why are you STILL here? Now THAT is the question…
Aaaargh!!!! ” I need to graduate soon!”
This delightful statement came from the mouth of my 21 year old son who is slated to graduate from College in May 2014. I poked my head in his room against my better judgement and said coyly, “not soon enough for me buddy! Hurry up already so you can get out and stay out for good this time!!” He looked at me, smiled and shook his head all while he fully understood where I going with that statement..
Hang tight for a minute as I take you through the journey of getting a child in AND through college. It was not a painless process and I am not talking about money either although we all know what it costs to keep a child in higher Education. There is a myriad of reasons so many children start but never finish college that has nothing to do with finances..
Four short years ago, we watched with joy as this first child of mine applied for his top schools, got into his favourite institution and had such “senioritis” at the end of his high school journey, I thought I would have to tie him down somewhere before he imploded with impatience. All I could see was one down- one to go before my nest was empty and I began getting him prepared to leave my house, hopefully never to return except for holidays.
So off he went. We got to the school, unloaded the cars and helped him to set up his dorm. I could see his brother getting quieter as each moment went by that took us closer to leaving his sibling on campus and away from him for the first time ever. I could hardly help him because my eyes got fuzzy and this lump grew in my throat that no amount of swallowing could fix. I held it together, we kissed him goodbye and as we traversed down that highway for the long drive home, his brother silently cried. I consoled him by saying his brother would call or text often yada, yada, yada..
I walked in the house, curled up in my bed and cried for three solid days. No amount of words could console me and even as I write this piece, I feel the tears returning at the memory. My ex-husband made me laugh a tiny bit when he said ” stop the crying, he is fine. If he flunks out, we will both be crying at the thought of all that money down the drain!” Men…. By ” family and friends day” on Campus, we were all a little better and by Thanksgiving, when he got home, I was so ready for him to leave because he had adapted to living on his own and drove me nuts.
He ran into a couple of snags dealing with campus cultural insensitivity but aside from that, he kept those grades up and developed a social life which included joining the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Year one and two were pretty easy. We barely saw him and that worked just fine. The issue we did not foresee, was how much his leaving would affect his younger brother who spiralled in a way that affected his grades. It was hellish on this end, trying to understand what was going on because he ( younger son) never alluded to what was bothering him until I had just had enough and grounded him for a really bad grade. That ended well once we had clarity and I would put him on a train to go and visit his older brother once in a while, which made him so happy.
Then, it happened. In October of year three, something Took place we had no clue about except when he came home for Thanksgiving, he was withdrawn and miserable. No amount of asking resulted in an answer except this; ” I am so over being there. Can I just transfer to another campus?” When I dug a little deeper, still no definitive answers, so we sent him back to school after the break with the solution that he would see his advisor and discuss his options for transferring. By the second week in December, his father and I received a call that stopped our hearts and without another thought, we both went flying up that highway to find him. What we were told was gut wrenching to say the least and we made the decision on the spot, that he was to be transferred immediately after some discussion with him. The school was very helpful in part, because they were very aware of what happened and did not contact us. Their reason? These kids were over 18 and since nothing happened physically to our child, it was assumed all was well.
In short order, he was transferred to a campus near home and it was decided he would not get an apartment but stay with us until he was ready. He started classes on time, took all his tests, took courses over the summer and got a coveted job working for a company he always admired. He has saved all his money while eating all my food, using all my electricity and amenities and found his way to the place where he is graduating on time before his 22nd birthday.
Some lessons we learned along the way that many parents could do well to heed:
- Don’t cling as your child leaves for college but DO pay attention to what they may need
- Give them room to explore and find new avenues of growth
- Pay attention to simple signs that something may be wrong when they are not behaving in the manner you are accustomed to
- Do not try to solve all their problems. Let them find their way with Advisors etc. We allowed our son to make those decisions and it empowered him to be his own advocate when he needed support.
- See how the siblings left behind are faring. Chances are, this truly affects them too.
- Pray and do not stop praying when they are out of your sight. Things happen in Colleges that parents are not often aware of until it is too late.
- Keep your child grounded with solid expectations. It works.
The time is now upon us where my youngest child is getting ready to head off to College and this time, armed with what I do know, I can’t wait to get rid of him too.. Hallelujah for the empty nest!!
Posted on February 19, 2014, in College Bound, Education, Empty nesters, family, huffinton Post, sons, Writing and tagged college-readiness, culture, Education, Family, Life, love, mental-health, parenting, society. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.