5 Things I Wish I Knew–Before They Went to College

Four years ago today, I posted this story after attending college orientation with my youngest. I can’t get my mind around how fast and fun these college years have been with both my kids. There’s so much I would do over if there were things called “do-overs.” I learned so much from the experience and want to share five things I wish someone would have told me before they left home.

 

This week I made the trek to the University of Utah to attend orientation with my daughter, who is an incoming freshman. Class of 2018 — does that sound scary or what?images-1

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

Second…images-2
A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

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Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

images-5Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…imgres-2
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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And just like that….it’s over

 

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Graduation day.

I am sitting at home after my morning walk with Waffles the pug, enjoying my cup of coffee–like nothing has happened. Yesterday at this time, I was driving across the desert from Cima to Amboy. I actually love that drive through the desert Mojave National Preserve and Sheephole Valley Wilderness. There is so much vast space—desert wilderness and craggy mountains with nothing but Joshua trees and wildflowers. We saw exactly one car going our way. There were five or six heading in the other direction towards Vegas.

We left on Wednesday to drive 652 miles for our daughter’s graduation. With my recent surgery, there’s no way I could sit in a car for 10 hours, so we broke it up with an overnight stay in St. George. I keep saying that I’d like to go to the beautiful sites around St. George like Zion National Park, but we’re always on our way to Salt Lake City with no time to explore. Someday, we say.

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Walking into the Huntsman Center for graduation.

 

So, to get on with the story, we drove for two days for our daughter’s graduation. She was also moving out of the house she’s lived in for three years. Needless to say, she has a ton of stuff and although most of the work was done, there wasn’t a lot of time to relax. On the day of her graduation, we were working out where to pack and ship boxes that would not fit in her storage unit with furniture, kitchen stuff and winter tires — or either of our cars. Then graduation happened. I was shocked to see literally more than a thousand graduates in her major. We skipped the general commencement and I’m glad about that. The David Eccles School of Business was plenty long and meaningful. Then it was off to dinner with her friends at one of our favorite places, Valter’s Osteria. It’s a perfect place for a celebratory meal. And we listened to three or four happy birthday songs while we ate a delicious Italian meal.

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This guy is mine for the next three months.

 

The next morning we were up early and she was letting in the carpet cleaners and throwing away junk left by the previous year’s roommates. On the road, we stopped to say goodbye to our dear friends, my husband’s childhood friend Pastor Scott of CenterPoint Church in Orem, who’s been a surrogate dad to our daughter these past four years.

Eventually, we made it home, and I wonder where the past few days went–let alone the past four years.  I haven’t had time to process graduation, much less have time to enjoy it. All I can say is I’m glad my daughter is home for a few weeks. It feels so right to have her here–although she will be leaving soon for her next adventure in life.

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And she’s a graduate.

 

 

 

Four years in the blink of an eye!

 

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Celebrating victory after the Utes vs. Cougar meet.

I was afraid I was going to have tears streaming down my cheeks. I forgot to bring tissues and I was feeling apprehension, anxiety, sadness and nostalgic all at once. It was the morning of my daughter’s last college home meet on “Senior Day” and the senior girls who gritted it out for four years of being D1 student-athletes were going to be recognized.

 

We moms of senior girls have been texting and emailing the past month or two planning ways to make this day extra special. I think that was one of way preparing ourselves for the end of our swim mom careers.

When we were at the airport leaving home, I was told the flight was overbooked and I was the one selected to be bumped. I couldn’t believe it. This was the second time in a row I got the lucky ticket! I showed the agent that I had purchased our tickets August 1st–more than six months prior! And paid full price! And was in their frequent flier plan. They said they were sorry, but the computer picked me to be “bumped” and they’d try to get someone to give up their seat. This was way too stressful for me and I think I cried more tears at the airport than any other time throughout the weekend. From kindergarten to her senior year in college, my daughter had worked hard at swimming and I was going to miss her final dual meet? Fortunately, someone took a $600 coupon, gave up their seat, and I made it to Utah.

Back to the morning before the last dual meet, I battled with getting my leg brace on. It took me three tries to get it on the right way and then I worried about being late for the short ceremony that was going to proceed the meet. I snapped at my husband and realized that I was feeling stressed over one of these “milestone occasions.” I wanted everything to be perfect.

On the drive to the pool, I settled down. I realized we weren’t going to be late and I began to think of great memories swimming has given our family throughout the years. It was my daughter’s birthday weekend and I recalled since she was a little girl, her birthday always fell on a swim meet. I remembered when she was 13, one of the “hot” fast swimmer boys told her “Happy birthday!” at the meet. After that, she was known as the “girl who so-and-so said happy birthday to.”

The ceremony went off without a hitch. I didn’t cry but thoroughly enjoyed every moment with the other senior parents. The girls routed their opponents who have been fierce rivals and just happens to be my alma mater’s number one rival. My daughter swam her last 1,000 of her collegiate career and did so well, especially since she’s been fighting an injury all season. Afterwards, we parents were on the pool deck giving hugs, taking photos and sharing memories from their college days. We got together for dinner, joined by our dear friends who live nearby and have welcomed our daughter into their home for four years. No one can believe how quickly these years flew by.

I didn’t cry like I thought I would. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because there’s one more meet to go, PAC 12s, their conference meet. I don’t think I’ll escape the tears then.

 

 

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Seniors at their last dual meet.

 

 

 

5 Things That Affect Academics

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My daughter swimming with club teammates during break at the home pool.

I received a letter from my daughter’s University — The Center for Student Wellness — with interesting information for parents of children of all ages.

They said in the letter that they’ve found on their campus five main issues that affect academics:

  1. Stress
  2. Anxiety
  3. Work
  4. Sleep
  5. Cold/flu/sore throat

imgresThe letter went on to explain that while sleep is fourth on the list, sleep affects everything else on the list. I’m not quite sure how they distinguish “stress” from “anxiety”  because they seem to go hand in hand. However, they state that lack of sleep can be mistaken for stress–which in turn can lead to anxiety. That can make your student more susceptible to getting sick–which also will affect academics. They suggest seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and keep a higher GPA!

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As the parent of swimmers, my kids were good sleepers. My daughter still swims and she has no problem falling asleep. Ever. 

My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim! It even works for me. I feel so much better after a good night’s sleep and I’m likely to get more work done and have a positive attitude.

Here are the tips from the University of Utah on getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning.
  2. Have a quiet, dark space to sleep in that is not too hot or cold.
  3. Be sure to remove distractions like televisions, iPods, computers, and tablets from bedrooms. Beds shouldn’t be used for activities like reading, watching movies, or listening to music.
  4. Begin powering down lights and electronics about an hour before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
  6. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes a day.
  7. Engage in regular physical activity.

BINGO! There is it. Number seven. If you have a child in athletics — particularly swimming — your child will sleep. Maybe that’s why they say that swimmers have the highest GPAs of all sports? Even though they get up at the crack of dawn for practice–they’ve had a full night’s sleep.

My kids during break.

My kids during break.

 

How does sleep or lack of sleep affect your day?

When you get that “alert” that your child’s college is on lockdown

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University of Utah campus view.

Last night my daughter texted me to say her college was on lockdown. Then, I began getting “alerts” from the University of Utah. It’s one of the worst feelings when you get notifications of a lockdown at your children’s college. Not only did I lose a night’s sleep with worry, but I’m so sad that our kids have to live through this. We never envisioned our kids living through terror-filled nights when we sent them off to college.

Other moms I know had an awful night, too, as we waited for news about our kids. We prayed for them to be safe. We commiserated by text and Facebook and I wish the world wasn’t such a scary place. Thankfully, my daughter is safe along with the children of my friends.

If you missed the story on the news today, a man with a long history of crime and run-ins with the law was camping with his wife in the canyon above campus. The wife left him for the University to report a domestic dispute. The husband must have followed her because next there was a shooting of Chen Wei Guo, a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from China.

In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, you can learn more details. Can you imagine sending your child to the United States as a foreign exchange student and finding out that he’s been shot and killed?

“University of Utah officials, fellow students and friends were coming to grips Tuesday with the Monday night shooting that left a student dead at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon.

“ChenWei Guo, of Salt Lake City, would have turned 24 on Sunday. 

“Guo was parked in his vehicle near the gate at the mouth of the canyon when 24-year-old Austin Jeffrey Boutain attempted a carjacking, police said. During the encounter, Boutain allegedly shot Guo, who suffered fatal injuries.”

Last night reminded me of a horrific night while my son was at the University of California at Santa Barbara a couple years ago. Here’s how that story unfolded:ucsb

View of the UCSB campus.

Friday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 

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 A view from a dorm room at UCSB.

Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing deceased male roommates who had been stabbed from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe we all tried to find a cause for this horrific tragedy to try and make sense of what had happened when that was impossible.

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.

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A Deltopia party picture.

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but just becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?

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The view of the beach from UCSB campus.

Maybe if this is the new norm, as awful as that sounds, we need to be more aware and prepared. I don’t know the answer to any of this, but I’m thinking our kids need to know what to do in the case of an emergency. Are colleges adequately ready to support our kids in times of danger? The alerts let them know when something is going on and does tell them what to do. That’s something that wasn’t around back when I was in college.

How would you prepare your kids for emergencies when they’re away from home?

Enjoy it while it lasts!

 

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Afternoon walk with Waffles in Salt Lake City.

Today while packing up after a fun weekend in Salt Lake City, where we went to two meets to watch my daughter swim and hang out with friends, I realized this part of my life is almost over. I checked the swim schedule to see what meets she has left and we’re down to only a few.

This weekend, I reconnected with a swim mom dear friend who has a son starting his freshman year. It was like no time has passed since we last sat together at a meet — rather than six or seven years. We also visited my husband’s best childhood friend, Pastor Scott McKinney and his wife Sara, who have made this area their home and founded a church, Centerpoint Church in Orem. After his powerful service, we sat together at lunch laughing so hard we cried as well as solemnly discussing the world’s problems. It’s been a highlight to reconnect with these friends, visit our daughter — and enjoy this part of the country.

I felt more than a little sentimental this morning. I like it here. I like the hotel we stay in, the Little America, like it’s a second home. I like their coffee shop because it brings back memories of my childhood with their comfort food of open-faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy and their weekend prime rib specials. I like the cool crisp weather, the spectacular views and changing fall colors of the leaves. I like the tall buildings downtown, where you’ll find the City Creek Center with its glass ceilings. I like the friendliness of the people and the clean bright city, which has a small town feel.

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Beautiful views from City Creek Center.

 

It seems like we just moved our daughter in for her freshman year. She got a notice Friday that she’s been accepted to study abroad for her last bit of school, so we’re already thinking about moving her stuff out and driving her car home. How weird is that? Especially when I say we just moved her up here! At least it feels like that.

When my kids were toddlers, older women would stop me at the mall or on the street and say, “Enjoy it while you can, because the time flies by.” Knee deep in the daily grind of bottles, baby food, diapers, laundry, endless picking up toys and chasing little ones, I couldn’t relate. Now I believe it and understand. Enjoy the swim team or whatever activities your child is in like it’s their last meet. Enjoy the visits to their college town. It’s over in a blink of an eye. And will you really go back without them there?

It’s not like I thought it would last forever, I just thought four years would take a bigger chunk of time.

How have you noticed time flying by?

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My daughter at the blocks at the HPER Natatorium.

 

Thoughts on Hair, Swimming and Momentous Days Ahead

My son is leaving the nest, really moving away.

This is different from leaving home to attend college. It’s a whole new world of parenting to have a college graduate—finally ready to be out on his own—and move away from us. Yes, it feels weird.

He came home over the weekend for a visit and a hair cut. He decided to stop getting hair cuts more than a year ago. He said he had this one time in his life, while in college, to grow his hair long. I didn’t like it one bit, but I did not argue with him.

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Days of short hair for both my kids.

I remember hair being a big deal in the 70s when I was a kid. My brother got suspended for having his hair reach his collar. My parents fought it and finally the school relented and hair restrictions were eliminated.  A few years before that, girls couldn’t wear pants to school and jeans were against the rules for boys and girls, too! Isn’t that wild to think about?

Two weeks before my son’s commencement ceremony, he drove home to get his locks chopped off. The length of his hair after the cut is still longer than it was during his 18 years at home. However, it’s a huge improvement over the “Robert Plant” do.

After graduation, he’s packing his car and renting a U-Haul trailer if necessary. Then he’s driving north to the Bay Area to pursue his dreams. Wow. I am working hard to get my head around that. He looks healthy and happy and it’s now officially his life.

 

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My daughter and teammates at the Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions.

My daughter has a big weekend coming up, too. This is after a week of getting perfect grades and an acceptance into Business School at her university. Her next momentous occasion is the meet at the Irvine pool. She’s trying for her lifelong dream of making Olympic Trial cuts. She’s been close for a couple years, but close doesn’t count in swimming–it’s not horseshoes.

I’ll be a nervous wreck at the meet. I hope and pray she’ll reach her goals. But if she doesn’t, I know she’s resilient, hard working and will have more goals to swim towards.

Most of all, I’m proud of the strong self-reliant adults my children have become! It’s been an amazing privilege to be their mom.

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With our girl after SMOC. One more meet to go!