Archive for August, 2014

No news is good news

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

On Wednesday, it will be two weeks since we said goodbye to Jennifer Lynn at Pepperdine where she is beginning her freshman year. Since then, my Inbox has been filled with emails from the Federal Student Loan Department, the company assigned as the loan servicer, and the Financial Aid office at the school.

I feel very well informed about the indentured servitude that we have entered into in order for her to attend college. But when it comes to hearing from Jennifer with the news that I am really interested in knowing such as “Are you making friends? How do you like your professors? How’s the food at the cafeteria?” And just because she doesn’t live at home any more, doesn’t mean I’ve given up my maternal right to nag…”Have you written a thank you note to your aunt yet?” – the communication from Jennifer has been very sparse.

I’ve gotten three texts from her in 12 days and one of the messages was at 2:13am. She let me know she has been super busy but she “feels good about coming here.” Hmmm, what is going on at 2am that is making her feel so good? I would be more worried if I didn’t know the school was serious about enforcing curfew times for boys and girls dorms.

Even though I miss hearing Jennifer monologue about the details of her transition to college life, not hearing from her is actually good news because we had a very different experience with her older sister’s adjustment to going away to college. There were many teary phone calls from Valerie telling us how she missed home and that she felt like she didn’t fit in.

Looking back at that time in our lives, we have commented that we were glad we didn’t have Skype set up. It’s tough enough listening to your daughter weep, but watching the tears roll down her cheeks? It might have been enough to put us over the edge. I know more than once we were darn close to jumping into the car and barreling down I-5 on a mission to rescue her from school in Southern California.

If the alternative to having lots of communication with a very unhappy freshman is not hearing from her at all because she is so busy mixing and mingling and taking every opportunity to get plugged into the campus environment, I’ll take the latter.

So until she carves out a few minutes to call or text or email or Skype, I’ll just keep checking her Instagram account. If anything really noteworthy happens, I’m sure I can find out about it there.

It’s downhill from here

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

It was a week ago that we loaded up the car – good thing Steve has a roomy xTerra and not a Mini Cooper – with six boxes, two suitcases and a trash bag full of the stuff that Jennifer Lynn determined was essential for beginning college life at Pepperdine.

Fortunately, we were able to arrive the day before “Move In Day” so Jennifer could scope out the campus – which she had never set foot on – before it was swarming with overwhelmed freshman and their anxious parents. Based on the campus setting alone, Jennifer is one lucky – make that blessed – girl to be able to go to school there. It has an absolutely spectacular location – just up the road from the Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu. We bought lunch in the cafeteria and ate on the terrace enjoying the warm breeze and beautiful vista.

I left the campus smitten with the setting but dreading the actual move-in process the next day. I envisioned a line of cars creeping up Pacific Coast Highway, slowly making their way past the security gate and then finding the parking lot closest to the dorms totally full. That’s when the hillside setting was going to turn to a liability because going anywhere on the campus involves at least 500 steps straight up. Steve dubbed it “StairMaster U.” Jennifer’s favorite hardback Harry Potter novels and free weights that she packed? They might just have to make the return trip home to Northern California.

However my fears were unfounded. On Move In Day, we breezed onto campus, briefly stopped at security for a Visitors Pass and then proceeded to a parking lot where we were greeted by a swarm of the orange-shirted leadership students pointing Jennifer in the direction of where to pick up her lanyard and where to get her student ID photo taken. There was no line of waiting students at either table.

From there, we were told to get back in our car and follow the winding road up to Jennifer’s dorm. About every 500 feet, another group of kids in orange shirts cheered their welcome to Pepperdine while Jennifer tried to not look too embarrassed in the back seat.

And here’s the best part:  when we arrived at Jennifer’s housing unit, the orange locusts descended upon our car and carried every box – and  practically every other item in the car that wasn’t nailed down – into her room. It didn’t even need to wear my sensible shoes; the helpful orange-aides took care of everything!

The efficient organization of the school continued for another two days of parent orientation activities and through the week for the incoming freshman. The program was structured without feeling like we were in boot camp.

Was it hard to say goodbye to Jennifer? A little but made much easier by knowing that she is in a great place and I’m not just talking about the view.

More to follow.

Emptying the nest

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

A week from today we will be on I-5, heading to Southern California to get Jennifer Lynn moved into her dorm room at college.

Other parents I talk to tell me that yes, it’s hard when your youngest child leaves home but that you get used to it, and in fact, it doesn’t take all that long to really start enjoying having the house all to yourself.   I’ll have to take their word for it, because if you were to ask me right now if I’m excited about being an empty-nester, the answer would be no.

If it were possible, I would time travel back to when our three kids were 4, 8 and 12 and I knew of their exact whereabouts every minute of the day. It’s not that I wanted to check on them because I was concerned that they were doing something they shouldn’t be; for the most part, our kids followed the rules. But knowing where they were, gave me a sense of security and control.

Now that they are 18, 22, and 26, asking them to wear an ankle bracelet and report in at the end of the day so that I can be assured that they are safe isn’t really an option. There’s no way I can replicate the time we they were little and piled around us on the couch watching “Mr. Bean” on TV on Saturday nights.

I’m finding being a parent of adult children every bit as challenging as when they were little. It’s not as demanding on a day-to-day basis but the stakes are higher for the choices they make. Long gone are the days when I can tell them what to do and when they ask why, the answer is “Because Mom says so.”

Here’s where some faith comes in. Thinking that I was the one in charge of their lives when they were young was really a false sense of security. And now that they are adults, I have to trust that the One who really watched over them as kids, is still watching over them. Amen.

Practically educated

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Our daughter, Jennifer Lynn, finally got around to sending a thank you note to her aunt for the check she received as a graduation gift. It took Jennifer two tries to correctly format her aunt’s address because she didn’t know where in the address block to put the zip code.

Jennifer is the product of 12 years of public education in which she has gained the skills to be able to write a 3500 word essay for her International Baccalaureate program titled “Futurism and the Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin.”  However, when it comes to knowing how to address an envelope, she is lost.

As I’ve watched my own kids struggle with some of the basic tasks that are part of being an adult, I have come to believe that in addition to teaching college level math, history and English, schools should also teach the facts of life. I’m not talking about sex education; that’s been part of their curriculum since they were in fourth grade. I mean the facts of life such as how to write a check, how to mail a package and how to set up a basic filing system.

Whenever I read about a program designed to teach students “life skills” such as these, it seems to be targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds or at-risk students. This kind of attitude breeds elitism. Apparently, students in higher socio-economic levels are so special that they needn’t concern themselves with the more mundane tasks of life.  They can spend their school days debating philosophical differences in obscure literature and the “poor” kids can get their hands dirty with the realities of day-to-day life.

I believe that all students would benefit from learning practical, routine, administrative assistant-type skills. Just because a student has a 5.0 grade point average or isn’t struggling financially, doesn’t mean that they actually know anything.

Challenging students to study Calculus is fine but when it comes to learning information that they will actually use, they would be better off spending a little less time learning complicated equations and a little more time learning why they got charged  a $30 overdraft fee on their checking account and how to navigate their way through Wells Fargo’s phone tree.