Tag Archives: college

It’s not about me. (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

As a mom, I often make the common mistake of assuming that every choice my child makes is either a positive or negative reflection of me. As a homeschooling mom, it’s been easy to get caught up in the idea that I am in not only control on my child’s future, I’m 100% responsible for it. Another mistake. I’m not. And, regardless of how rational my thinking may be (at times), I have to remind myself of this, regularly. This morning was no different.

This morning, I sat down with my soon-to-be high school graduate for a one-on-one. We have long used one-on-one’s to review best practices and successes, identify areas for improvement and set semester goals. (Yep, you can take the girl out of the corporate world, but she didn’t leave everything behind.)  It’s a useful tool for both my girls and myself because I often find areas that I can improve as a mother and a teacher while discussing the areas I feel they need to work on to prepare for college and “the real world.” As was usually the case with my employees, some one-on-ones are easier than others, but this morning’s was not one of them, for either of us.

As I sat with C, we reviewed her progress. She was ahead in some subjects and had slipped behind schedule in others. I took a deep breath. We talked about her volunteer commitments, her free-time, her self-discipline and reviewed goals for her second semester. We talked about her transition to college and her preparations. There have been decisions she has been procrastinating on and some she has simply ignored. I took another deep breath. Then, we talked about responsibility, choices, and fear.

I believe every child really wants to please their parents. I also believe every child is afraid they’ll disappoint their parents, even if they don’t show it.  And, every child wants to do “it” their own way, even when they don’t know which way that is. Mine is no different. She has been paralyzed by fear. Fear of disappointing me. Fear of failure. Fear of making a bad choice. She is my “pleaser”, in addition to being my highly imaginative, easily distracted, generous, literature-loving, political, bouncy ball. She likes to lead, but can become frustrated by the expectations that come with leading. She likes to give and help, but likes to “unplug” and be left alone. She has a gift for writing, is curious about anatomy and forensic science, likes art and old myths, and is a strong advocate for justice. And, as of this writing, she has considered no fewer than 2,134 different careers, but has yet to commit to one. OK, I exaggerate, though it’s certainly felt that way on some days, for me and for her.

There are times I’ve wanted to scream “Just make a decision!”, but I’ve held my tongue because I believe there is value in squirming. If children are handed every answer or are never given the opportunity to make mistakes, they won’t be prepared to fly when the time comes. They’ll never know they have the skills to soar if they’ve never had to rely on their own abilities. My daughter squirmed this morning. As her teacher, I praised her for the work she was doing well, and I was candid about the areas she needed to improve. As her mother, I pushed her to make the academic decisions she had been procrastinating on. I was prepared to give her a deadline, but I didn’t need to. All she needed to hear was that I was proud of her, regardless of which college or major she chose. She had been afraid of disappointing me. She thought she knew what she wanted to do but felt lost in the dark woods of insecurity and uncertainty. She was afraid she was supposed to “know it all;” what she wanted to do with her life and how to get there. I reminded her that she’s only 17 and that there are plenty older than 47 still trying to figure that out. A college choice, however, I could help with. I pointed her to some online tools, reminded her that I am here to support her, and that her choice is not about me. It’s her future.

She got to work, used the tools offered and made a decision. There is work yet to be done, and I will help her, if she asks. This is an important part of her journey in discovering who she is and what she wants her life to look like beyond my nest. In the next several months and years, she’ll be taking critical steps, her first steps in her own transition, away from me and my skirt hem towards her adult world. And I have no doubts, she’ll soar!

I often compare making life choices to selecting dinner from a Chinese menu. There are pages and pages of delectable choices and sorting through 20 different chicken choices alone can seem daunting, let alone the beef, pork, duck, vegetarian, and fish offerings. The choices are often overwhelming and paralyzing. And still, a choice has to be made if food is to be delivered and you don’t want to be kicked out for loitering. Life is no different. Sometimes, we all need a little help narrowing down the choices, but no one likes to be told which choice is “best for us” or the “right one” based on someone else’s taste buds. Therein lies the greatest challenge in parenting: staying out of the way as our children decide the choices that are right for them and their lives. I’ve squirmed often watching my children make choices that I don’t agree with. It’s been one of my toughest parenting dilemmas, but I’ve grown along the way. I have learned that making choices empowers a child, and empowered children become adults that can take care of themselves. I’ve also learned that a choice different from my choice doesn’t make it wrong; it makes it theirs. This morning, I watched C squirm as she sifted through the choices presented to her and she made her decisions. I watched the relief wash across her face when she learned she wouldn’t disappoint me by making a choice that made her happy. My girls both have to choose the paths that are right for them, and I need to allow them that freedom if we are to make this transition smoothly. After all, their choices shouldn’t be about me.

Do you struggle staying out of your child’s way as he/she makes “life decisions”?

Seriously? Kansas City?

It's hard to think "warm thoughts" when this is the view from the back porch.

Maybe it’s because there is a blanket of snow waiting to be shoveled or because we already hit the day’s high temperature. At midnight! Maybe it’s because the weather gal promised tomorrow will be warmer with a high of 34 before we “cool off again” for the weekend. Or, maybe it’s the drivers that feel a little too confident with their traction control (I’m talking to you, Mr. Audi!) and scare the bejeebees out of my bumpers. I’m not sure. But, what I do know is that this only our second or third “real” snowfall of the year, and though I like the snow, I’m not feeling the love today.

Whatever the trigger–snow, cold, stupid drivers–I had to get outta here for just a bit this morning. But, in lieu of making my way to the airport, which presumably has more cancellations than departures today, I traveled to the MSNBC travel page in search of a warm destination. Ah, perfect. Right there, on the front page of the travel section was a listing of the “Top budget travel destinations for 2012.”  I was greeted by a lovely, very warm-looking picture of the Azores; their number 1 pick. I settled into my seat, adjusted my laptop screen, and let myself travel far, far away from the cold.

I love to travel and have for as long as I can remember. I often joke that I was raised by nomads; my parents traveled the world extensively. They made it a priority to introduce their children to the world through family trips. With all 9 kids in tow, there were trips to tour the Hawaiian Islands and to visit Mexico. When I was only 6 or 7, we traveled throughout Europe. I still marvel at my mother’s packing skills and my father’s logistical planning. I can remember feeding the pigeons in St. Marks Square, the fog in London, and seeing The Jungle Book in Madrid. (It wasn’t until I watched it with my first-born did I see it in English.) In high school, my dad had promised to take those of us still at home  to the snow for winter break, something we had never done before. As winter approached, he bribed us with a cruise for Christmas to get out of it. (There was a reason we lived not far from the beach in a cozy valley–my dad HATED the snow. Looking out my window, I can guarantee you, he would be looking for a way outta here today, too.)

After I left my parents house, I carried and nurtured that love for travel with me . With 8 years together before our first was born, my husband and I explored (almost) every nook and cranny of Maui, cruised the Mexican Riviera, traveled the Mediterranean, and spent a lot of time scooting up and down the coast of California in our little blue Sunbeam Alpine. I feel very blessed by that time together; we shared adventures, created memories that will last a lifetime, and collected some really neat souvenirs. We’re both partial to the one we picked up in Venice, with the help of some fertility drugs and a nice Chianti. 😉

We knew from the beginning we would want to give our children the chance to travel. And, we have been lucky enough to do so, offering them a mix of domestic and international trips. As a family, we have been to parts of the Caribbean and Mexico. We traveled to Alaska and explored Vancouver. (LOVE Vancouver!) And, we have explored our “own backyard” with trips to California, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Kansas, and throughout Colorado. Like their dad and I, we have watched them grow in understanding of themselves and the world around them. And, we have watched their self-confidence grow as a passion for travel takes root in both girls.  Each trip has offered special gifts. In my book, travel isn’t about the miles crossed as much as it is about the people met and the connections made, which can include those made in the town next door or at the local farmer’s market–which won’t return until the warm weather does. Just sayin’, in case you forgot, it’s cold here. Back to the Azores…

Looking at the list of “bargain destinations,” I began thinking about the goal setting I’ve been working on for 2012. With homeschooling, we’ve always enjoyed the flexibility to travel on our own schedule. With C starting college next year, that luxury will be coming to an end soon; one of the transitions I’m not looking forward to. I scanned the list for possible vacation sites for the family. Of course the Azores would be nice, and I loved Athens. Haven’t been to Poland, and though I know my mom loved Egypt, I’m not sure I want to visit there right now. Budget is always a concern, but San Diego will likely make the list since I have some fabulous sisters out there. One by one, I read through them all. But, it was the unlikeliest of destinations that caught my eye; Kansas City. I read the description and couldn’t believe it had made the same list as San Diego and the Azores. No offense, Kansas City, but you aren’t the city I think of when I think “vacation time.” Then, I remembered a small life detail; Kansas City isn’t far from the college C is strongly considering. And, we need to make a trip out to visit the campus before final decisions can be made. Just like that, Kansas City made the short-list for 2012. Seriously? Kansas City?

This morning, I mentally traveled to the Azores in a desperate attempt to escape the cold, but I ended up in Kansas City. Certainly not where I thought I would land. But, no regrets. These are the transition years, and you just got to roll with them. Funny how even travel plans change with kids. At least Kansas City should be a bargain.

Did your day end up the way you thought it would today? And if not, did you roll with it?

©2011 Mary Lanzavecchia/Transitioning Mom