Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don't do anything rash!

"I'm thinking about swooping in on my college kid and yanking him out of school!"

"What? Are you kidding? Calm down. Don't do anything you're going to regret."

That's how a handful of conversations have gone with friends over the last couple of years!

Sound crazy?

Not really. Here are some of the various scenarios (all altered a bit, for obvious reasons):

1) He's come home from college for Spring Break and much like Christmas, he's sleeping in until noon, not very helpful, not very communicative, seems totally unmotivated to do...much of anything. Now, come to think of it, as a parent, I haven't seen any grades all year...what the heck is he doing at college? This is a really expensive 'sleep tank,' if that's what he's doing???

2) The conversations with my daughter have become less and less. The texts, on her end, consist of one word responses. When I do talk to her, she's disrespectful, busy telling me that she's an adult, doesn't have to do what I say...

3) My daughter isn't communicating with either parent, virtually at all. Doesn't respond to texts or emails. There've been all kinds of flags. I'm worried, really worried.

4) College seems like a "big drink'em up." As a parent, I don't sense he's going to any classes, all it sounds like he's doing is partying. His Facebook page is full of pictures with red tumblers! Every time I call him, I seem to be waking him up.

5) There's been a death in my child's world. She sounds very down. She seems to find it hard to go to class...to do anything.

OK, the line of first defense is the college. As a parent, call the Dean of Students. A girlfriend of mine was the Dean of Students at a small liberal arts college and she used to say her title was "Dean of "Parents."
These people are there to help! Talk to them! But here's the kicker, you have to be open and honest with this person. Lay your cards out on the table, whatever they are. They can't help if they don't know the real picture. They are going to be able to:
A) Suggest people you and/or your child should talk to. Resources.
B) Check in with your student, either directly or through their RA.
C) Make recommendations on various courses of action. (ie., notifying professors, etc.)
D) Rest your (and your student's) mind at ease.
and most importantly,
E) Help you sort things out from a distance so you can take the appropriate action or not take any action.

Regardless of what parents are told today about letting their kids go, you know your kid best and you need to recognize the flags and then decide whether or not you should intervene. But don't do anything rash. Often times things work themselves out, but sometimes not without some parental intervention.

I have a friend that did drive down to college X, found their son in the rack, accessed the situation, had a conversation with the Dean of Students, and everyone decided that a semester off was best. During that semester he had a job, responsibilities and guess what? He turned it around! It took more than one semester, but he did. Another friend, saw the "flags," flew out to get a visual of her daughter, realized that her daughter's health was in serious jeopardy and intervened with the help of the college.

We've all heard versions of these stories.
Some takeaways I've learned:
1) When your child (Gen Yer) signs up for classes when they first get accepted, be SURE they check the box to have their grades come home to you. Just because you're paying the bill does NOT mean you're privvy to anything! :)
Getting their grades helps you have somewhat of a handle of what's going on.
2) Get the telephone number of their roommate or good buddy or a significant other. You never know when you might need them.
3) Don't hesitate to call the college and speak to the Dean of Students (or someone like that).
As a CU Boulder spokesperson said, when my daughter was a freshman, "you have resources in your hometowns for you. We have resources here for your son or daughter. Please don't make your kid your "couch" and don't you try to be theirs. Call us if you need us to help direct your student to those resources." Good advice.
4) Don't jump in the car or board a plane. Have a conversation with your kid, first, if that gets you nowhere and your flags are still up or hoisted even higher, then call the Dean of Students to get some advice.

Any of this sound familiar?
What are your takeaways?
What's your advice?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Break!

It's that time of year again! Has anyone else noticed that colleges seem to have juggled the weeks in such a way that Spring break doesn't fall in the same week for everybody. Could it be that they've coordinated calenders and actually communicated that it's not such a good idea to have all breaks fall during the same week? (Judging from times gone by, Ft. Lauderdale and Cancun barely survived. MTV made reality shows about this week.)
Now here's the question: who funds Spring Break? Do you parents, do you Gen Yers? Is there a shared expense? Seems to me that there's this expectation that has evolved over time that senior year of college there's a "senior trip." Is that a graduation present? Assuming they graduate. Or is it "on them." AND if it is on them, are you, Mom and Dad, willing to let go of control over this vacation? You know what I mean,

the list of questions:
Who's going?
Where are you staying?
How are you getting there?
How many in a room?
Is it a hotel, a condominium, a house?
Is it owned by parents of friends? Grandparents?
Did you find it on Craigslist?
Did you use a travel agent?
Do you need any shots?

And then the comments:
(In no particular order)
Bring Pepto Bismol.
Don't drink the water.
Be sure you have cash.
Be sure you keep your passport on you at all times.
Don't take rides from strangers.
Use the buddy system.
Bring your hotel key (those plastic cards) home with you and destroy it! You know it has all your personal information on it, including your credit card info.
Don't drink too much.
Bring sunscreen.... wear sunscreen.
Mind your P's & Q's, I have zero interest in receiving a phone call from the authorities about you.

Let's be honest, whether you pay, supplement or not you're going to ask those questions and make those comments regardless. We just can't help ourselves! We're your parents!

And I'm afraid that continues well into your 20's. Our 26 year old has just left for a little R&R in Florida, a vacation from work. I covered the questions with her months ago. I even made many of the comments. She humored her mother and responded, she even texted me when she landed safely and I'm imagining her on the beach, soaking in some rays... and thinking about Spring Breaks I had.... those were the days!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Once a Mom Always a Mom

I had an interesting conversation with my neighbors the other day. They're in their 80's have raised four kids, have 9 grand children. Mrs. asked me "how's the book on parenting grown kids coming?" I replied, "we've got it written," or "we've got quite a bit of it done, we just need to hear what others' think." She stopped and then said, "you realize that once you're a mom you're always a mom. It's a lifetime vocation. Well, at least until you're about 79."
"79?" I asked.
And she explained that at about 79 the roles tend to shift and change or "at least you kids seem to think they ought to."
We went on to have an interesting conversation about how throughout each stage of life: school, real world, jobs, marriage, birth, kids', their schooling, their real world's, their jobs..." (you see a trend?) That with each stage comes a new set of questions, of comments, of consultation and advice. As parents, your "kids" are calling with their thoughts and questions, seeking your consult or advice, but somewhere along the way, 79 in this example, kids decide that they need to play a new role, more of a parental role.
I know in my life, with the sudden passing of my Mom at the age of 77, she was still very much my Mom. I hadn't done the role reversal, none of us had. I think back though and I think she was hoping we might have taken on some more responsibility, help lighten her load, but we didn't bite. Now my Dad shows no sign or interest in having his load lightened or responsibilities shift. But I do hear in some of my siblings' conversations a slight shift in tone....a "suggestion" that maybe it's time to have someone else take care of some things....

Back to my neighbors, because it's of course much easier to have this discussion with others than with your own immediate family...

I asked them if they minded the roles shifting? Mrs. responded with a smile and "we just ignore them." Mr. smiled.
I of course, holding onto the "Mom thing" asked if they really have stopped feeling like a parent or being a parent? Mrs. responded, "I told you, once a Mom always a Mom... and a grandmom, now that's the best!"

One thing at a time! :)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Celebrating a Birthday Away from Home

We've all been there, away from home, having a birthday, but as a parent of four grown kids who all are away from home celebrating birthdays, it's proving to be more of a challenge than it used to be!
"Check your PO Box!"
Why is it that college kids don't check their PO Boxes?
"Why should I? I never get any mail."
Kids who've graduated, figure out very quickly that they better check the mail because good stuff, like bills are sent that way. I know, not for long, or not if they check that box to have it sent electronically, but for the most part, at least for now, snail mail.

Not only is not checking the PO Box a challenge, but then there's the big question of what do you send? Is it better / easier just to send money or transfer money or tell them to buy themselves something and you'll pay them back... That's assuming they have the do-re-mi to make the purchase up front, not likely.

Do you send them an electronic birthday card? Is that where you tell them that they'd better check their PO Box or that you've sent something UPS or FedEx to whereever it's supposed to be sent at their college, (ie., their dorm).

Or if they've graduated and living in a city, can you send something UPS or FedEx and not worry. Is there a doorman? Or a place that takes their packages safely? Is it better to send stuff to their work address? All of this is a challenge. What do you do?

Colleges make it a little easier with their "Parents' Clubs" that offer a cake delivery with balloons to the dorm room. Are kids horrified by that, embarrassed or are they secretly thrilled that you remembered and went to the trouble of ordering that?

Do you send a big box filled with stuff? I've got friends that basically unload Hallmark into a box: paper plates, balloons, streamers, party hats... It's a party in a box! As for the cake, it's delivered by a nice "Mom volunteer". The box also contains an article of clothing, maybe a coffee mug from the local store, so they don't forget "home", maybe some fun earrings or makeup or a local team T shirt just so they don't forget their old allegiance!!

It's a dilemma!
You want them to know that you're thinking of them, after all, you were there all those years ago! Whose birthday is it anyway? I mean really! :) You used to make such a production out of their birthdays when they were little: clowns, excursions, inflatable trampolines... all of their nearest and dearest came, OK OUR nearest and dearest...it was a scene! And now? How do you just stop? And then to make things more complicated, what you do for one you sure as heck better do for the other, or at least something comparable, because if you don't think they notice or compare notes, you're sorely mistaken. Right guys?

Maybe you enlist the help of a friend, a significant other? Maybe you just send a check? Do you make a big deal or a bigger deal out of the milestone birthdays? 21? Is 25 a milestone? I think so, I'm not sure why, but I do. If you're hundreds or thousands of miles away do you rely on crossing your fingers and hoping one of their friends comes through and commemorates the day or do you actively engage and ask them to rally on your behalf for your kid? Maybe one of their friends or siblings or significant other has taken care of the celebration on their own with no engagement from the mother, now that's a milestone! Thanks girls!

Why am I even thinking about this? Today is our youngest's birthday. No more teenagers in our family. What did I do to commemorate the day? I used Facebook and texting, I even uploaded a photo to HIS Facebook page (that took a few minutes to figure out how to do), I called and left a message on his phone... and a few days ago I sent a package with a few assorted items, nope no party in a box, but definitely a couple of "heartstring" reminders of where he's from AND I told him to go to his PO Box. (Btw, when he did, there was a package from Valentine's Day that I'd sent....that was weeks ago!!! argh!) And finally, one of those nice "Mom volunteers" will be stopping by his fraternity with a cake today/tonight. I think he's going to be mortified...but secretly pleased that his Mom remembered him. Fingers crossed.
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