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.

Down to the College Wire

Down to the college wire.

It’s April 1. College admissions decisions are out there for most schools, and now it’s time for lots of high school seniors to make their final choice. My daughter decided long ago, so we were happy to step off that hamster wheel, but she has friends who are still deciding. God bless them. Some of them are having a difficult time for lots of different reasons. Some didn’t get into their top choice. Some got into none of their top choices. Some got into every school they applied to and can’t decide which one is best. It’s just not easy. It’s an adult decision…the first adult decision lots of them have ever made. They feel alone. They know they are embarking on a new experience, but it can be scary, and they are afraid of making the wrong choice. You see that guy in the feature photo for this piece? He’s sitting there alone…that’s how lots of them feel right now… like they are alone. They need support from the folks who love them.

I’m no college counselor. I’m simply a parent of a high school senior, but there is one thing I wish all kids would consider: they need to find the best choice for themselves.

I hear lots of seniors saying their parents want them to go to one college, but they want to go somewhere else. I hear lots of them say they don’t want to disappoint their teachers/college counselors. I hear lots of them say they want to pick a school by how it’s ranked in US News and World Report. Who am I to say they’re wrong with their methods of decision-making? So no, I’m not going to say they are “wrong.”

I do, however, want to remind them they are the ones going to the school. Their parents won’t be attending. (If their parents are paying, affordability might come into play.) Their college counselors and classmates won’t be sitting in their desks in the classrooms, living in the dorm, or going to athletic events. Each senior needs to make his/her decision based on his/her preferences, because guess what? US News and World Report isn’t going to college either. What US News and World Report thinks is most important might not be what you think is most important. Different people like different things!

And as these kids (yes, they are still kids) make their final decisions, we need to offer them support instead of shaming them for their choices. I know lots of kids who get into “highly ranked institutions,” but they choose a school with a “lower ranking” because it offers other things they want. My own daughter would never get into an Ivy League school, but that’s OK, because that’s not where she wants to be anyway. And there are other kids who do get into Ivy League schools but opt for something else where they will have a different experience. Big sports are important to our daughter, and she would laugh at Ivy League football games. No offense to the Ivy League people of the world, of course, but she likes to watch more competitive football. I have lots of Ivy League friends I love, but even they admit SEC football is awesome.

Some kids want to go to schools that are more outdoorsy. In North Carolina, one school that is “outdoorsy” is Appalachian State University. I know lots of very successful people who went to school there and loved it. Is it a Top 50 school, according to US News and World Report? No. But it’s number one to those people who love it. All kinds of people go there, though…not just the “outdoorsy” people. I went to the University of Alabama. Again, not a Top 50 school by US News and World Report’s rankings, but I think it’s number one! It’s fun! It’s absolutely gorgeous…looks like a movie set. It has a wide array of majors and lots of opportunities in different areas. And it’s geographically diverse. I made some of my best life memories there and certainly made lifelong friends from all over the country. Over 65% of the student body is from out of state. The weather during tornado season is iffy, but most winters are pretty mild, and the sun shines a lot. Some people (like me and my daughter!) don’t want cold climates. And come on…football season is crazy fun there. Also, BarstoolU just ranked it as the number one party school in the country. Lots of people likely think that’s shallow. I think it’s important to have lots of options for fun, and so does my daughter.

Some of these kids might get into “highly ranked” big colleges/universities, but some of those same kids might think a smaller, liberal arts college would be a better fit for their personality. Don’t look down on them for choosing what is best for them. Applaud them for knowing themselves! You can’t put a square peg into a round hole. Or maybe you can, but the square peg likely won’t be happy there. And ultimately, don’t we want our kids to be happy in college? We want them to be happy there so they will stay there. We want them to be successful in college and beyond.

On the flip side, I was talking with a woman a few days ago who was in distress that her daughter wanted to go to a college far away. She wants her daughter to be happy, but said they don’t have any idea how they will pay for transportation costs. Yes, these kids are still kids, but they are pretty reasonable too, and they often understand that affordability counts too. Guess who is not paying your child’s college tuition? The college counselors at your school aren’t paying it. Their friends’ parents aren’t paying it. And their friends are not paying it. Some of them truly need to go to the “highest bidder,” meaning they need to go to the school that offers them the most money/financial aid.

And I recently spoke with another parent of a high school senior who was trying to make the decision for her daughter, saying, “She wants to go to XXXX University, but I just think she would love XXXXX University. I wanted to go there, but my parents wouldn’t pay the out of state tuition.” She’s trying to push her daughter into going where she wanted to go. Ick. We can’t live vicariously. We, the parents, aren’t going to college. We need to remember that too.

Here’s the skinny: each kid who is deciding on a college right now has different factors to consider. They have different priorities and different interests. Let’s applaud them for their decisions; this is one of the first tough decisions they will make in life.

We’re getting down to the college wire. Again, I’m not a college counselor, but I know it’s a tough time for lots of teens. Celebrate their decisions.

Emergency Numbers for Dorm Rooms

Emergency numbers for dorm rooms.

Like so many other parents, I’m getting emotionally and mentally prepared to send my daughter off to college. She is going about 500 miles away, to a big university in another state, and I am excited for her. However, I also know she needs to be prepared…not just academically and emotionally…she needs to also be prepared for emergency situations. Sure, she’s not leaving for several months, but it makes me feel better to talk with her and get ready in advance. Because of that, I sat down with her and thought of different situations that could happen and reviewed how to handle them. We got some ideas from the parents’ Facebook page too. We are making a list of essential places along with phone numbers and websites. We will laminate it, so she can hang it in her room. To make life a little easier for other students who are going off to college far, far away, I’m sharing the info here:

  • Resident Advisor Contact. This should be at the top of the list. If anything happens in the dorm, and your student needs a housing contact, their Resident Advisor is the first person to contact. They are trained to create a welcoming environment and assist with any situations that arise pertaining to dorm life. Roommate smoking in the room? Talk to the RA. Someone making too much noise during quiet hours? Talk to the RA. It’s always good to have their phone number and email address handy.
  • Parents’ Contacts. Recently, my daughter received a call from a college roommate of a friend of hers. The roommate said, “XXXX has had too much to drink and needs to go to the hospital. I can’t get into her phone to get her mom’s number. Does your mom have her mom’s number?” Indeed, I did. I gave the number to the roommate, and she was able to contact the girl’s mom. Therefore, I cannot express strongly enough that roommates need to have phone numbers of each other’s parents in their own phones, and it’s a great idea to have parents’ numbers posted on a list of emergency numbers hanging in their dorm room.
  • Nearby adult family/friends. My brother lives two hours from the university my daughter will be attending. I have college friends who live in the same town as the university, and I have friends whose children are students at the university. I will add their names and numbers to the list, because you never know when your child will need some moral support, a health advocate, or help with something else. It’s always good to know there’s someone who has your back nearby.
  • Urgent Care/Doctor/Student Health Center. The names, addresses, and contact info for all of these need to be included on the list. If a student gets sick with the flu, they need to be able to see a doctor. Or maybe they have a stomach bug? Of course, with telemedicine, they can often “see” a doctor online, thank God. But if they need to actually see a doctor in person, you don’t want them to waste time trying to find them online. They can just look at the list, call the office, and go!
  • Emergency Room. Obviously, there are some situations that require a call to 911…broken leg, possible back or neck injuries, lots of blood, bad falls, etc. But sometimes, there are situations in which a roommate can get your child to the emergency room. Maybe it’s a kidney stone or a bad case of the flu. They need to know where several emergency rooms are, because the first one they go to could have a long wait. We found two nearby emergency rooms for our daughter’s list and one that’s a little farther away but usually less chaotic (according to the parents’ page).
  • Emergency Dentist. No one expects to fall and break a tooth, but it happens. You don’t want your child to waste time trying to find the info for an emergency dentist. Find one now. We found two near the university she will be attending, and we added them to the list.
  • Mechanic. If your child is taking a car to college, you should know things happen. I took a car to college, and during that time, I had two flat tires that had to be repaired. I also had an issue in which my brake lights were staying on. It was an easy fix (a button was sticking under the brake pedal), but I wouldn’t have known how to fix it on my own. Find a reliable auto service place to help your student. Add that information to the list. It’s also a good idea to have a AAA membership for your student, and they should have the emergency roadside service number if their car has it.
  • Pharmacy. It is essential to find a pharmacy near your child’s college or university. I have written about this before. We use a local CVS in Charlotte, so we will pick a CVS near her university. I’ve been in a jam in another city before, and I was thankful I could have a CVS in the area access my prescription and fill what I needed. To me, a good, reliable pharmacy is every bit as important as a good, reliable doctor or dentist. The phone number definitely needs to be on the list, but especially if you have a child who takes life/death medication.
  • Food Delivery. I know…you might not think it’s important, but I do. They will definitely figure this out on their own, but it’s cool for them to have a list of a few places on the front end, for those nights they just don’t want to eat in the dining hall. Don’t get me wrong. I hope my child will opt to eat on campus as often as possible, but I know what it’s like to want food from somewhere else. My friend, Angela, and I used to order from Wings & Things every Sunday night in college. At $7.49 for each of us in 1985 (about $17 in today’s money), it was too expensive to eat all the time, but we could order once a week!
  • Other not-so-urgent things to know: there are other places that can be essential for life in college. A lot depends on the type of person your child is and what they enjoy. I feel sure mine will need to know about all the local boutiques…not an emergency, but essential. She will need to know where a local laundry drop-off service is located. She’ll need to know where the safest gas stations are located.

I’m sure I have forgotten some, so feel free to send me additions, and I will edit/add. All these numbers also need to be in your child’s phone. I will have mine add them as EMERGENCY DENTIST (name). If I know she is prepared for unexpected situations, I can rest more easily.

College Hiccups

College hiccups can be deciding factors in the admissions process.

Our daughter is a high school senior who plans to matriculate to my college alma mater in the fall. We have paid the enrollment fee. I know lots of people are still deciding. I am on a college parents’ page, and several of my friends are too. We see red flags in some of the posts, so I’m going to share a few here as “cautionary tales.” Every parent/student needs to do their homework beforehand, because stuff happens. There are often things we don’t consider beyond tuition/dorms and usual college stuff, but here are some surprising posts from different college parent pages:

  • “We live across the country. My son is having mental health issues. Can we get a tuition refund?” What the what?!?! I wasn’t the only person who saw red flags on this. The first response was, “You need to stop worrying about a tuition refund and go help your child.” The original poster’s response? “I can’t afford to fly there.” If I could not afford to get to my child in an emergency situation, I would have to reconsider her college. She would need to go closer to home. My daughter needs an advocate in emergencies. Our daughter is going 500 miles away, but we have family and close friends in the area, and we can afford to get there. What to consider: whether the unexpected cost of a last-minute airline ticket would break the bank for you. And please, if your child is having mental health issues (it can happen to anyone), get there as fast as you can.
  • “My daughter joined a sorority, and we thought the dues/fees were all-inclusive. It’s costing way more than we expected.” Anyone considering joining the Greek community needs to know dues/fees don’t include everything. There are hidden costs…t-shirts for every event, tickets for formals, dresses for formals, gifts for bigs/littles, costumes for parties, lettered gear, sorority/fraternity pins…it adds up. If you’re strapped for cash, you want to know the fees/dues before entering the process. At some big southern universities, Greek dues can be $5000/semester for people who don’t live in the house and $10k per semester for those who do. Whereas, at other colleges with smaller or no houses, they can be much lower. For a US News article from November 2021 about this, click here. What to consider: Be sure it isn’t cost prohibitive. It is unfair to a chapter to accept a bid knowing you can’t afford it.
  • “My son forgot to get his necessary prescription refilled. Can someone tell me the name of a pharmacy that makes same-day deliveries?” I get it. I have forgotten to get meds refilled in a timely manner. If your child has a prescription that he/she needs regularly, it is a good idea to check out pharmacies/delivery services on the front end instead of waiting till the “forget” happens. When you visit the college or university, take time to find a pharmacy that would work with him/her…if there is one. It could be a lifesaver…literally. If there isn’t a pharmacy nearby that can help your child on the fly with deliveries of a life/death medication, you might want to think about another school. What to consider: the health of your child.
  • “My child needs a ride to the airport/city, etc. If you have a child driving that way, maybe you can help him out? We are sending our daughter with a car, but if we weren’t, I would do my homework on this. I wouldn’t want her to be dependent on other students for transportation. Sometimes, students need rides. I would research public transportation for rides near campus. For the airport, which is an hour from her college, I would research shuttles/hired cars and expect to pay. I could not expect another student to be my child’s personal airport shuttle; that’s a lot of time/gas/wear and tear. Carpooling is nice for those who have outbound flights at about the same time, but what happens when your child’s return flight is delayed for hours? Expect the other student to wait five or six hours? No. If you’re not sending your child with a car, check college/university web pages for travel information. They often list airport shuttles/car services/taxi companies. What to consider: Make sure transportation is reliable and not cost prohibitive. To read about some of those costs, click here.
  • “I thought there would be nonstop flights between College Town and our city, but there aren’t…” Hmmmm…find out about the flight situation before you enroll your child in a college or university. If your child isn’t going to college in a hub city (Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Chicago, Miami, etc.) and you don’t live in a hub city, chances are there won’t be nonstop flights. Lots of people have trouble with this concept. Sure, Southwest Airlines doesn’t have a spoke-and-hub system for their flights, but most major carriers do. Connecting flights add travel time (making weekend visits shorter) and increase the odds of cancellations/delays, so do your homework beforehand. Check different airline sites or Orbitz/Expedia/Trivago. And get an idea about the costs of those flights. For lots of people, this can be a deciding factor. What to consider: Travel time, and again, if cost is a factor, this needs to be considered. For even more info about travel costs for students, click here. And always remember the costs listed in the article are “average.” For example, I know my daughter’s travel costs will be more than average. If your child is flying to/from college, the costs likely will be higher than a child who is driving to/from college.
  • “I loved the university when I was there, but my child has not made friends and wants to transfer to a smaller school. What to do?” Maybe it’s going to take time, or maybe they need to transfer. The school that was perfect for you might not be perfect for your child. Or maybe you didn’t go there but wanted to; it might not be the place for your child. Maybe you thrived, or would have thrived, in that environment, but your child won’t. I have friends who went to big schools, but their children need to go to smaller colleges…and vice versa. One friend who went to college with me said her daughter is intimidated by the school. She said her “less-than-fashionable” daughter (her words, not mine) fears she won’t “find her people” in the big setting. She even went so far as to say her child is afraid she would feel like “the poor kid” (again, her words). Yikes. If she’s concerned about it, it’s a real concern. I spoke with a friend this morning whose daughter has been accepted to her southern alma mater that’s mostly in-state students, but they live in Ohio. My friend said, “I was southern, but she’s not. We are taking that into consideration.” Make sure your child spends some time at the colleges he/she is considering. What to consider: They need to feel comfortable. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Are you pushing your child to do what you did/wanted to do? Same with this next post…
  • “I always wanted my child to attend Prestigious University, but he wanted to go to Big State University. Anyone else have trouble reconciling that?” This one bothers me. Your child is going to college; you aren’t. Instead of saying anything further, I’m going to recommend you read a piece from Grown and Flown here. What to consider: where your child goes to school is not who he/she is.
  • “We want to visit our son during a football game weekend, but I’m having trouble finding inexpensive lodging. Suggestions?” Depending on where your child goes to school, it’s important to consider lodging costs. If you want to visit your child on a “big football” weekend at some schools (especially SEC schools), it’s not going to be cheap. And if it is cheap, you probably don’t want to stay there. Factor in lodging costs if you are going to need to stay overnight when you visit your child. You can’t stay in the dorm! Where our daughter is going, I know hotels are not inexpensive, and the price goes up during football weekends (supply and demand!), and on some other weekends too. You want to be able to visit without breaking the family budget. What to consider: will you be able to visit when you want? To read an article from 2018 that offers some examples of the cost of attending college football games…without inflation, click here.
  • “We live out of state, and my daughter only wants to to to College Z, but being out of state, we are going to have to get loans for everything. I’m worried about the debt. Anyone else?” I feel so badly for this mom. She clearly cares about her child’s happiness. But I worry about their taking on unnecessary debt. I know lots of people who tell their children they can’t go out-of-state, because of cost. I have a friend who went out of state for a specific major; when she changed her major, her parents told her, “Then you’re coming back to our state. We aren’t paying out of state tuition if you can get the same degree in-state.” And she did. I feel like, in the 1980s, when I was a teenager, lots of parents told their kids they had to stay in-state. The person who created the post in question is sending her child to a school that is going to cost her $50-$55K per year…all in loans. She could likely send her to an in-state public university for $30k or less per year. Big difference: $200k vs $120k. If you can afford the out-of-state tuition, it’s one thing, but she would be taking on all that as debt when her child can likely find an acceptable, fun in-state school. Remember what the Rolling Stones said: You can’t always get what you want. What to consider: Are you or your child going to be in debt forever for an educational experience they could get closer to home for less?

Here’s my official disclaimer: I am not a college counselor. I am not a professional anything. I am a parent of a high school senior, and the posts above are from parent pages of different colleges. Trust me when I say these are tame examples. Some of them are real doozies.

My thoughts? Do your own homework about the school, all possible hidden costs, and as many different situations as you can conjure up in your brain. It seems like a lot of the posts I see are about money and mental health. Do your homework. It can make a big difference in whether your child will be happy and healthy or not…and whether you’ll be able to visit each other during the school year or not.

And good luck with the process. One day, we will look back on this with fond memories.

***If you are on a college parents’ page and have seen some submissions to share, please send them to me in a private message! Maybe we will have a Part 2!***

Am I the Only One?

Am I the only one?

A friend who also has a daughter who is a senior in high school posted earlier on Facebook that she is sad she isn’t signing a re-enrollment contract for her daughter at our private school. Several other moms chimed in that they are sad too.

But I didn’t.

Am I the only mom who is excited (and not sad at all) about her child’s high school graduation?

I am sure I will be sad later. I will most certainly miss our daughter, our only child. Our house will be really quiet without her comings and goings. I won’t get to watch late night movies or TV shows with her in her room, after she comes home from wherever she has been with friends. Yes, I will definitely miss her. My heart will break a little when I drop her off at college.

However, I’m not feeling that sadness right now.

What I’m feeling right now is excitement, hope, and happiness. To be frank, it borders on sheer elation, joy, glee, euphoria…call it what you will…it’s not sadness.

I’m excited for her to get to college and hopefully, have a great four-year experience she will remember for the rest of her life. I’m excited for her to make lifelong friends from lots of different places like I did. I’m excited for her to experience college sports from a student point of view. I’m excited for her to figure out what she wants to major in. Yes, her experience, 37 years after my own, will be different than mine, but some things will be similar. She’ll be attending my alma mater! Some of the same restaurants and bars are there. Lots of the same buildings are there. And the kids of some of my college friends are there! I’m excited for her to meet them or accidentally discover that I was friends with a new friend’s mom or dad. There is so much that lies ahead for her. Sure, we have to get everything moved into her dorm, but she will remember move-in day for the rest of her life! There is so much emotion tied to it that it gets locked into long-term memory. And she gets to move into a brand new dorm! She will be the first person to live in the room…with her roommate, of course.

I’m also excited for me and my husband! We won’t plan our lives completely by the school calendar anymore. Want to travel for a couple of weeks in October? We can do that! We won’t even have to check the calendar to see what days our daughter has off! We can go out to a late dinner on a weeknight, if we want, without worrying about getting our daughter up early for school the next morning. We’ll also have an excuse to go to more of my alma mater’s football games…our daughter will be there!

Hope is another emotion I am feeling. I’m hopeful about our daughter’s future. I’m hopeful she will take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of her at the university. I’m hopeful she will experience new things and travel to new places with new friends. So…much…hope!

And I’m feeling happiness. I love the school where she has been since transitional kindergarten. It’s a great independent school in Charlotte. We have made lots of great friends there. But it’s time. I’ll be happy to see it in my rearview mirror, because that means we are onward and upward…progress. To be honest, my daughter and I both have what’s known as “senioritis.” We both feel ready to move past senior year and start the next chapter, and I think that’s a good thing. We won’t end the school year wanting more. I’m happy to know we are closing this chapter soon. We will still see our friends…just not in a school setting.

So yes, this second semester of our daughter’s senior year is an emotional time. I just seem to be feeling different emotions than a lot of other mothers I know. I’m not sad. I’m not depressed. I’m sure I’ll experience some sadness later, but right now, I’m excited about the future…for me and for our daughter!

Am I the only one?

Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be…

Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be…

Songwriters Ed and Patsy Bruce wrote a country song titled Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys back in the 1970s, and Mr. Bruce released it on his album in 1975. (For the record, I prefer to spell it as “mamas” instead of “mammas,” but that’s how it’s spelled in the song.) The version I’m more familiar with was recorded and released by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1978. I’m not a big country music fan, but for some reason, I’m familiar with that song. The song lists a whole host of reasons mammas shouldn’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys. You can hear it here.

I don’t recall anyone telling me, when I was growing up, that they wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. I remember my daddy saying that when he was little, he wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. Western movies were all the rage then. But one day it occurred to him that his daddy was a cowboy…running a farm…and as soon as he realized it, he knew he didn’t want to be a cowboy. He didn’t want to do what his daddy did when he grew up. I’m sure he had mad respect for his hardworking daddy, but he didn’t want to follow in his footsteps that way.

Recently, I flew home from Miami on American Airlines, and I found myself seated next to a lady who works for a department within the federal government. I didn’t get her whole name, and I don’t even know her official position, but she told me she majored in Criminal Justice. My own daughter had expressed an interest in that at one time, and I said to her, “What are you going to do?” I don’t even remember what her response was, but I forgot about the conversation and moved on, thinking that was probably just something she said on a whim. But in talking with the lady on the plane, I began to second-guess myself. She had majored in Criminal Justice and loves what she does! I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of my daughter’s desire to major in Criminal Justice. It’s her life! She gets to decide what she wants to do with it, and maybe she knows something I don’t!

When I got home, I went to my daughter and apologized for poo-pooing her idea. We had a long conversation about her future, and I told her I had just gotten a reminder that it is her future, after all. She can major in whatever she wants, but we need to discuss, so we can make sure she gets all the information she needs before deciding on a major. She needs to understand what kinds of careers she can have with what kinds of majors. She needs to make an informed decision. And I was reminded of that once more just two days later, when we met with the assistant dean of a division of a university we visited. He talked with her about who she is and what she enjoys, and he suggested some majors she probably didn’t even know existed…and the careers that go with them.

It’s a big world out there with lots of opportunities. For me, I think I have realized it’s important that I help our daughter decide what she wants to do, but I don’t tell her what she can and can’t do. That’s for her to decide. It’s her life.

That being said, if she comes to me and says she wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up, I won’t tell her she can’t, but I might discourage her for any number of reasons. She has ridden horses but doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in that department. And there aren’t a whole lot of cowgirls in cities. I just don’t see her living in a rural area, so the cowgirl life could be tough for her in, say, the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area…or New York…or Chicago…or even Charlotte, for that matter.

She’ll be off to college next year, and who knows what she will major in or how many times she will change her major? I just want her to do something that helps her become a contributing member of society while being able to take care of herself.

College for Your Teen

College for your teen…

Where do you want your teen to go to college?

Someone asked me that question recently. It didn’t take me long to answer, because I know exactly where I want her to go.

I have always thought she would love a big state university. I went to a big state university and loved every minute, so I have always thought she might like the “full college experience,” just like I did.

And then sometimes, she will tell me about some smaller schools that interest her…different ones all over the country. It’s then that I think, “Maybe one of those will be best for her.” Maybe she would like being on a small campus in a cute little town somewhere.

There are so many colleges and universities all over the country to choose from. Almost anyone who wants to go to college can likely find a place that work for them. Interested in big time sports? Check out state universities. Interested in the arts? Check out liberal arts schools near you. Interested in a smaller school setting? Looking for a school that has a high commuter population? You want a school that doesn’t have a high commuter population? You can likely find something that works.

But with so many options, the decision can be difficult. I peruse brochures that come in the mail. I take virtual tours online of different campuses. I talk to friends about where they went to college and listen to their college stories. And honestly, if you talk to the right person, almost every college experience sounds great. I always encourage my daughter to talk to people about their experiences.

It can be difficult to choose.

But here’s the thing: the decision isn’t mine to make. It’s my daughter’s.

My husband and I decided a long time ago that we want her to go to the college of her choice. We want her to find her people. We want her to go into the college experience knowing she picked exactly what she wanted. We want her to be excited. When she has tough days adjusting to college life, we don’t want her to think, “If my parents had let me go where I wanted to go, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Sure, I can listen to her and help her make the decision, but she will make the decision. This is a teenager who, as a toddler, wanted to make her own decisions. She’s got this.

We have made “unofficial” visits to colleges all over the country, just so she could get a feel for the campuses. She has narrowed it down to five or six that she likes. But she’s just entering her junior year of high school. She could find new places of interest over the next two years. She will likely learn about colleges she doesn’t even know exist, and it’s possible some of them could look interesting to her.

So when someone asks me where I want her to go to college, I will give them the same answer I gave my friend a few days ago:

I want her to go where she wants to go.

For the next two years, I will be an innocent bystander in the college search process…simply a facilitator. I will make sure she has access to information about lots of different types of schools. If there is a college she wants to visit, we will do it. If there’s a college she wants to mark off the list…by all means, mark it off the list. Because, when it comes right down to it, it’s her life. She gets to live it. She is quickly approaching adulthood, and she needs to know how to make decisions. I firmly believe a child/teen who isn’t ever allowed to make decisions will become an adult who doesn’t know how to make decisions. I’m going to trust that my daughter will make the right decision for herself, and I’m excited for her to do it.

She has two years to decide.

Let’s get this party started!

An Accidental Reunion

An accidental reunion.

Earlier this week, I told my teenage daughter to pack a bag, because we were making an impromptu trip to a college in another state for an “unofficial” visit. She’s a rising high school junior, so it’s time to start getting an idea about where she might like to continue her education. Most admissions offices at colleges are not open now because of COVID, so “official” visits aren’t happening, but what was to stop us from going to a campus and checking things out on our own? Since it seems all we have done is go to the beach this summer, I was ready to roll to almost anywhere that wasn’t the beach. So we quickly packed our bags with a single change of clothes and the essentials, and we hit the road.

When I say we packed “essentials,” I mean we absolutely packed bare bones. I took a change of clothes, something to sleep in, any medications we might need, and toiletries…hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant. That’s it. I didn’t take makeup, because we were just going to be staying for one night and weren’t going to spend any time socializing. On the way out of town, we did a swing through the ChickFilA drive-thru for some lunch, and my daughter made a hotel reservation for us while I drove.

We had 3 1/2 hours to talk while we were on our way there, and because we took the scenic route, we had lots of cute little towns to see and some beautiful scenery too!

We arrived on the college campus at about 4:30 in the afternoon and went straight to the campus bookstore. I learned a long time ago that the campus bookstore is a good place to start. It’s usually easy to find, and shopping is always fun! We purchased a few items before the store closed at 5pm, and we set out driving around, trying to get a feel for the university. We looked at dorms…all from the outside of course…and we also got a feel for the campus by looking for different areas…the science buildings, education buildings, athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity housing…and of course, the always important football stadium, which was impressive, for sure.

We then checked into our hotel and walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant to discuss everything we had seen. While we were at dinner, I posted a few pictures, and then…bam! Two of my friends from college who live nearby commented, reminding me that they live there! How had I forgotten they lived there?!?! I have seen one of them a few times over the last couple of years, when she visited Charlotte, and I last saw the other one nine years ago when we had a planned reunion at the Virginia Creeper bike trail. After hearing from them, we scheduled a lunch for the next day…an accidental reunion! What an amazing surprise in the middle of this road trip!

The next morning, my daughter and I checked out a few more things on the college campus before meeting my “old” friends for lunch! Here’s the great thing about being 53 and getting together with friends from college…it’s always comfortable! It’s always easy! There was absolutely no awkwardness about it as we reminisced about old times but laughed and talked about what’s going on in our lives now too. The three of us met when we were 18 and 19 years old, and here we are…more than 30 years later…still able to fall right back in where we left off…without missing a beat! We talked about funny memories…it was the 80s when we were in college, after all! And they weren’t appalled by and didn’t make fun of my makeup-free, t-shirt clad look!

We’re all 30+ years older and wiser. I’d be willing to bet we’re even 30 years more fun…which would be quite an accomplishment, since we were a lot of fun in college! Next time I’m there, we’ll make time for some fun! One friend has a grown daughter in her 20s, and the other has two boys…both college age. I’m behind the curve with a 16-yr-old, but I loved that my daughter was there to meet these lovely ladies I’ve known for more than half my life. She enjoyed meeting them, and afterward, she told me she had decided, after meeting them, that maybe I was cool when I was younger after all! I’m not sure what she thought I was like before, but apparently, she wasn’t sure I was “cool.”

Over lunch, we also talked about actually planning a reunion…maybe another trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, since it’s fun, super easy, and in a cute town. Last time, we stayed at the lovely Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon (for info, click here) and took in a show at the Barter Theater, the State Theater of Virginia. The Barter is even staging shows during COVID at a local closed drive-in theater! (For info on The Barter Theater, click here.) Maybe next time, we can stay at the Martha Washington Inn again and look for some ghosts while we’re there. I’ve heard the place is haunted, but we didn’t encounter any spooky visitors while we were there. And the restaurant at the hotel, called Sisters, was fabulous.

Even more exciting to me is the possibility that I could see these ladies more often if my daughter opts to go to college in the town where they live! Wow! I could visit my daughter and hang out with my old friends too! Plus, she would have a couple of surrogate moms nearby.

I’m so glad we had our accidental reunion! It was a bright spot in the middle of all this COVID madness…a much needed visit with some dear friends.

 

Favorite College Care Packages

I had lunch recently with a friend from college. She has lived just about 45 minutes from me for years, and we didn’t even realize it till about three years ago. Last month, we finally went to lunch after talking about it for a long time, and now, we’ve decided to make it a monthly thing. She has four children, and her oldest is a freshman in college. She told me she is putting together a Halloween-themed care package to send him, including lots of his favorite little treats, and it reminded me of care packages my own mother used to send me…over thirty years ago, when I was in college. She was really good about sending boxes of fun, silly things, and sometimes, she would just send something as simple as a sweatshirt or a pair of fuzzy socks, but it always made me smile.

These days, it’s easier than ever to send care packages, and I’ll get into the easy ones later, but Mother used to send me things she had bundled herself, and those care packages were hard to beat. Don’t all college students love to get mail and packages? Sometimes, she would send small packages just for me, and sometimes, she would send a bigger bundle for me and a roommate. Here are a few examples of things she did:

  • Halloween Care Package in October. It included silly Halloween socks, the kind you get in the Dollar Spot at Target; my favorite Halloween candies; a few favorite snacks (chips, cereal bars, etc); plastic spiders; rubber snakes; glow-in-the dark plastic teeth; wax teeth; Halloween hair ties; Halloween t-shirt (you can get some pretty inexpensive ones in Walmart and Target); and if she were sending it now, she would have definitely included some gift cards to local eateries.Exam Care Package. At the end of November, she would send a big box as a care package for final exams. She would include lots of favorite snacks: Toastchee Crackers,Microwave Popcorn, Chips, Breakfast Bars, and some favorite candy. She might also include a MadLibs book…great stress-relieve entertainment for silly college students. A couple of People and Us Magazines were good for taking a break from studying. And she might have included some silly childhood toys like YoYos, Jacks, a Gyro-Wheel, an Etch A Sketch, and even a Wooly Willy…see below. Oh…and temporary tattoos…always fun. Squirt guns were a big hit! Childhood toys were always fun, because they were good for a laugh. Friends from all over the hall would take study breaks and come to my room to play with those silly toys.
  • Winter Care Package. In late January, she would send a Winter Care Package that included cheap gloves for me and my roommate, warm socks for both of us, cheap sock hats, a warm sweatshirt for each of us, packages of powdered hot chocolate, cheap ear muffs, and maybe some travel magazines that showed sunny destinations.

You get the picture. As the year progressed, she tried to put together thoughtful bundles. Sometimes they were all very similar, but she would include just one or two special items for a holiday….like those packages of Valentines you get in elementary school…she knew it would be fun for us to tape those on the doors of friends on our hall.

And after I graduated from college and moved to Atlanta, she would still send me care packages. My favorite was one she sent to me and my roommate in December. It was an Advent calendar in a box. The days weren’t on it, but there were two of the same wrapped gifts for every day of Advent, and she had the gifts numbered. I wish I could remember everything she sent. On the first day of Advent, we opened Christmas stockings. We didn’t have a fireplace, so I think we just hung them on the bar. The next day, we likely opened…you guessed it…socks. Big fat candy canes might have been day 3. Light-up antlers might have been day 4. Lights to hang in our apartment could have been day 5. You get the picture. She wrapped anything Christmas-themed she could find and put it into the box. 

Nowadays, though, if you don’t want to take the time to put together a care package, you can simply order online and have them shipped to your student. Simply go to Amazon.com and find regular care packages, but if you want themed packages, simply input what you’re looking for. I entered “Halloween Care Package” on the Amazon search, and I got several options. You can see them here. Another option is a monthly subscription to care packages through College Care Packages…see their options here. I have also found a fun company called Hip Kits that puts together care packages for college students, and they are a little different than the ones on Amazon. See Hip Kits here. 

And for some other unique care package ideas, go to Etsy.com and enter “care packages,” and you’ll get lots of unique results. Click here to see some of the options.

Also, don’t forget restaurant gift cards make great surprises for college students. Sometimes, too, I’ll just Venmo a little money to college students I know, and when I do, I say it’s for WAM (walking around money) and I add the emoji of the person walking plus the emoji showing a bag of money.

 

When I was in college and in my 20s, any time I left my parents’ house, Daddy would give me some “walking around money,” which we also called “WAM.” If you aren’t familiar with the Venmo app, it’s time to get with the program. It’s super easy to send money to friends/family with Venmo. If my daughter picks up the tab for her friend at Starbucks, the friend will send her $5 via Venmo. Get it?

But no matter what little happy surprise you choose to send your child…or someone else’s…they will be grateful. College is fun, but it can be stressful, and it’s always fun to receive a package or some walking around money.

College Orientation for Parents

I’m not poking fun. My child won’t be going off to college for three more years, so please don’t think I’m poking fun at students or parents, but I have a question:

When did colleges start having orientation for parents?

Like I said, I’m not poking fun, but when I went off to college orientation…way back in 1985…my parents didn’t go with me. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any parents there, and I certainly don’t recall any orientation sessions just for the parents. Of course, my memory could be failing. My parents felt college was my adventure.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. It just seems strange to me. Going off to college is a rite of passage for lots of new high school graduates, and to me, it was part of growing up. It was the beginning of more independence. It was something I did on my own. I don’t mean I paid for it. Nope…my parents paid…but they didn’t go to orientation with me.

They did go with me when I moved into the dorm my freshman year. They wouldn’t have missed that, and I wouldn’t have wanted them to miss it. But as soon as everything was moved in, we went to lunch, and they were on their way home. They didn’t want to stick around long enough for there to be any tears. Things have changed since 1985, and like I said, I’m not knocking it, but it seems like an interesting step… backward.

Trust me…when my daughter goes to college, I’ll be one of the parents participating in the parent orientation sessions, because I will feel like a terrible parent if I don’t. I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t go; I don’t need to get those dirty looks and whispers…I get enough of those now, and she’s not even in college yet! But why did colleges feel like they needed to start having parent orientation sessions?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t even know when it started.

When we were kids, we ran all over the neighborhood all summer. We were outside from the moment we got up till the neighborhood street lights came on…and sometimes later, if we got permission to play Kick the Can at a friend’s house. We loved playing Kick the Can in the dark…hiding behind trees, dashing about and trying not to giggle. We rode our bikes for miles a day. We went to different friends’ houses. And guess what? We didn’t even have cell phones! Not even a bag phone! Those things weren’t around yet. To find us, our parents had to go outside and call our names, or they had to call around to various friends’ houses, or they had to drive around the neighborhood.

It’s not that way anymore. We’ve all been told our kids will be kidnapped if they play outside. We think they’ll end up in the emergency room if they are left unsupervised.

Is the cell phone to blame?

Starting in the late 80s, people really starting getting cell phones, and the cell phone became more and more popular and sophisticated as time went on. Unlike any time before, we could all call each other anywhere, anytime. And with smart phones, we can now see where people are at any time. I have the Life 360 app, and I can see where my daughter’s phone is all the time. Does that mean she is with the phone? Probably…teenagers these days go nowhere without their phones. But don’t be fooled…there are ways to get around Life 360.

I know one teen who downloaded Life 360 to his iPad and removed it from his smartphone.  While he was out and about with his cellphone, his iPad was safely tucked away anywhere he wanted it to be, so it looked like he was where he was supposed to be. It’s true. If you want to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts and you pay for the cellphone, you might want to check that.

Parents know the whereabouts of their children…even college students…all the time. I thank my lucky stars every single day that my parents couldn’t always see where I was! Yet, I want my daughter to have the Life 360 app on her phone. Even when she goes to college, I will likely want her to have the app, and I will likely check it from time to time.

But will I want to go to parent orientation sessions at her college? I doubt it. I hate “mandatory” meetings…always have. If you want me to come to a meeting, invite me like it’s a party…and maybe give away prizes…and I’ll be all in. I especially hate meetings that are a waste of my time. Why do I need to know about her college or university? As far as I’m concerned, I’m supposed to move her in, pay for it all, visit occasionally, and talk with her regularly. I’m not calling for everyone to boycott parent orientation sessions. Some folks probably love the idea. I just think it’s strange that it wasn’t considered necessary for so long, and now, college has become a family affair.

By the time our daughter does off to college, if things keep “progressing” the way they have been, parents will have to go to class with their college freshmen for the first week of school.

Good luck to all of you who are attending parent orientation sessions this summer. God willing, I will be doing it too one day…but I don’t think I will like it.

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