Archive for the ‘school’ Category

I’m Fragile, But At Least I’m Organized

This is an emotional time in our house: our oldest is leaving for college and our youngest is starting high school.

I have no control over the events that are unfolding and I’m not ready.

It would be fine if I was the only one in the house who felt this way, but that’s not the case, of course. There can never be one person in the house who is stressed – it’s like a virus.

For instance, last week my younger son had tryouts for the high school soccer team and he was a bundle of nerves, so I was walking on eggshells wondering what I was supposed to be doing to be supportive. Should I ask him any questions when he talks about tryouts? Should I ignore him? Should we distract him? He would come off the field and I would try to find just the right amount of humor and silliness to take the edge off…unless he wasn’t in the mood for humor and silliness, in which case there was silence.

That was fun.

And, I’m overtired because I’ve been staying up late waiting for my oldest to come home from saying his goodbyes to friends leaving for college and then I’m up at the crack of dawn to drive my youngest to his tryouts.

No sleep + no control = over emotional mommy and that’s not a good thing…for anyone.

Then, of course, my son is leaving in 3 days (or three days, 11 hours and 26 minutes according to the Welcome Week page on the college website that I just checked).

3 days!

Why couldn’t he have left last year when he was a total pain in the ass? Last year I would have gladly moved him out of our house and into a dorm many, many hours away with barely a glance back.

But now he’s become sweet again and pleasant to be around and nice to his brother!

What is wrong with him!

So, yes, I’m fragile right now and I get teary-eyed at the littlest things. Yesterday, for instance, I got a delivery notification for a table I bought that will be delivered on August 25. My first thought: my son won’t be here to see it. I shed a tear!

It’s ridiculous.

Do I sound a bit manic? Well, I am. Nothing, at this moment, is within my control and I need to control something.

So I organize.

I may not be able to control what is happening in my life but I can control what goes into my junk drawer and how well my fridge will be organized.

Thankfully the times when I’ve felt that I’ve had little or no control in my life have coincided with packing and organizing.

For instance, moving after I got married was a bit overwhelming but I distracted myself by looking for great baskets and drawer organizers at the Container Store; having a baby was also a bit stressful but I passed the time searching for the perfect bin, box, and shelving system for my kid; and, when my dad was dying, I distracted myself by helping my mom unpack and organize the house that they had just remodeled and moved into.

I am great at organizing under duress.

Now, as I get ready to move my kid out of my house and into his dorm room I have become maniacal about plastic storage bins. Wherever I go I have found an endless supply of plastic bins in every shape, size and color you can imagine.

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And believe me, I can imagine a use for every one of them.

That three-drawer number in blue? It’s the perfect size for school supplies right next to his desk and a great height for a bedside table!

The extra long bin with the hinged lid? Perfect for storing wiffle ball bats, golf clubs and tennis rackets under the bed.

That little red container is perfect for first aid supplies! (Get it? First aid? Red?)

Don’t worry, I didn’t buy any color-coded bins…yet, and I’ve held back from slapping labels on the side of each container which, I realized would be mortifying for my kid but, believe me, I really, really want to!

My husband thinks I’m nuts and my kid just shakes his head but I don’t care.

I can’t control what’s going to happen to my kid but he will be the most organized freshman on campus…at least until I drive away.

Yet Another Thing I Will Miss When My Kid Goes to College

We are less than a month away from the day that we leave our older son behind at college and head home to a slightly emptier house.

In order to avoid thinking about that for too long, I have been putting my energy into dealing with all of crap that needs to be done before he leaves for school: dorm room shopping, doctor’s appointments, haircut appointments, clothes shopping and, as a last-minute stressor, wisdom teeth extractions.

I’ve also been cleaning out closets, reading articles about easing the transition, and trying to get a prescription for Xanax to help with my separation issues (just kidding – I actually bought a case of wine).

I am going to be ready…or so I thought.

This morning I found a box of donuts and a bag of gummi candies on our front porch. They were from my older son’s friends. Apparently, he’s been having a rough week that I was unaware of. Yes, I knew about his sun poisoning and previously mentioned wisdom tooth pain, but the other part of it—the possible end of a long-term relationship—I was not privy to. He turned to his closest friends for that support and they rallied.

See, the best way to cheer up my 18-year-old is to feed him, so that’s what they did.

I cried.

My son has the nicest friends; they really look out for each other. But, more than that, they are really a great group of kids to have around…and they are leaving, too.

I’m going to miss having them around.

I may bitch and moan occasionally because they are at our house a lot, but I really only care when I’m in the mood to sprawl out on the couch in my stretched out yoga pants, eat cookies and watch bad TV. (I try not to do that in front of the kids lest they think that’s what happens when you’re older than 45, move to the suburbs and have kids. I don’t want to scare them).

The reality though is they usually don’t mind if my husband and I are around—yoga pants and all. They sit with us and even invite us to play board games or poker with them. Once, when a couple of the boys were hanging out with us, one of the boys told my husband and me about his plan to go to Las Vegas with our son for their 21st birthdays.  “You should come, too,” he said.

“You probably won’t want your parents with you in Vegas on your 21st birthdays,” I explained smiling as I pictured the scene.

“Why? You guys are cool,” he said. And he meant it!

No, really. He meant it!

I could have cried but that would have shown him how un-cool I really am.

The fact that these boys don’t want to flee when we walk in the room is only one of the reasons that I like them. They work hard at their jobs and at school, they do charitable work without being hounded and they are respectful of our home. They may eat all of the ice cream but the bowls are in the dishwasher when they are done and the counters are wiped clean. I can’t get my 14-year-old to do that; hell, I can’t get my husband to do that!

But the best thing about these boys is that  they are really, really nice to my youngest son.

That wasn’t always the case with my oldest son’s friends but, somehow, over the years, the friends who were mean to his little brother stopped being part of his posse.

I know it’s not easy to have a little brother around all the time (I’m a little sister, after all) but no one seems to mind him or, if they do, they don’t let it show. Half the time, a couple of them will be hanging out with him in our family room while the rest of the group is in the basement. Other times they invite him to join in. Just the other night my husband and I came home and found our youngest beating the older boys at poker, the next day he was playing tennis ball golf with them, and, as I write this, one of those boys—his “brother from another mother”—is working out with him as he prepares for soccer tryouts.

I’ve been worried about how my youngest is going to handle the separation from his brother but I didn’t think about how he might deal with the separation from his brother’s friends.

Thank God for social media…

I, am only “friends” with one of the boys on Facebook (his request, not mine) so I will have to get my information from my kids or hear snippets when they are back for school breaks.

In the mean time it will be odd—and a little quieter—without them around.

They will be missed.

 

A Different Angle

As I dropped my youngest son off this morning for the last day of his sophomore year in high school I was reminded of the day, two years ago, when I dropped off my oldest son at his high school for the last time before his graduation. Ugh! That was an ugly cry day for me. But, as is often the case in parenting, I survived and moved on to the next tearful/joyous/stressful moment.

So, for all you parents filling my Facebook feed with posts about the difficulty of suffering through a child’s last days of high school or college I thought I would re-share this post, originally published on May 22, 2014, to remind you that these days are not ends but beginnings – it just depends on your perspective.

Today was the last full day of high school for my oldest son. Yesterday was the last Wednesday and tomorrow will be the last time he sets foot in the school as a student.

I’ve been doing this morbid mental list of last moments for months now. Yesterday I even took a photo:

 

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The Last Wednesday I will ever pick him up from school!

 

The hardest moment, up until this week, was: this is the last birthday we will celebrate with him at home.

I’ve tried not to think about that one for too long.

I can’t stop myself. It’s such an automatic reaction that, this morning, I found myself thinking: this is the last time he will carry his lunch to high school in this black lunch bag—ever!

It’s an illness.

Obviously, I know that he will return home at some point (to visit, hopefully, not to live) but I know it won’t be the same.

As much as I complain about having to wait up for him on the weekends at least I know where he is at night. I also like sitting around the dinner table almost every night even if the meal takes 45 minutes to prepare and only 10 minutes to consume—at least I know that we have those 10 minutes!

Yes, he will eat meals with us again and I’m sure I will still want to wait up for him when he is back from college (although I guarantee I won’t make it past the first weekend) but today marked the last day that I will drive him to and from school. Those few minutes in the car every morning and every afternoon felt like stolen moments for me. Facing forward in our seats with no pressure to “have a conversation” my son would chatter away about his classes or who did what during the day at school, but once we walked into our house all conversation would stop.

I know that I will never have an opportunity like that again, at least not every day.

And, yet, this is as it should be. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

My son, through his own sadness today, pointed out that the end of high school is just the beginning of his independent life as a college student, a time filled with many firsts for him (many I’m sure that I don’t want to know about). “It’s all about perspective, mom,” he told me.

I’ll give him perspective.

For instance, today’s last lunch in his black lunch bag means that tomorrow will be the first time in nine years that I won’t have to make two lunches every day!

The last time he lives at home will be the first time I won’t have to do his laundry or yell at him to do his own laundry (at least for a few months but, that’s something).

And the last time he eats dinner with us before he leaves for college with be the first time that I don’t have to be annoyed that he has his ear phones on and can’t hear me so I have to text him in the other room to let him know that dinner is ready and I need the table set!

Perspective is a funny thing.

And it works the other way, too. I started thinking about my kids “first” moments—first steps, first words, first day of school. Those moments were also lasts if I shift my point of view. For instance, my first son’s first steps marked the last time I would be able to sit down for any length of time until my kids went to school. Had I known what his walking and eventual running, followed closely by climbing and jumping actually meant for me I may not have been so enthusiastic about taking photos of him walking – I may have taken photos of me lounging on the couch or sitting at the table enjoying a leisurely meal.

It is all about perspective.

More notable, yet unrecorded last moments masquerading as firsts:

My son’s first words = the last time I would able to have an adult conversation without being interrupted by a child’s questions.

His first “big boy” bed = the last time I would sleep in my bed (for eight years!) without a child climbing in at 5:30 am.

His first pair of big boy underwear = the last time I changed his diaper. Now that moment really should have been captured in a photo.

I guess my son was right, although he probably didn’t realize that he was doling out parenting advice. Parenting really is about your point of view. If you try to see things from a different angle it may not be as bad as it seems.

 

Dear College Admissions Officers

Dear College Admissions Officers-

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to make a plea for my kid to get into your school. I am submitting an application for you to complete for my consideration of your school.

See, if I’m going to sell myself to the devil in order to help pay for my son’s education, I think I have the right to make you impress me.

Yes, we’ve visited the schools, attended the info sessions and reviewed the websites to make sure that you are a good fit for my kid but really, is that enough?

I know that you are going to put on your best face to appeal to me and my kid. You will have the best-suited kids give the tours and sit on the discussion panels but we all know that those kids reflect the top 5% of your student body. I want to see the other 95%. Do all your students have double majors and triple minors and have they all started their own companies/written a novel/cured a disease?

Really?

Sure, you could argue that you don’t need my kid – there are thousands of kids who would happily take his spot. That is why I’m petitioning every parent of a future college student to include this application as part of the process going forward.

Don’t be intimidated by the questions. They are quite simple. In fact, many of them are very similar to the ones that you asked my son to answer on your application so, yes, they may seem a bit familiar*. This is designed to make it easier for you and, more importantly, to explain what you were thinking when you wrote the question asking a 17-year-old what part of your strategic vision most appeals to him.

Please review the application questions carefully. Any misstatements will be held against you. Also, should your word count exceed the stated word limit your application will be deleted and you will be mocked.

  1. Please describe in 100 words or less what a real dorm room is like using at least four out of the five senses (bonus points for using taste). Please do not describe the dorm room that is used on tours, you know, the one decorated by Bed, Bath and Beyond and unoccupied by an actual student.
  2. Please explain why your campus food service is now limited to fast food chains and how you feel that three meals a day at Panda Express and Jimmy John’s will provide adequate nutrition for my child. Feel free to include medical journal articles in support of your answer.
  3. My family’s strategic vision promises to make my children competent members of society and to cultivate skills to enable them to contribute to society without asking family members to clean up after them. Please describe, in 300 words or less, how providing laundry service instead of forcing students to do their own laundry will promote our vision.
  4. Name one dish you would prepare for my family if we were invited to dinner at your home?
  5. Tell me your favorite joke and explain how telling me a joke will make me want to send my kid to your school.
  6. Do you have a scholarship for students of Eastern European Jewish/Greek Orthodox descent whose grandparents were in the scrap metal and/or restaurant business? If not, why not?
  7. Will my kid get a job when he leaves your school or will he be living with me again in four years? In 300 words or less tell me why I should believe you.

Applications must be submitted by midnight tonight. You will hear from us via email or possibly snail mail by March 18 or March 25 or possibly earlier, unless it’s later, depending on our mood.

Thank you for your prompt response,

Exhausted Mom of a College Applicant

*See if you can guess which questions were based on real application questions.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, it’s not Christmas, it’s back-to-school time!!

I have always loved back-to-school time but as I’ve gotten older my reasons for loving it have changed.

When I was a kid I loved shopping for supplies and buying new fall clothes. I still get the itch to buy a nubby sweater in mid-August just so I have something new for school. And, of course, I loved buying school supplies because there is nothing better than a brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons. (Burnt Sienna and Periwinkle will always have a special place in my heart).

Then, once I had kids, back-to-school time was equally exciting because the kids were excited (and I could buy Crayola crayons again- yea!). Everything was new: New teachers! New classrooms! And, even though their friends lived within a two-block radius and they spent their days together at the park the kids still couldn’t wait to see their friend IN SCHOOL and have recess IN SCHOOL!

As the kids have grown, all of our attitudes toward back-to-school have changed.  I still buy school supplies – but they are no longer as interesting to buy. Now it’s more like a scavenger hunt. Do you know how hard it is to find a composition book filled with 4×4 graph paper? I don’t think it actually exists. I think the teacher just puts it on the list because he hates us.

And the kids don’t even look forward to school anymore. First of all, they no longer get recess which, lets face it, was always the best part of school and second, they don’t need to go to school to see their friends because they are always at my house.

Which is why I’m singing Christmas songs.

The most wonderful time of the year has to be back-to-school time because I get my house back – at least from Sunday night through Friday afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong; I like that my kids have their friends over but there are times when I would really, really (really) like to put on my pajamas at 8:00 pm and sit on my family room couch within striking distance of the fridge.

We have a basement but it’s not very large so the 15-20 kids who end up at my house are usually sprawled on my family room couch. Even if they are in the basement I don’t want them to come upstairs to find me in my Mickey Mouse pajama top dipping into a box of cereal with a white wine chaser.

Some things are really best done privately.

The problem isn’t just that these kids are at my house all night. It’s that our youngest has his friends over from the time he wakes up until dinner, when his older brother’s friends are just arriving.

You are probably wondering why I just don’t kick them out – tell them to find someone else’s house to hang out in.

Then you are clearly not the parent of teenagers.

I want them here because I know where they are and who they are with. If I kick them out, even once, I’m afraid they will end up at the house where no one strolls through the kitchen casually making eye contact to check for dilated pupils or smelling for beer and tequila.

And, so, I put up with the inconvenience of eating popcorn (and sometimes dinner) in my bed with my comfy clothes on—but no pajamas—and I patiently wait for the “Hap, Happiest Season of All”: Back to School.

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