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Posts Tagged ‘university’

It’s that time of year again: graduation season. My FB newsfeed is full of announcements, plans, invitations to graduation parties, and happy pictures. I remember Oldest Child going through this last year and next June, we’ll go through it again with Middle Child. It’s a wonderful, exciting (expensive!), time for the grads and their families and I really can’t wait for my other two boys to experience it, even if my bank account can.

As anyone who has graduated from anything knows, it can be daunting and overwhelming. It seems like everyone has such high expectations of you, but you might not know what comes next. Now, Oldest Child knows exactly what he wants to do and he’s set about it with admirable tenacity. Middle Child is thinking about it, but he’s undecided at the moment and that’s okay. There’s time to figure it out. Youngest Child bounces from being an FBI agent to working with animals in some capacity, but he has quite a while yet. We don’t put pressure on them to be one thing or another, but we do make it clear that they are expected to be able to support themselves after college, not as easy of a prospect today as it was fifty years ago. I want their college years to be good, to be well-spent, to help them into a fulfilling career, but most of all, to do something that they love.

It’s tough, though, this growing up business. College or work? What to study? How to pay for it? Community college or university? Commute or live on campus? Drink or don’t drink? Do what your parents want you to do or follow your heart? Focus and study, or party? High school graduates have so many options and possibilities, including ones that they haven’t opened themselves up to yet. I look at all of the happy pictures and wonder what’s ahead for these kids, these young adults who have their whole lives to live. This is the time that they can make adult decisions, sometimes affecting a single evening, sometimes affecting their whole lives. Good choices and bad, they will all contribute to the adult that they will become.

Me? I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school. I was overwhelmed in my first year of college and didn’t do very well, except for my theatre classes, which I loved. I had skated through the high school honors program with no problem, but my first year of college was a wake-up call. I didn’t know how to do anything for myself. A couple of years later, I started back to community college part-time, class by class, honestly applying myself this time, using up my savings bonds and acquiring (many, many, many) student loans. I decided on teaching because that’s what everyone told me I should do. Even though it turned out to not be the right decision for me, I was proud that I graduated from college even though it took me 15 years. Would I do it all over again that way? Not in a million years, which is why I’m trying to make sure that my boys are prepared.

In the end, though, each graduate has to decide what they’re going to do. They’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to screw up royally sometimes, some more than others. At this age, they’re very smart and savvy about certain things, but they really don’t understand what’s ahead. They don’t know how fast circumstances can change, how even though they think they have life figured out, they don’t. When that reality hits, it hurts, not only them, but their parents as well. We can’t just kiss the boo-boo anymore, they have to live with their decisions.

I remember, as I’m sure many of you do, those feelings of insecurity, but also of invincibility. It’s that feeling that contributes to the risky behavior that teens are famous for, although to different degrees for each individual. Some teenagers are just more mature than others. Brain studies show that the decision-making part of the brain isn’t finished growing until around twenty-one years of age and with some kids, that’s easy to see. I am definitely worried about the group of boys I saw in Kroger yesterday. Obnoxious in the store, reckless in the parking lot, their actions put other people at risk but they didn’t see that. They were only concerned with having a good time. I’m sure that if they would have hit someone with their cart or while fooling around in the parking lot, they would have felt terrible, but that regard for others was obviously not in their heads. I feel for these kids, although that kind of behavior is exactly why I did not want to teach high school and why I walk the other way from a group of teenagers unless I know them personally. Part of what makes me cringe is that I remember acting like a teenager and, as an adult, it embarrasses me. That’s one thing I would wish for our graduates: Try and understand how your actions affect others. If someone had told me that back then, though, I don’t know if it would have sunk in.

There are other kids, though, that seem to be light years ahead of the others in maturity and I feel for them, too. It’s tough to see what your peers are doing and make the choice to take the high road. I commend those kids, but I’d also like them to know that it’s okay to screw up once in a while, that even adults screw up a lot. That’s how we learn and as long as we know enough to not make those mistakes again, we’re doing all right..

Graduating high school is an achievement. Becoming an adult is really hard. I would love to tell our grads, my own included, that life, real life, for them is just beginning. This is one of the most exciting times of their lives, but they might not realize it until later on. Don’t waste it, don’t study something you hate or are ambivalent to because people tell you that you should. Don’t spend these years in a haze of intoxication or laziness. DO something to make your mark on the world in a good way. Be a force of light in the world. You are the next generation. What will you do to make life better?

A presto.

 

 

 

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Oldest Child leaves for college tomorrow. It’s sort of surreal at this point. We’ve been preparing for this well over a year now: college campus visits, approximately 10,000 pounds of college mail, discussions, decisions, scholarship applications, letters of recommendation, buying room supplies, money discussions, rule discussions (no burning couches!), the list goes on. The boy himself is just about ready. He’s been packing up his room all week long and will vacate today to allow Middle Child to move in so that tomorrow, we’ll only have to load the second car in the morning, the first car being loaded up tonight. It just doesn’t quite seem real, yet.

When a child is born, most parents, us included, immediately decide that the tiny little newborn will be going to college one day in the distant future. It won’t even be a discussion, since in this world, a college degree will soon be required to work at McDonald’s. (Not really. I made that up. But, it does seem like it.) And not even just a bachelor’s degree, for more and more jobs these days, it seems like a master’s degree is “preferred” and since I’ll be paying off my student loans until I retire (at 83), scholarships are not only a good idea, they’re necessary. Oldest Child has acquired a few of those, enough to make his debt load significantly lighter than mine with some really cool research opportunities to boot. Did I mention he gets to go to London for five weeks next summer for school? My favorite city in the whole entire world? Where there is amazing architecture and history and the TUBE… but I digress… The point is that college is expensive and I am so proud of him for taking the initiative so that he could follow his dream without sinking into deep debt.

I really haven’t processed this yet. I don’t know if I will tomorrow when I bring up the second car load or when I get home and it’s all over with or the first time I forget that he’s not home anymore. He has left to go on trips and to Band Camp every year, but this is new territory. I know he’ll be home, but really, it’s just to visit. This marks the beginning of his true independence, the chance for him to put everything he’s learned about life to the test: how to behave, how to make choices, how to get along with new people when he has to. In truth, I wouldn’t care if he got a degree in underwater basket weaving as long as he stays a good person and can support himself. Have you ever watched those What Would You Do? episodes where John Quinones watches to see if anyone will say something when a drink is spiked or a girl is harassed? It’s kind of like that. I hope he’s the kind of man who steps in and does the right thing, even when no one is watching, through college and beyond. I hope he doesn’t make stupid choices. I hope he misses me.

This is an amazing opportunity for him. I didn’t get to go away to college. My college career happened in spurts over several years until I finally got my bachelor’s degree and I feel like I missed out on the whole college experience. It was so difficult to do it that way, but I really didn’t have a lot of choices and although I have the satisfaction of finally accomplishing it, I didn’t want my kids to go through the same thing. So far, we’re 33% successful.

The cars are mostly loaded now. Oldest Child is out with friends, saying goodbye. We already had our family pizza dinner with a trip out for ice cream together. He’s not going very far, I can be there in less than two hours, but it will feel a million miles away. His brothers profess relief that he’s going, but I suspect that’s just bravado talking. They will have their own rooms for the first time since Youngest Child was two and Middle Child was, well, he’s never had his own room, so that part is genuine happiness. Still, Oldest Child has always been there, throughout their whole lives, so this will be new territory for them, too. They’ll only have each other to fight with. Hours-long games of Monopoly will be few and far between because it’s not as much fun with only two.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s not a sad goodbye. I’m eager to see him fly, to make his own way in the big world. I will rejoice in his triumphs, cringe at his mistakes, (We all make them, especially when we’re young.), comfort during his heartbreaks. I’ll try not to ask too many questions, try to refrain from giving my opinion unless I’m asked, but let him know that I’m always there for him and his friends. It’s good practice for the rest of his life, with the safety net of Marty Man and me to support him. Even as he leaves the nest, however, I still remember that sweet baby from long ago. They grow up, you know, and it really is a beautiful thing.

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