Leaving the Nest for the Ride Called Life

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My son and friend near the beginning of the ride called life.

My son who graduated from college at the end of summer is gainfully employed, living almost 500 miles away in the San Francisco Bay area. He’s worked at a couple of jobs, one which he quit because it was too difficult. It was long-term substitute teaching for English as a Developmental Language–in one of the worst school districts in the nation. It was a good try on his part, but he said it was stressful beyond belief. He had no training to do that job, he said, and there was little support. Next, he found a part-time retail job so he could focus on applying for “real jobs.” Although he liked the retail job, it barely covered rent.

His first week of a “real job” has come to a close, and I am proud to say that as an overly involved swim mom and parent, on his first day of work I DID NOT call him to make sure he was out of bed. I was relieved when he called me a little after 8 a.m. and said he was outside the building with 17 minutes to spare! Whew! I can’t tell you how much that phone call meant to me. He must have known exactly what I was going through.

It’s now time for me to really, really step back and let him fly. I raised a kid who can actually get out of bed, work out, make breakfast and get to work on time! Who knew?

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My son when he was three.

We had an interesting discussion when he accepted his current job, and then got an offer from a second company. He said he might like the second company better, but felt it wasn’t ethical to rescind the first offer because he had committed. I asked a few people in HR and other jobs in business, and they said it happens all the time and it isn’t viewed as unethical, but rather people have to look out for their best interest.

After relaying this info to my son, he interviewed again with the second company and was told they’d email him an employment contract by the end of the day. His start date was to be Monday, the same start date that he had with the first company. Two days passed and there was no employment contract—and they didn’t return his phone call!

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My son a few years ago at Junior Lifeguards.

I worried that he had already given notice to company #1. I texted him and asked. I couldn’t wait to find out if he had given notice to his part-time retail job, rescinded the for-sure position for a “fly-by-night” operation that had flaked out. Would he be moving home because there was NO JOB?

“I’m not stupid!” was the reply I received. He started working the following Monday at company #1 and loved it. He loves the people, the company and is feeling good. What a big step in his life to not only graduate from college but land in a job he likes.

I’m relieved and will sit back and enjoy his ride–and not try to dictate or direct it, but just be proud and thrilled for him. I’ll enjoy watching where his journey will lead.

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All grown up and ready to fly.

 

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The Roller Coaster Ride of Parenting

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My son and swim team friends years ago.

We were leaving tomorrow for my son’s college graduation. I’m packed and I was on my way to swim practice when he texted me. He said he has a bunch of papers that are due on Monday and he doesn’t have time for graduation activities.

It’s been a tough quarter for him with prolonged illness—weeks and weeks of getting sick and staying sick.

The announcements are out. The celebratory dinner was set, grandpa’s hotel room booked. We have friends and family coming in for the graduation ceremony. But, one thing will be missing. My son.

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The day we moved my son into his dorm room at UCSB.

He’s planning on graduating, mind you. But, he doesn’t have time to celebrate and attend the activities. Seriously, why did his college schedule the ceremony the weekend before finals and when papers are due? I don’t know the answer to this. 

On my daughter’s side, we spent the weekend at her target meet to qualify for Olympic Trials. She swam well, made it to finals, but didn’t achieve the cuts she was looking for. She’s been so close, but in all honesty, it’s too bad she tripped and sprained her ankle last summer, chasing a bus. My point is that it’s hard to make a cut at a last ditch meet. There’s too much pressure and it might have been easier to make it during last year’s long course season.

Do I love my children any less? No, I do not. In fact, I’d say they are truly growing up and experiencing the difficulties of adulthood. Disappointments do occur. Things do not always go as planned. It’s how we react and handle ourselves that will determine success or failure. I don’t want them to give up on their dreams.

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Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

How to Help Your Grad Avoid Angst and Anxiety

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We’re approaching countdown days for my daughter Kat’s high school senior year. These last few months are busy, hectic and getting busier. She seems, how shall I put this? A tad bit cranky.

I’ve shared my son’s senior year with you in “My Son Wrote about his Crazy Mom for his Senior Project.” I have no intention of reliving that experience with Kat!

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What is it about the senior year that turns the smiliest kids into negative nellies?  Why do they hurl hurt at the ones who love them?

My daughter came into the world in fits of colic. I’ll never forget holding her screaming, wiggling little body for months — never able to calm or soothe her. Good meaning friends would say, “try the football hold,”  “press her tummy,” or “give her castor oil.” The moment my husband walked through the door I’d pass her off in the football hold, “Here! Take her!”

By 5:05 p.m. he’d pass her back, “I can’t take this!” and he’d leave the house. Relief would come to me around midnight, when the bright orange-red baby would fall asleep.  Miraculously, one day her colic passed — and I am not making this up — it was on her Baptism day.

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From that day on — until a couple weeks ago — I’ve had the pleasure and joy to be Kat’s mom. So what’s going on now to have her continually snipe at me?  I have joked with other moms that kids act out to make separation easier for us. We’ll push them out the door happily when the time comes.

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Last night, my husband urged Kat to sit down and talk with me. We sat on a double-wide chaise lounge in the backyard and she apologized for being so snarky. She confessed there is a lot going on and sometimes she feels out of control!

First, she told me that a good friend isn’t acting like a friend. This is someone she’s been close to for years. We had a discussion about how friendships change and it’s not anyone’s fault.

Second, kids and teachers from school question her college choice. I beg you all —  parents and kids: “People choose colleges for many different reasons, and we have no right to second guess or challenge their choices!” She could have gone to any number of prestigious schools and she picked the one that felt right. That’ s all we need —  throw in doubt when a kid has made a great choice! Don’t go there!

Third, she has normal fears of leaving home for the first time, like leaving friends and her home.

She also said I need to man up and not be so emotional about it, too!

My advice to parents of seniors, is talk to your kids about what they might be afraid of and what is stressing them out. Realize that you are going through a transitional phase, too. We need to give our kids space, but be there for them when they need a shoulder to lean or cry on.

Photos in order: My daughter in a peaceful moment during the colic days, my son and friends, Kat’s big yawn (thankfully not a cry), and my happy kids during the greatest days of my life.
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What is your child anxious about going away to college?  I’d like to create a top ten list and your input will help!

My Son Wrote about His Crazy Mom for His Senior Project

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“I had no idea your life was so difficult and that your mom was so ‘crazy.’ Your senior project made me cry.”

I found these words scrawled in a handmade card to my 18-year-old, valedictorian son, wedged next to the front seat of my car.

I couldn’t breathe. Then I howled. My beautiful first born. The little pee wee with the stocking cap and button nose who stared at me with huge eyes the day he was born. The toddler with white blond curls who called me “Sweetheart.”

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This stranger living in my house made his senior project about me? The horrors of living with me? After everything I had done for him? Years filled with volunteering as a room-mom, midnight trips to the ER for his asthma, driving to the Getty for field trips, opening our house for movies nights and spaghetti feeds. Me?

A friend with older kids warned me that the senior year “can be kind of tough.”

No kidding! I never dreamed how hard. I found myself at odds with this person, who used to be my best friend. I alternated between yelling, cajoling and pleading with him to finish college applications, meet countless deadlines and study for exams. No wonder he called me crazy.

The stress of applying for college proved to be filled with potholes, no, make that sinkholes — the kind that swallow entire houses and families. What to declare as a major, where to live, what to write for a personal statement are enough to stress out the calmest kid.

So what else makes applying to college so awful?  Try these numbers on for size:

• More than 3,000,000 high school seniors apply to college in the US — never mind the ones throughout the world trying to get into our top schools!

• The number of students who apply to seven or more colleges has grown from 9% in 1992 to 29% in 2011. 

• Yale’s applications doubled from 2002 to this year, topping 30,000.  Yale accepted roughly 2,000 in 2013.

• Harvard has nearly 35,000 applicants, 2029 admitted in 2013.

• Number of applicants for University of California Santa Barbara in 2013 was 62,413, They had 4,550 in the freshman class last year.

• UCLA is one of the most applied to schools in the country, with nearly 100,000 applicants, and they admit 15,000.

Between December and graduation, my son received eight out of nine college rejections –further making him love me, hate me, turn to me in need, and then reject me again. I could do nothing to help his torment. In the end, he accepted admission to his one school.

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Hang in there moms of juniors and seniors. When it seems like there is nothing you can do to help, take a deep breath.  Be there for support and offer advice if they ask for it. Love them, even if they are undeniably rude. Forgive yourself if you lose your temper.

I believe our kids take out their fears and frustrations on those they love most.

I am happy to report that two years later, the stranger living in my son’s skin has disappeared. I have a son who calls me the moment he finishes a final that he knows he’s crushed. He calls to ask how to cook chicken stir fry.  And he calls to say he loves me.

Photos: (top) My son during graduation. (second) a beautiful baby, (above) my son when he was at the age when he thought my name was “Sweetheart,” and (below) a view of my son’s university. Not too shabby, after all.

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