didn’t work out that way. For the most part, we just never knew the last phone call would be the last phone call. Or the last lunch would be the last lunch. We just drifted apart for whatever reason…moving, new responsibilities, life. No matter what, they all had some effect on my life. I have learned something from every friend in my life.

But my 18-yr-old daughter is visiting a friend in Pensacola, Florida, this weekend, and I think they are going to be forever friends. I can’t explain why I think it, but I do. Something about these two…a bond formed outside of other friendships, maybe? They support each other all the time. They have each other’s backs all the time. And they have similar interests (they’re both athletic, fun, and funny). They talk, I think, almost every single night via Facetime. So many nights I have walked into my daughter’s room to wish her good night, and she is talking with this friend. It makes me happy.

In 2014, when my daughter was 10 years old, we had a place on the Alabama Gulf Coast. That summer, because we knew she wouldn’t be willing to do it later, we decided to spend most of our time there…at the beach. Our daughter was playing club soccer, and at that point, she was very into it. Her club soccer coach, upon hearing we would be at the beach for the summer, suggested she find someone to practice with there…or even attend a camp there. So I did what moms do; I enrolled her in a camp and also enrolled her in some regular training sessions.

The camp I signed her up for turned out to be on the Naval Base in Pensacola. That Monday morning, bright and early, when we arrived, she looked out at the field from the car and said to me, “Mom, it’s all little kids.” She was right. It looked like a lot of six and seven year old kids. We had arrived early, so we had time to sit in the car and talk while we scanned the field. After a few minutes, I spotted a blonde girl who appeared to be about my daughter’s age, and I said, “There’s a girl your age!” She didn’t waste any time; she jumped out of the car and ran straight to the girl on the field. I stayed for the session but didn’t watch all the training. I walked around the area for exercise while she played, but I noticed when they had a break and walked back over to the sideline. My daughter came running over, her new friend in tow and introduced me to Lindsey. Even after knowing each other for an hour, they were already acting like best friends!

The camp was a one-week camp. Our daughter wasn’t feeling well one of the days, so she missed. Another day, it stormed, as it does on the Gulf Coast. But when she was there, she played soccer with her new friend at the camp. The last day was cut short by another storm, and soon after starting, the skies opened with torrential rains. We all ran to our cars to escape the downpour, and the rest of the last day of the camp was canceled. We left without getting contact information for Lindsey, because everything had ended so abruptly. It was fun while it lasted.

The next week, I took our daughter to the first of the weekly soccer training sessions. It was just going to be two hours a week on Wednesday mornings. So that Wednesday morning, I drove her to the field. And when we arrived, she looked out at the field and said, “Mom, it’s all big kids.” I couldn’t believe it. She was right. They all appeared to be over 13, and she was just 10. We sat in the car and talked about whether she wanted to do the training or not, and after a few minutes, I saw a minivan pull up behind me, and three kids tumbled out…two older kids and a girl who appeared to be our daughter’s age. I said, “Look! That girl is about your age!” She looked back and excitedly said, “It’s Lindsey!” And she couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! She jumped out with her soccer bag, and the girls embraced happily before going out onto the field.

After that, Lindsey visited us at our place on the beach, and the girls bonded. Whenever we visited the beach after that, they hung out. Two girls who lived 500 miles apart became best friends…having been brought together by soccer…with a little nudge from God, I think. Eventually, Lindsey visited us in Charlotte a couple of times, and last year, she vacationed with us in California. I’m not sure if her parents know it yet, but the girls are planning for her to vacation with us again this summer…maybe more than once!

Their meeting and formation of a friendship is one of my favorite friendship stories. In the fall, they are both off to college. No, they aren’t going to the same school. Mine is going to the University of Alabama, and Lindsey is off to Ole Miss. They’ll be just three hours apart, so I see lots of road trips in their future.

They’ll likely still Facetime regularly, though not every night, but I feel pretty sure these two will be forever friends. God put them in each other’s path for a reason.