Here’s My Expectation

You know my daughters going to college, right?

Ok Ok- this is not about my daughter and her journey. But it does talk about the path we had to take.

In Manhattan, we don’t have zoned schools- Kids apply to High School. As there are different types of students, there are different types of high schools. My daughters is selective, meaning middle school grades and tests count, and is also considered college prep- the entire curriculum is based upon getting into a four year college. So basically, it’s a school of smart driven kids, backed by smart driven parents.

Oh the parents.

The parents enter this school with delusions of grandeur. Every parent assumes that there kid is going to a “sweatshirt” school- a school so recognizable that pretty much everyone has heard of it, and is sure to remark ‘Oh- that’s a good school” (whether or not they actually know anything about it)

You’ve heard me talk about how hard these sweatshirt schools are to get into, the majority being an acceptance rate of 30% or below. And you heard me talk about how many colleges my daughter and her classmates got rejected from. (FYI- the salutatorian from my daughters school is going to her “likely” school because she was rejected from everything else- so what does a 99GPA and a 35 on the ACT get you anyway?)

I know a Mom who has a son at my daughters school. The son is smart with decent grades and decent ACT score. He does his homework and he goes to class, but he puts in less than medium effort into anything. He did the minimum hours of community service required, and has no extras. None. So when his Mother went to the meeting with the college counselor, the counselor told him he should really consider early decision, and really be careful of what schools he chose, because you know, you need to be realistic. This scared the Mother so her son did indeed apply to a school ED, and was accepted. Done deal.

Now let me say that he got into a really good school- top hundred no matter what survey you look at. Kids get jobs and into graduate school after finishing there. Solid school.

The Mother is not happy. I mean she is really pissy about the school he is going to. Her EXPECTATION is that her son is way better than this school. The reality is that this school is exactly where he belongs- and honestly- he’s lucky he got into it.

Here’s the thing about expectations: they need to have some logical basis. Yes- her son is smart. He had a nice average. But in the world of competitive academics, that’s not enough. You need to stand out.

Everyone thinks their child is the best thing in the world. That’s the way it’s supposed to be: in your heart you are supposed to think that there is no one better than your kid. But in your head….well..in your head you have to know exactly how your kids compares to everyone else so that you can help them achieve their best life. You need to figure out what you can do to help your child succeed at whatever is important to them. This is not the time for blinders and excuses.

This Mom does tend to make excuses for why her son doesn’t do things. It’s so hard to find a volunteer job, how can the teacher expect that of someone, etc. In your head you can’t keep making excuses for your kid. You have to accept the personality that they have and work with it to bring out their high points. You can’t expect them to be something they’re not.

Parental attitude also matters. Now that all the kids have accepted spots in colleges, the paperwork begins. First up: orientation. Many colleges are now adopting pre-orientation programs. They have different areas of interest: some are leadership based, or do community service or just do some sort of survival thing in the woods. They’re done to give kids the opportunity to meet some of their classmates before official orientation. Some of these programs cost money. My Daughter is going to try to do one (her college makes you apply to them) This particular Mom doesn’t want her son to do it because it’s a “scam” to get money. Now, I have a different version of “scam”. I think a “scam” is where you pay for something but get nothing in return. I think of the pre-orientation as an opportunity. And we don’t turn down opportunities in this house. These programs are a chance to learn about something you might not know about. She has told her son that these things are a waste. How does she expect her son to be a doer when she has blocked that path for him?

You can’t make excuses and complain about things that others are doing and still expect your kid to compete with the others. If you’re in a tower building contest and one person has fifty bricks and good quality cement, and you have five bricks and spit, how can you expect to compete?

When you have expectations of your child with regards to schooling, you have to make sure your expectations are reasonable. The main goal is helping your child reach their best life, no matter what path that is. Don’t expect your kid to be something they’re not. That’s only going to breed unhappiness.

 

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The Decision

I don’t think you know this, but my daughter is going to college in the fall….

Ok- you got me. I talk about this a lot. You have been with me through campus visits, prepping for interviews and my general whining about the whole process. You’ve listened to me blather on about the law suit against Harvard, the admissions scandal and the whole early decision conundrum. But here’s the outcome:

After MUCH consideration, my Daughter chose a college!

Cue the noisemakers and un helium filled balloons…

She ended up being accepted by seven colleges, waitlisted at one and rejected by a few. Luckily she was accepted at two of her top choice schools. But, that proved to be a little tough: in her mind and on paper, these two schools were dead even. They are the size she prefers, located in urban areas and have excellent reputations. They are located in the same area of the country, and almost equidistant to NYC. They both have very good rankings according to most sources that rank schools. They have department upon department to help with internships, fellowships and research opportunities. They both have great placement into graduate schools upon graduation. Small class size. Well appointed campuses. Law teams. Club tennis. Volunteer opportunities. They were virtually the same.

So how do you make a choice? How did she make a choice?

She attended accepted students days for both schools. Very impressive displays out on by the schools. All the bells and whistles. Swag. Once they accept you, they want you.

In the end, her choice came down to one school being slightly better for her interest base, which is history, government and political science. It is also located in Washington DC. The thought of interning there is a dream. The ability to wander over to the Supreme Court while they are in session? Priceless. For a kid who loves the law, this is the place to be.

She did say that turning down the other school was a tough choice. She knows she would have received a first class education there. But, she’s confident with her decision. She knows in her heart she has made the right choice.

Now, the reality of college begins. For us, when we had to wire the deposit last week. For her, in was last Wednesday when her school had Decision Day, and all the students wore their new college t shirts and took pictures with one another and cheered each other.

There’s Facebook. My Daughter has never been a big user of Facebook, but quickly realized that much of the pre college happenings happen on Facebook. She’s getting up to speed as quickly as possible.

Then there’s the other stuff- the more academic things. My Daughter is getting ready to apply to the pre orientation programs. yes- there is competition right off the bat: 250 word essay please on why you belong in the pre orientation program.

We’ve booked a hotel for parents weekend. We’ve been invited to the parents only page. A whole new chapter is about to begin. I congratulate my daughter for twelve years of hard work. I look forward to the next chapter in her life. And the next chapter in mine.

Tempty Nesting: The Wrap Up

My Daughter arrives home late tonight. Judging from the pictures, a good time was had by all… Here’s some random thoughts from my week:

  1. Evening went by rather quickly. Saturday we spent the day at the Morgan Library. Sunday was Easter- we were at my parents. Monday- we went out to dinner. Tuesday he had a work dinner. Wednesday he played tennis and then we watched TV. Thursday I went to the theater with my Mom. We are going out to dinner tonight. Coexisting time successful.
  2. There is something to being able to do things spontaneously. Husband was supposed to go to Met game on Monday but he bailed because of rain. Tuesday he was supposed to be home but got invited to something at last minute. My Father was supposed to go to play with my Mom but wasn’t feeling well. We were able to pick up and go because my Daughter wasn’t even a consideration. It was a weird feeling.
  3. We did not watch as much TV as I thought we would- that’s what many empty nesters tell me happens- TV viewership goes up
  4. But- we have two TV’s in our apartment: one in the living room and one in my Daughter’s bedroom. I did find myself going in my daughters bedroom to watch TV at about 10:30 because I could not face any more hockey or basketball.  I can see the whole TV thing coming to fruition. Her bedroom makes for a really nice den.
  5. My Daughter texted me on Tuesday or Wednesday “Do you want to talk to me?” I responded “Sure. But why?” and she wrote back- “well, everyone has called their parents by now. I feel bad that I haven’t called.” To be fair, we had texted each other randomly throughout her stay- more housekeeping than anything else. I figured she was having fun. I didn’t need to talk to her. Funny she felt guilty though.
  6. However- I did keep my phone out at all times in case she tried to reach me. Will I ever not keep my phone out when she’s away? Will I ever not want to look at “Where’s my iPhone?”
  7. My dog got into my garbage twice this week. And proceeded to spout out of both ends. Considering college for my dog.

I know that this was easy to get through because it was a short period of time and the weather is nice. I realize that in a few months it will be a much different experience. Packing up her clothes and computer and guitar will be much harder. Knowing she’s gone will be daunting.

But I’ll survive….

I am the Most Boring Person Ever

I had a busy day yesterday and when I got to read the comments I noticed that many of them were of a similar thread. So instead of answering everyone individually I am writing a post addressing some of the comments. If I missed your comment/query, don’t worry- there’s always tomorrow…

  1. My worry about empty nesting is not about being bored. I have lots of hobbies that I love. I have absolutely no problem exploring a new interest. I don’t think I’ve said the words “I’m bored” since I was 17.  I’m not worried about the seemingly free hours ahead of me.
  2. Though I love to travel, finances are a consideration. College costs a lot of money.
  3. My Husband and I have been doing “dates” for years. We go out at least one evening a week and usually spend at least one day/afternoon together on the weekends.
  4. Husband and I do theme things: he loves food and I love exploring different neighborhoods, so we meld this together. Over the winter we did our own ramen tour. We found a list (Thrillist) of the best ramen places in NYC and we tried a whole bunch of them (not all on the same day- we did one a week). We would find a theater or exhibit or something fun in the neighborhood of the ramen shop, and make a day of it. Previously we’ve done sandwiches, hand pulled noodles and pizza.
  5. We get along really well. We are not the couple at the restaurant who just stare at one another. We talk. In fact we talk a lot. We laugh. We have fun. But is that enough?

My concerns:

  1. I am a very different person than the one I was 18 years ago. I no longer like hanging out in bars. For the record, if there is trivia, or arcade games, live music or tastings involved, I am right there. I do not like to sit at a generic bar and drink. My husband has friends that love to do this. I mean, this is their idea of a fun night out. To be clear, I am bored after five minutes.
  2. I have become a day person. I like to get out of the house- but I greatly prefer being home at night. Again, my husband is sort of the opposite.
  3. We do not have many couple friends- I have friends and he has friends, but our groups don’t overlap. How do you make couple friends?
  4. We’ve known each other for 25 years- how much more is there to talk about?
  5. My daughter is not a buffer, yet she is. It’s just the way life is set up. She’s at the dinner table with us. She’s on vacation with us. She asks for help with things. It’s having a kid and being a parent. We’re a family- a unit. When one leaves the dynamic shifts.

So…

What’s the secret to long term relationships? What makes some couples work and some implode?

And you know I’m going to overthink and analyze this, so….

Am I the Most Boring Person

Dear Abby,

I am about to embark on empty nesthood and I realize there is nothing I want to learn or do or anything of the sort?

Am I the most boring person in the world?

Yours truly,

Dazed and Confused

When I talked about book clubs yesterday, many suggested that I should do something that I’ve always wanted to do but was unable to do because of parenthood, or what ever.

Here’s the thing: there is literally nothing I put off doing because I was a parent. There is not one thing that I have the absolute desire to do.

Part of it is because I was 37 when I had my daughter. I had a lot of years to take classes and lessons and do things. If I had an interest, I explored it. Scuba. Check. Mountain biking. Check. Skiing. check (and trust me- I hate skiing- I didn’t get on ski’s the past 17 years because I really don’t like it)

And as my daughter got older, I started adding things to my roster. I took some writing classes. I volunteered at my daughter’s school for YEARS. I held positions and raised funds did whatever her various schools needed. NYC has some tough restrictions for kids volunteering (and adults for that matter) so I chopped vegetables along side her for years at a soup kitchen. We all know I’m a culture vixen and I go to exhibits and plays and concerts all the time. I love to cook, and I probably try five new recipes a week. I’ve been taking photos every day. I took an embroidery class and I’ve been playing with that. I bought some canvases and paint and I’ve been dabbling with those things. I’ve always wanted to write, and though it’s taking awhile, I am working on my novel, and that will definitely take up even more of my time once she’s gone. I already do the things I’m passionate about.

I don’t want to learn how to dance. I mean seriously- whenever I hear someone say that they wished their partner wanted to go dancing, or just mentions a club I break out into hives. There is really nothing I hate more than shuffling my feet to the beat of music. If I ever needed to write a dating profile it would definitely say “Dancers need not apply”

I’m OK with my very bare knowledge of French and Italian. It gets me through a restaurant menu. Rosetta Stone is not in my future.

If I have an interest in a subject I pick up a book or go to a lecture or go to a class. I have always done these things. Even having a child if I wanted to learn something I just did it.

So- either I just tackle things that interest me…or I am the most boring person in the world, because there is just nothing I “can’t wait to do.”

I already feel pretty satisfied with my actual. personal life…I am personally fulfilled. I am not really worried about filling up hours in my planner.

My worry is how do I learn to live with just my Husband. We haven’t been alone in 17 years. What comes next with that?

 

The Bookclubs

As you may know, I belong to two book clubs: one in my building that meets monthly, and one with my tea club that meets five times a year. You also know that I set a yearly reading goal of fifty books, so my aim is to finish one book a week. We can assume that I love to read, and I love to discuss books that I’ve read

Recently I found out that two lower Manhattan book stores hold book clubs once a month.

Can you see the lightbulb flashing?

I’m considering joining these two book clubs.

One of them meets at my local Barnes and Noble and reads new and hyped books. The May selection is “Lost Roses” by the same woman who wrote “Lilac Girls”. What do I think about the book? Well, that’s a secret I’m going to share at my first book club meeting…

The other book club is at an smaller more eclectic book shop. They focus on literature in translation, and the first book is a biography about some French person. I’m fifty/fifty as to whether I start out with this book this month.

Why am I considering joining two new book clubs?

Well, that’s easy: I know I need to fill up some of my evenings. Empty nest=empty evenings. And while I do chill to a certain extent, in the beginning it will be hard to adjust to not having my daughter in the apartment. I’ve gotten used to be asked to review an essay or quiz her on something- this has been my life for twelve years- assistant to the student. At 11, I usually sit in her room with her for a few minutes. We both sip tea and discuss our day that just passed, or out day coming up. This has become our ritual. And I know come August 23, it will abruptly end. Many of my rituals will end.

The thought of not having a routine is unsettling.

I am the Queen of routine. I have routines and patterns and spreadsheets for literally everything. I need to start integrating my new routine into place before she leaves…I need to integrate in many new routines.

Can you feel me hyperventilating?

Breath. Focus. Logic.

The problem with my book clubs is that they happen to meet on consecutive evenings: first Monday of the month for one, the first Tuesday of the month for the other. Do I want to have book clubs back to back? Can I walk into one of them and ask them to change the date? No? Yeah- I guess that’s taking control to a whole new level…

The other problem is that I don’t love certain genres. I’m OK with the club that reads the hyped books: I’m probably reading them on my own anyway. But the other? I have no idea if it’s going to be a bunch on non fiction. I don’t love discussing non fiction books in book club. I mean, what do you say? She shouldn’t have done that with her life? What can you actually discuss about a biography other than reiterate what the author said in the book…And again, I can’t dictate what this club should read…

And finally- if I belong to all these book clubs, will I have time to read the books that I just want to read for my pleasure? I realize that I will have more time, but… Do I want to make my yearly reading goal 75 books?

Now I get that book clubs are just a way to hide behind the loneliness that I will experience, but we all need something to hide behind for a little while, until we get out feet back on the ground. And a book club is relatively inexpensive, and not exactly bad for you. I’m already addicted to books as it is. What’s a few more?

Tempty Nesting: The Beginning

At 9am this past Saturday morning, my Daughter and her four closest friends were on a plane to the Caribbean. Making me the proud owner of a temporary empty nest.

Spring Break. Woo Hoo.

So how did out temporary empty nest start out? Well, after I put my daughter into a car at 5:45, I went back to sleep for an hourish. Yes, I like an early start to the day. But having gotten up at 5 to talk to my daughter as she got ready was even pushing it for me.

Then I read the paper.

I went to the gym.

Then we went to an exhibit. Kim- this will be of interest to you: The Morgan Library in New York is doing a Tolkien exhibit- drawings, letters, family photos. Very cool, and very crowded exhibit. And they are doing a themed lunch! So my husband and I split Shire food- eggs not broken, peppered beef, twice baked honey cafes, mead. I am a lover of cider so I became a big fan of mead. I’m looking forward to walking into a bar and asking for a tankard of their finest mead…..

When we were done, it was 3pm. My Husband looked at me and said: “What do you want do to do now?”

And so begins the tale of what our life will be like in August.

I said that I would be perfectly happy going home, reading, maybe find something to watch on TV. Chilling out. Husband asked- “Do you want to go out tonight?” And I could think of no compelling reason to go out. I knew I wasn’t going to be that hungry for dinner. There were no movies that both my Husband and I would enjoy. I didn’t want to go out for the sake of going out…

But what do empty nesters do at night?

I normally go out one night, maybe two a week. My Husband is often out more. He’s not a stay at home sort of person. And back in the day, I used to go out most nights. I used to like it.

Now?

I realized that part of the reason I don’t go out at night is because I have had a kid in the house. But part of the reason is that I just don’t want to go out at night all that often. I like reading. I like writing. I learned how to embroider this year and it’s pretty fun.  But is this going to be enough to keep me occupied for the rest of my life?

So we stayed home Saturday night. I made a simple and light dinner. We watched a silly murder mystery show on TV. And it was fine.

But will it be enough?

When the Rules Can’t Work

I have rules and routines and procedures for everything.  You know this.  My daughter does too- so much so that is what she wrote her common app essay about.  We thrive on having lists and often do things rote.  It works for us.

One of the oldest rules we have is my meal rule.  When my daughter was in pre school, the year when the stream of activity begins, I made a rule.  Unless someone was out of town, we had to eat three family meals.  It could be breakfast, lunch or dinner, but the three of us had to be around the table together three times per calendar week.

Last week, for the first time in thirteen years, we were not able to do this.

When I was doing my Sunday prep work a few weeks ago, I looked at my calendar, looked at everyone’s commitments and shook my head. Work outings, college meetings, prior engagements, busy lives,  equaled the three of us barely being at home at the same time.

And it made me think of the future.

This rule has gotten us through my daughters formative years.  It has helped us as a family – because we were able to check in with one another- we knew when something was troubling us, we knew what was going on in one another’s lives.  Spending facetime, no phones or electronics, does really help communication.  And we all know communication leads to relationship success, or increases your chance of success anyway.

But I have now faced the harsh reality. Our days of family meals are almost over.  My days with my daughter living down the hall is almost over. There will be new rules and procedures put in place (you know I will have some sort of weekly phone call plan) but my life is about to change.

Ready or not, here it comes.  Glad I have seven months to prepare.

The Last First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school.  The last first day of school that I will be with my daughter. Sigh.  The day started out the same as always.  I went to the corner store to get my daughter her traditional egg and cheese sandwich.  I fastened her necklace after she put on her new and carefully chosen outfit, I took her picture in front of my building, I shed a tear.  It was the picture that did it: I’ve taken her picture in the same spot in front of my building since she was in nursery school.  After I hugged her good bye and watched all walk towards the subway, I entered my building and looked at my doorman.  He just nodded his head: he’s seen me take this picture every year.  He knows the significance as much as I do.

Wow.

Where did the time go?

I was recently chatting with Shalini and Jo, and I regaled the fact that I have become the crazy woman in the market who tells parents with small children in tow to not blink, because before you know it, your kids will be all grown up.  I know from experience: I blinked.  So don’t blink…

What do I mean by this?  Make time for memories.  Make time to do things that are just for fun.  Have traditions.  Take pictures. Build a relationship with your child.

I realize I an the most structured person in the world: I have a schedule and a procedure for everything. I’m a stickler for homework and completing what you started and being a good team player.  I taught her rules and responsibilities.    But I also let my daughter jump in puddles just to see her smile as the water splashed up.  I let her use play doh in the living room, and dealt with the mess.  We built lego forts in the middle of the living room, sang really badly, had game tournaments and Mommy/Daughter outings.  We lived and experienced and enjoyed. And because I have a head full of memories, I am reasonably OK about the future.  (I say reasonably because there is a 33% chance that I will follow her to college and move across the street and stick a GPS chip in her arm while she’s asleep) I truly believe I am going to let her move out…

Remember that the job of a parent is to raise a self sufficient adult.  We’ve done our job if they are able to join the world and leave us behind.  Our job is to push them out of the nest. So when you shed a tear as you watch their back walk away, remember that this is good, that this is what is supposed to happen.  And know that they love you even if they’re looking at you through the rear view mirror.  They see you- they’re still looking- they know you have their back if things go south. They know how much you love them.

Remember the good times.  Laugh about the bad (you can laugh- it’s in the past) Wave good bye for now.  It’s OK.  They’re in your head and in your heart.  And you will always be in theirs.

 

Girl Talk

I’ve noticed a common theme in blogs recently- Moms upset that their teenage daughters are pulling away from them.  I guess it’s the season: it’s the second half of the school year, kids are getting closer to the next grade, the next school, the next milestone.  Moving up and moving on is right in the crosshairs…Mom’s are in the rearview mirror, waving and running towards the car, tears in their eyes….

What happened to my baby?  The words to “Sunrise, Sunset” purr through the mind.  When did I lose my daughter?

Well, to be fair, you started to lose your child pretty much after they were born.  From the moment they breathe air and the umbilical cord is cut, your daughter is striving for independence.  (This goes for non biological kids too, the umbilical cord is metaphorical)

I know this firsthand.  I have a daughter who is 16, and a Junior in High School.  She will be leaving the nest in August 2019, possibly forever. (It better be forever.  There is an elliptical trainer that is going to look great in that room)

I’m not a therapist, nor do I have any training in this area.  I’m just going to throw some common sense and logic out at you.

Everyone wants to forge their own identity.  Everyone wants to do things their way.

Is this bad?

No.  Of course not.  Your goal as a parent is to make your child into a fully functioning adult.

Your goal is to make sure they can survive on their own.

Your goal is to make sure they see the opportunities that lie before them, and to go for what they want.  A little bit of Carpe Diem.

Though as a parent, I get the whole thought, “Can’t you Carpe  that Diem tomorrow?  Can’t you just sit with me and be my baby just one more day?”

But ask yourself- am I being fair to my daughter?  Is this the best path for her?

Here’s the anecdote- I know you were sitting with baited breath, waiting to hear what actually happens in my house…

A few years ago, I would look at the weekend calendar and automatically include my daughter in the plans.  As of 9th grade- well, her being around just wasn’t an option anymore.  I had to say to her- “What’s on your agenda?”  I would ask, “can you fit in family/Mommy time?”  (I will also add that I have a strict 3 family meals per week rule- but this is actually more for my husband, and this has been a rule forever.  No one crosses me on this)

I would ask her.  I did not assume, nor force her to spend time with me on the weekends.  You can disagree with me- everyone has their own rules for how their household is run. But I felt that she was old enough to learn/know how to manage her own time.  I know how much homework she has.  I know how many activities she juggles, and how much time she devotes to these.

I’m OK with her figuring out her path.

I know she still loves me, even if we don’t have an activity planned.

But, I have found (and this is me- I can’t vouch for it working anywhere else) that my daughter tries to find a little bit of time for me.

She has been very crazed lately- burning the candle on three ends.  Last week I said to her “I feel like we’re ships passing in the night and I miss you.  Can we play this weekend?”

I asked.  I told her the truth about how I felt.  Her response?

“Sure Mommy.  We can get lunch after my SAT class on Sunday.”

Which we did.  I found a little French café that has this amazing hot chocolate selection, and yummy crepes.  The décor was porcelain tea cups and wrought iron tables, the display case showcasing opera cakes and lemon meringue tarts.  The air smelled like chocolate- did I forget to mention it’s also a chocolate shop?  I knew we had an hour- I wanted to make sure the event was special- because I can’t take for granted the time I get to spend with her.

I don’t have a great relationship with my Mom.  I am trying to forge a different path with my Daughter.  I saw the mistakes my Mother made, and I’m trying not to make the same ones with my kid.  It’s a very fine line, trying to have a nice relationship with your adult daughter.  Right now, I’m still the parent- I need to speak to her as a parent.  But, I’m also learning to speak to my daughter as a woman and as an almost adult. (FYI- this is where my Mother made her biggest mistake- she has still not learned to talk to me, not at me- but that’s a whole series of blogs)

So Moms- accept that your daughters are growing up and away from you.  Figure out how to make the new dynamic work for you.  Figure out how to maintain a positive relationship with you child, who isn’t really a child anymore.

Your daughter loves you.

They just need to find themselves and stand on their own.