Now I’m Getting Nervous

Now I’m getting nervous…

It’s no secret that I have been looking forward to my daughter’s high school graduation. She has been at the same independent school since she was four years old, so she really thinks she is ready for graduation. Plus, she is an only child, so when she graduates and goes off to college, we become empty-nesters. We start a new phase of our lives. It’s a phase we are excited about.

And up until now, I’ve been nothing but excited. I have been looking forward to summer vacations. I have been excited about how much she is going to love college. I have been looking forward to the adventures my husband and I will have…traveling to different places…the possibility of living somewhere else (not right away, of course, because we know our daughter needs to be able to come back home during her freshman year). There’s a lot to look forward to.

But earlier today, I was talking with a friend whose only child, a daughter, is a sophomore in college, and she gave me a warning, “No matter what you think right now, you are going to miss that girl when she goes to college.” And it hit me. She’s right. I’m going to miss her. I’m going to miss her like crazy. We have been together almost every single day of her life. Soon, she will be leaving me behind. I’m happy for her, but now I’m nervous for me. It’s uncharted territory for me.

I wrote recently about how I have one job. I’m a mom. And that has been my one job for eighteen years. But now that’s about to change. I’m not officially being “fired” from that job, but the job description is going to change. She won’t need me daily; frankly, she probably hasn’t needed me daily for a long time. However, once she goes off to college several hundred miles away, I will likely go months without seeing her in person or giving her a hug! She will be fine. I’m worried about me.

God prepares us for this. As they grow up, kids gradually become more independent. Even in elementary school, they start going to friends houses without us. They go to sleepovers with friends. And then, before they can drive, we drop them off at places to meet friends regularly. Then, they learn to drive, and everything changes. As soon as our daughter turned 16, she was off to the races…we hardly saw her anymore, because she had the freedom to move around the city at will. Four months after she got her license, though, COVID hit. Because she couldn’t spend as much time with friends, she did a lot of driving around. She even invited me to go for drives with her. We looked for places to drive around…sometimes just driving around town, and other times driving into South Carolina to see what it looked like when states started to re-open during the pandemic. South Carolina opened way before North Carolina did, and we drove around looking at the lines outside restaurants!

Because teenagers are social creatures, we were not particularly strict about the COVID restrictions. She needed to see her friends. She needed to spend time socializing, so we let her. I joked that she spent the summer of 2020 trying to catch COVID but never caught it. I felt sure she would bring it home to me and my husband during those first few crucial months, but we never got it. Actually, I did have it in late January of this year, but I didn’t get it from my daughter.

Pandemic restrictions lifted, and school eventually went back to “normal.” She has been going to school dances and sporting events. Her social life has resumed in full force. She is hardly ever home, but we usually see her for at least a few minutes a day. Lots of times, I don’t even know when she will be home after lacrosse practice.

And now, she is taking another step toward independence…and so are we! We are going to have lots of free time on our hands. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be fun. But even while we are having fun, I’m sure I will miss our little girl who’s not so little anymore. She is three inches taller than I am and ready to face the world. We just have to get ourselves ready to face the world in a different way…and really, that’s the scary part. I’m going to have to reinvent myself!

Yes, God prepares us by making their independence gradual…so gradual that we hardly notice till they’re ready to fly the coop! And now it’s almost here…

Once we get her to college, we plan to take a nice, relaxing vacation to “celebrate” our new status as empty nesters. Hopefully, we embrace the freedom…

The future is bright!

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.

Everyone Isn’t Going to College

Everyone isn’t going to college.

Consider this my own little Public Service Announcement: Every kid who is graduating from high school right now is not going to college. Sure, lots of them are, but lots of them aren’t, and we need to be mindful of that.

If you encounter a high school senior in the next month or so, don’t ask them where they’re going to college. In fact, don’t ask that question, even if you know they are going to college. Some of those who are going are struggling with the decision. And the ones who aren’t going to college, I’m sure, get tired of that question. Why do we now assume everyone is going to college?!? For some of them, college is not the best option, for any number of reasons…and we need to remember that.

So next time you encounter a high school senior, I recommend you ask, “What are your plans after graduation?” If they are going to technical school, they can tell you all about that. If they are going into a branch of the military, they will be thrilled to tell you about that. If they are going to college and know which one they are attending, they can share that information with you. And if they haven’t decided on a college yet, they can say, “I’m still deciding where I want to go to college.”

But remember…everyone isn’t going to college.

Mike Rowe, one of my favorite celebrities ever, because he is real and tells it like it is, is a big proponent of technical schools for young people. Some people need to learn a trade or a skill. Many of those people who become plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, or HVAC repairmen will quickly start making money and socking it away in the bank while college students and their parents are still shelling out boatloads of money for a college education…sometimes, one that doesn’t make the student any more employable. Lots of those vocations are needed. Lots of people can walk right into a good-paying job if they have the necessary skills. (If you’re not familiar with Mike Rowe, he is the host of Dirty Jobs, a television show about real jobs in this country, and he is also the author of a great book called The Way I Heard It. I read the book in the early days of the pandemic, about this time two years ago, and it was worthwhile, easy reading. Pick up a copy if you like reading good stories. You can order from Amazon here.)

Ultimately, my goal as a parent is to help my daughter become an independent adult who makes a contribution to society. Does that mean I expect her to become the next gazillionaire? No. It means I want her to be able to support herself in a way that works for her, and I want her to feel like she is doing something to make life better for other people too. Is my goal for her to be “happy”? Of course, I want her to be happy, but I think we are happiest when we are independent contributors to society…so it all goes together. Do I think she will be financially independent right after college? Maybe…maybe not. What I want for her is personal independence. I want her to know she is in charge of her own life and her own destiny. I want her to know how to function in the world…and how to ask questions when she needs to ask questions. I want her to know she doesn’t know everything, but as long as she knows where and how to find out what she wants/needs to know, she’ll be good. She leaves for college in August, and I am excited for her.

But while she is going to class and enjoying college life, there will be lots of kids who graduate from high school at the same time who immediately go to work. Some of them might be entrepreneurs. Some might be inventors. Some might go into a family business. Does the fact that they don’t go to college make them “less than”? No. It simply means they are choosing a different path.

So just like we applaud these kids’ college choices, let’s applaud those who make other choices. Let’s be happy for the kid who opts to join the military. Let’s celebrate the kid who has always known he wanted to be a welder, and he is finally going to technical school to learn that skill. Let’s be excited for the girl who is on her way to cosmetology school.

Let’s be thankful we live somewhere that people can make their own choices.

Graduation Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again! High school seniors all over the country are graduating, and that means we all need gift ideas. When searching for graduation gifts, remember that not all new graduates are going away to college. Some are joining the military. Some are going to college but living at home. Some are going to work. Some are taking a gap year to travel. And some still haven’t figured out what they want to do yet. Therefore, it’s important to tailor each gift to each graduate.

First, here’s what we all need to remember: Cash is king! Grads want cash! Some of them want cash to go on a trip after school gets out. Some want cash to take to college. Some need cash to put a down payment on an apartment or automobile. No matter how they use it…cash is still king. It was king when I graduated from high school in the 1980s, and in 2019, it still reigns supreme.

But if you have lots of gifts to give, you might rather get a meaningful gift instead of giving someone a small amount of cash. I’ve done some research, and here are some great gift ideas:

  • Weighted blanket. I know…I’ve sung the praises of the weighted blanket before, but I’m doing it again. College can be stressful. I always felt like I earned all the fun I had in college, because of the stress brought on by tests and exams. Weighted blankets are great for reducing anxiety. It’s like a big hug. On Amazon, they start at about $60. I have one made by Calming Comfort. I haven’t tried the others, but I love the one I have, and it is priced at about $129 on Amazon here.
  • First Aid Kit. I know it sounds corny, but everyone should have one. If the person for whom you are buying is planning to travel, you might opt for a waterproof travel version. Amazon has tons. I’m not even going to provide a link, because there are so many different types, but go to Amazon.com and search for what you need here.
  • Netflix Gift Card. Young people who are trying to find their way in the world need some downtime. Sure, they have their phones for communicating with friends, but it’s easy to lose track of time. With a Netflix gift card, they can watch a comforting episode of Friends or Fuller House, and when it’s over, they know it’s time to get back to studying. Purchase them in Walmart or Target for $10 and up.
  • Amazon Gift Card. This one comes in especially handy, because they can order whatever they need and have it delivered. Plus, if they get enough money on Amazon, they can purchase a Prime Membership for $119. That will bring them fast, free delivery on lots of items, and they can watch Amazon Prime TV shows and movies. Purchase here.
  • Target Gift Card. Because every college student arrives at college and realizes he/she needs a few more things, Target gift cards are perfect. You can purchase them online or in any Target store. They are perfect when they realize they took all the perfect decorating pieces but forgot to take soap and lotion. Maybe they need a mattress topper after discovering the dorm bed is not comfortable? They can get it all at Target!
  • Personalized items. Personalized stationery, personalized pillowcases, personalized slippers…all these make great gifts. When I went off to college, I had those plus a personalized bathrobe, a personalized shower caddy, a personalized towel wrap, personalized pictures frames, and lots of my friends had personalized sheets for their twin-sized dorm beds. Honestly, anything personalized is…well, personal. It means you actually thought of the graduate. I think a personalized bathrobe with a little cash stuck in the pocket makes a great gift. Maybe stick a fabric marker in the pocket too, so they can put their name in all their clothing. Lots of students take advantage of on-campus laundry services now, so it’s always good to have a name in items. Bed Bath & Beyond offers lots of the items listed here, and will personalize them for you too! They also offer gift cards….not a bad idea either.
  • Insider’s guide or journal. OK, stay with me here. I know some of them are going straight to college and not traveling any before they go. But they might not know about things to do in the area where they are going. I know a girl who is going to NYU in the fall, and I think giving her an insider’s guide to New York City would be great. I’m no “insider,” but if I can’t find the perfect book (in which I would slip some cash), I can get my friends who are insiders to put together some information! People really do enjoy sharing their secrets about cities. Child going to Emory? Give Atlanta info! Child going to Vanderbilt? Lots of good Nashville info out there! I know one who would love to know about all the best thrift stores, and I know the perfect person to compile the info! If not, maybe you give them a book in which they can write all the things they find themselves! And of course…stick some cash in it.

Whatever you do for the grad, it will be appreciated. I read somewhere recently that someone said, “Congratulations, grad! You’ve finished the easiest years of your life!” While that may be true for many of them, the best is yet to come for most of them.

Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

She’s Growing Up, But She’ll Always Be My Baby

My little girl isn’t so little anymore. In fact, she’s the age at which she would be mortified if she knew I’m writing this. But she doesn’t know. Ignorance is bliss.

Right now, she’s upstairs with a friend getting ready for her last middle school dance. She’s finishing up eighth grade. Her school has two middle school dances a year, one in the fall and one in spring.

It’s hard for me to believe this is her last middle school dance. Truly, it seems like just a few months ago she was excited about her first middle school dance…in sixth grade. Afterward, she and all her friends could hardly wait to tell me how many boys asked them to dance! But it has been two years. Wow. She’s not even excited about this one. These eighth graders have one foot in middle school and one foot in high school.

As part of their upcoming eighth grade moving up ceremony (graduation), the school had parents send in pictures of the kids from kindergarten. Since my daughter started at the school in transitional kindergarten when she was four, I used that picture instead. She looks so sweet and so unjaded.

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September 2008, age 4 (almost 5!)

She started transitional kindergarten about six weeks before her fifth birthday. I remember that first day of school like it was yesterday. I remember watching her get out of the car in carpool with her tote bag and walk up the sidewalk by herself. I remember trying not to cry.

Today, when I turned in the picture for them to use for the ceremony, I told the middle school administrative assistant how I had to convince my daughter to wear a bow in her hair on picture day in transitional kindergarten. My child was the little girl who at 18 months declared, “Ruffles are for babies.” She has always had very definite ideas, and she sticks to her guns. When she was two years old, her pediatrician declared her to be a “classic strong-willed child,” telling me, “it will drive you crazy, but it will serve her well.” But on picture day in TK, I was able to convince her to wear a bow in her hair. I told her she didn’t have to wear it all day…just till after pictures. I reminded her that one of her friends regularly wore bows as big as her head…we are in the south, after all. When I picked her up after school on picture day that year, she didn’t have the bow in her hair, but she assured me she wore it for the picture.

I look at that picture and remember that sweet little girl who thought her mommy was the best mommy on earth and her daddy was the best daddy on earth. She thought we knew everything and could do anything.

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December 2007, age 4

Now, at age 14, she knows we don’t know everything, and she knows we can’t do everything. She’s more jaded than she was at four, because she has more life experience. She sees the world isn’t the perfect place she thought it was then. She knows the agony of defeat. She knows what it feels like to get a less than stellar grade. She knows injuries can end a sports season. She knows some people don’t have places to live. She knows there is no Santa Claus. She knows more about brain surgery than she should, because she watched her daddy suffer through it. She knows what it’s like to lose a grandmother. She knows what cancer looks like, since she has watched my friend suffer with it. She knows everybody isn’t nice all the time. She knows some friendships aren’t forever.

But as much as that life experience has jaded her a little, it has also made her appreciate the great things about life. She knows she goes to a great school in a fun city, and she’s fortunate to live in the United States of America. While she hates the agony of defeat, she loves the thrill of victory, and she knows it takes hard work, a good attitude, and confidence. She knows what it feels like to make an A+ and how great it made her feel when her history teacher told her he was impressed with the essay she had worked hard on. She knows there is a spirit of Christmas. She knows her daddy survived brain surgery. She knows sometimes kindness comes from  unexpected places. She knows most people are nice, and sometimes, friends we thought were gone come back around.

She knows that while parents can be embarrassing, we love her unconditionally. She knows we want her to live a good life in her own way. She knows experiences are far more valuable than things. She knows people may be able to take things, but they can’t take memories. She knows if she isn’t feeling well, her daddy and I will try to make her feel better…physically or emotionally. She knows we support her, but sometimes she has to be her own advocate.

As she finishes up middle school and prepares for high school, we continue to be her biggest supporters. We continue to tell her we love her every single day. We cheer her on at sporting events. We listen to her. We spend time with her and her friends. We read over her essays before she turns them in. We show her the world is full of different cultures and special people. We become her audience when she needs to practice a presentation. When she doesn’t feel well, we wish we could fix it. We remind her God will take care of us.

Tonight I will drop her off at her last middle school dance. The eighth grade girls don’t seem excited about it, but they’ll be glad they went. Like I said, they have one foot in middle school and one foot in high school.

And just when I think she is spreading her wings and flying away too fast, she surprises me. Last night, my husband was out of town, so our daughter crawled up into bed with me to watch TV for a little while. She cuddled up next to me, wrapped her arms around me, and said, “You’re the best mom in the whole world.” She cuddled for little while, and she said it several times, reminding me of when she was four years old and thought I knew everything. While I make her hug me once a day, those impromptu moments are hard to beat.

Yes, I miss that little four-yr-old who didn’t want to wear hairbows, dresses, or tights with her dance leotard. I miss that little four-yr-old who was so sweet and innocent. I miss that four-yr-old who thought Mommy and Daddy were the greatest people ever. But I love the big person she is becoming. I love that she wants good things for people. I love that she is already talking about college but loves hanging out with me…sometimes. I love that she loves college football as much as I do…and knows way more about it than I do. I love that she has good friends. I love that she is athletic. I love that she loves rollercoasters. I love that she enjoys travel. I love that she becomes more independent every day. I love that she has an appreciation for music. I love that she discovered a passion for art this year in school. I love that she is compassionate. I love that she is outgoing. I love that we have real conversations. I love that she expresses her opinions. I love when I do something for her, and she says, “Thank you, Mama.” I love this 14-yr-old.

Every night when I go upstairs to kiss her goodnight and tell her to “go to sleep soon,” I sit on the loveseat in her room and have a quick chat with her to reconnect one more time. If anything’s bothering her, she will usually tell me then. If she’s upset about something, it can be a long conversation. But if all is well, after we talk a little while, I stand up and walk to the door, turning around to say, “Goodnight! I love you! You’re my favorite!”

And when I see her walk across the stage at the eighth grade moving up ceremony in two weeks, I will think of that little four-yr-old who made her mommy happy by keeping that bow in her hair till after pictures.

My mother used to say that her goal as a mother was to raise compassionate, independent people who contribute to society. That’s my goal too.

So far, so good.

She’ll always be my baby. She’s my favorite.

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