Crazy Sock Day

Tomorrow is the third and final round. Sounds conclusive, eh? In most ways I suppose it is. Like an irrevocable binding; an ending that can’t be rewritten, whatever happens tomorrow will happen no matter how much I wish we could go back. I stood in line at Target yesterday and listened to a six year old (I am assuming her age) hold up to two pairs of brightly colored socks and ask her mother about this oddity on the camp calendar call Crazy Sock Day. The blue eyed girl’s excitement was palpable and I considered for a moment telling the mother to put down her phone, unsure as to whether her enthusiasm over Sock Day equaled its deserved delight. Instead, I reluctantly kept my lump in my throat right where it belonged and daydreamed all the way through the checkout line about the many years I prepared my three kids for camp each summer.

The thing is, tomorrow my baby is not leaving for her last summer at camp, but instead she is heading off to college. Of course, this is where she is supposed to be going. It is all part of that path that we set them up to journey as toddlers and, if we are successful, they slowly break away from our guidance and keep on marching in the right direction. Yeah, yeah….I get all that. I want for her the autonomy that is at the basis of being a true adult. And I want her to have a strong education and achieve the multitude of goals she has rolled up her sleeve. I realize my job description changes, doesn’t disintegrate. The question is, why did it have to happen so fast?

About five minutes ago, or seven years, I cried my eyes out on the long ride from Florida State after dropping my first daughter off at college. I learned to manage my sadness over missing her mostly by concentrating on how happy she sounded as she navigated her new path in life. Well, that and regular Facetime visits to the dinner table so that the empty seat didn’t always stick out like a glaring reminder that one had flown the coop. I am not going to lie; I still stop just about everything to hear about her day as she walks from work to the subway each night. She lives in New York City and I managed to not only accept that, but encourage it, because I know it was what she wants.

Then three minutes, or three years, later my son followed in his sister’s footsteps and became Nole. I can’t say this was an easier transition; I missed him just as much, but his exhilaration was so blatant and I was now experienced. Besides, I still had one more child at home to put all my energy into…poor girl. Somehow he graduated in a blink of an eye too and will soon be joining the work force also in New York City. I will deal with that next month frankly, because right now tomorrow is creeping up on me.

So, yes round three. And what have I learned? That life goes fast and we have to enjoy every minute. To put the phone down and watch the real thing. That one can truly draw from other people’s happiness; I believe that is one of the first rules of motherhood. That there are no do-overs, but we can learn from our mistakes as well as our successes. That my family has been my main job for the last twenty-five years and I will never apologize for that; regardless of whether I am feeling a little lost the day after tomorrow. And, of course, that there will never be enough Crazy Sock Days, so one should always be prepared to make her own.

See You Later, College Boy

See you later

At least twice a week my eighteen year old son announces one form or another of his countdown. Thirty-six more days until he leaves for college. Twelve more days he has to make lunch or chance eating school food. Five more days of high school classes. And when he didn’t care for what I made for dinner the other night, he gently mentioned all the choices he will have on the meal plan in his dorm in, yes, thirty-six more days.

This probably sounds like I am not happy about his new endeavors. I am thrilled to see him move along life’s highway in the intended direction we envisioned for him from the moment he came bustling into the world. Each accomplishment, each milestone is another feather in my cap. I jumped up and down as each college acceptance came in the mail, grinned until my face hurt watching him accept his cords for graduation and will not let him see me shed a single tear  as he and his friends leave for the prom tomorrow night. It is all exhilarating.

It was exciting watching my daughter do it all three years ago too. Here is the difference though: I wonder each day as he edges closer to the independence that we strived for him to acquire, whether he could just do it with a little more finesse that would at least let me believe that he will call once in a while or possibly even miss us a little. I now believe wholeheartedly that although girls today are hopefully bred to also be independent and strong; they still have a sense that leaving for college doesn’t have to be so cold cut.

When my sister and I were little girls our mother had two good friends that had only sons. I remember going into one of their homes where the mothers were going to visit while the kids played.  Our mother stopped my sister and me on our walk up to the front door and asked us to give her friends big hugs when we got inside. I asked why, of course, and never forgot Mom’s answer.  She gently told us that her friends would never know the warmth of a little girls’ hug and although they had great sons, they didn’t know what they were missing. We complied and moved on to the playroom for a solid game of Battleship and never gave it another thought until I had my own children.

I knew my mom was a brilliant and perceptive woman, but she isn’t here now to commiserate with me as I am packing my son up for college. And I am fully aware that some of my friends that have only boys are over-the-moon happy to not have daughters to contend with. I will be the first to admit that either way raising children, regardless of gender, is amazing, wonderful, and full of surprises and occasionally a little tsurus. I only wish that saying goodbye felt a little more like a see you later when it came to my son. Going to miss the way you make us all laugh, the kiss disguised as a head butt as you walk out the door and a whole lot more.  Feel free to skype into dinner any night, Matthew. Your seat will be vacant.

College Applicant Woes

A woman from a local state university was on television yesterday and I heard a bit of what she said; enough so that I have been considering the reality of it. Surely, the impact is greater for me this year, having a son applying to colleges as I write. Her message was quite simple. Her university has already received approximately 28,000 applications (it is only early September) for a school that has approximately 30,000 students in total. “We can be more selective with numbers like these,” she boasted. And then the question came, “Isn’t it so that due to the nation’s economy the state schools are inundated with applicants and therefore able to be more choosey in their selection?” Absolutely.

Well, then, what happens to the average student or even the less than average student? Or the student who in no shape or form can ever afford anything besides an in-state education? Some kids don’t really learn to learn until they are in college and faced with the reality that getting an education is real and useful. Some actually want to go to school and not just for the parties and because it is the next step beyond high school. Yet, they may have performed to a level that some of the universities are now able to reject and they are left floundering.

Have we also considered that not all states, mine included, do not set a definitive amount of in-state students that they will accept? They actually look to outside applicants who will pay more, leaving more of our in-state kids out in the cold. There are many students who at one time should have been accepted to the in-state school of their choice, but are being rejected in place of these out-of-staters.

Finally, as I complained to my daughter, a college junior at one of our states’ better colleges; she brought to my attention that not all the professors and teachers at these schools are equipped to teach the higher levels of students that are filling the classrooms. So now we are filling our state universities with students that in some cases may be smarter than their professors. Of course, that is if you define smart in the same way that the admissions committees do? That, of course, requires a whole new blog.