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It’s all Greek to Me….

21 Jan

I continue to be amazed by how many new situations I encounter which make me think of my mother, passionately miss her and be even more impressed by her. Some things seem so simple to me, like deciding to join a sorority in college. Well, at least I thought my daughter’s interest in joining a sorority was normal and expected, after all, I joined Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) my freshman year at Rutgers University.

Sharing the news that Sandra planned to “rush” at University of Miami drew a myriad of opinions accompanied by comments including, “Oh really. Why would she do that?”, “I didn’t have any interest in my college’s sororities,” “My daughter never wanted to do that,” as well as “That’s great, she’ll love it.” I was surprised at receiving the negative reactions. The intention was not to be condescending, of course. Perhaps these opinions were derived from a lack of familiarity with college Greek life or were based on what they have seen in movies and on television.

So, I thought about how my mom supported my decision to pledge a sorority despite her complete lack of experience with one. She did not attend a 4 year college and even if she had, I do not think she would have been a sorority girl. When I pledged, my sister was already a senior at Swarthmore College which had banned sororities.  I am pretty sure that my parents’ only concern with the whole Greek thing was cost and interference with my school work. After I assured them that neither would be an issue, they seemed infected with my excitement. I know that my mom was thrilled to bring me her old black silk taffeta dress to wear to my first sorority formal. She might not have been the sorority type, but was proud to have the appropriate wardrobe!

Raising children has helped me to be non-judgmental and tolerant of others. We make decisions for ourselves and our children that might conflict with what we thought we would do and/or what “everyone else is doing.” I emulate my parents’ compulsion to raise my sister and me as individuals.  While I am sure not all of their rules, decisions, etc. were right, they were at least based on their own beliefs and standards. And, I know they would be proud that they taught us to make thoughtful and independent decisions.

Of course, since I did truly enjoy my sorority days, I am all in favor of Sandra pledging. Interestingly, I am not disappointed that she did not pledge ZTA (on the other hand, that would have been really neat—she’d be a legacy). Sandra is the ideal sorority girl—she treasures her friendships and desires that sisterhood camaraderie. She is so full of energy and enthusiasm—she loved all of the quirky camp traditions and will be the first to memorize her Delta Gamma songs, handshakes, etc. Sorority gatherings will fuel her need for socializing 24/7.  And, she even considered the various sorority philanthropies in making her sorority choice since charitable work is important to her.  I am really proud of her and I know that my mom would be too—she would swoon over her granddaughter and all of her adventures, including this latest one.

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College Mom

19 Aug

I’m wondering what kind of college mom I’ll be. With my daughter just starting her first year at the University of Miami, I’ve had many mixed emotions. I’ve gotten through the initial separation with the expected anxiety, tears and joy. Walking alone in the airport for my return trip, I was feeling sorry for myself because I’ll miss my daughter every single day (her charm, spirit, companionship, fashion advice, chatter….). And, then I had an epiphany—this is not a sad time! Sure, it is bittersweet, but we are so fortunate that my daughter is where she should be right now. How lucky she is to have this amazing opportunity! And, how lucky am I to be able to witness this next chapter of her life.

So, now that I am home and she is away until Thanksgiving, I have a mission—to be her mildly doting, but not at all intrusive mom. I am completely confident that she will flourish in her new, independent environment AND will be thrilled to get a card or care package from me. After all, up until the end of junior year I made her school lunch and periodically included personal notes ( including “Hope your day is great,” “Good luck at your game today,” and simply, “I love you xoxo.”) We laughed about how she was fully capable of making her own lunch and would happily do so, but she did not hesitate to allow me the personal pleasure of this mommy task. She was thrilled when she’d get a note and show it off to her friends. It makes sense then that within 24 hours of being home, I sent off a package of things she couldn’t fit in her luggage, eager to include my first note. I kept it simple, saving a store-bought card for next week’s mail.

Where in all of this does my mom fit in? She was not exactly a role model in this situation. She was just not the doting type. Other moms of girls in my college dorm brought their daughters food, clothing, etc. My favorite story is of a mom who would leave a pizza pie on her daughter’s car just minutes before she knew her daughter would get there—leaving so she would not interfere at all. My mom had to be asked, but if I did request clothes or dinner, she would follow through. A few years ago, my sister and I discussed the different recollection we each have of our mom’s involvement. I insisted that my mom made college care packages—giving food and supplies when we returned to college after a vacation. My sister does not recall receiving anything at all. I think reality is somewhere in between. My mom did not initiate any package. But, if on my way out I asked, she would allow me to fill a bag with a variety of things from her cupboard—soup, crackers, laundry detergent. Perhaps subconsciously, I brought this bag to Rutgers feeling like my mom put it together and handed it to me. My distortion helped me feel like I fit in with my roommate whose mom gave her bags of good things.

As with any new event or monumental moment, I think of how much I wish my mom was here to share these times. I wish I could tell her about my care packages and notes. And, with these changes going on in my life, I wonder what other moms did for their college children back then. Did moms typically send care packages or even letters to their daughters (my peers) while they were away at college? What do you moms do now? Has our helicopter parenting habits led us to excessive involvement when our children go off to college? What is excessive and do we keep our involvement under control?

Running as One

29 Apr

Run as One 2009

I’m back from a short blog hiatus. I’ve had a busy few weeks as my daughter, Sandra, debated her college choice, but I am excited to write after being inspired by this morning’s activity. Sandra and I participated, for the 6th time, in the Thomas G. Labrecque Run as One . This is always a very special and emotional day for us and is even more so this year since it is the last time we will participate together for at least the next four years since she will be at her chosen school!

We ran our first Run as One in 2006 after our friend and neighbor died from lung cancer 32 days after being diagnosed. Felice Jentis, a non-smoker and one of the warmest and most gregarious women we’ve known, was only 39 years old. To help her and her family during her illness, her friends created Team Felice. After her death a foundation, was started to help fund research and each year Team Felice raises money and awareness while running and walking with the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation.

When Felice died, Sandra was 12 years old and was preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. Struggling with a desire to do something commemorative, she decided to base her Mitzvah Project (a service-oriented project intended to make a difference in the world) on lung cancer. After all, my mom died from the same type of lung cancer when my daughter was only 4 months old and she had always felt gypped and sad. This was her chance to do something about it. She created and sold bracelets and donated the money to the  Felice Lipit Jentis Memorial BAC Research Trust . And, we ran, together.

Each year, we meet Team Felice in Central Park and after hellos and hugs, we run. The gathering gives us all an opportunity to remember Felice and talk about her. Then my daughter and I go to the whiteboard that the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation sets up for people to write messages. We write notes to my mom. Today, I wrote, “I’ll always miss and love you mom” and I include her name. Sandra added, “I wish I could have known you.” Today we looked for a special color and chose a fuscia sharpie marker. It matched the bright sunny sky and strong feelings we experienced.

I love this day. We struggle with the sadness and grief, but find energy and hope through today’s event.  We said our goodbyes to Felice’s family and friends today with the usual, “See you next year.” Then, we left Central Park with the bittersweet feeling that, although we cannot share this day while Sandra is away at college, whether together or not, we can always run as one.

College Road Trip –a long and winding road.

9 Oct

As I and my family become immersed in the frenzy of my daughter’s college application process, I wish I could talk to my mom about my senior year, her coping mechanisms and just get that re-assurance that it will all work out.

My friends (my colleagues in Parenting, Inc.) and I discuss how much this whole college search and application process has changed over the last 25 – 30 years. We all agree it seems much more grueling. Like so many other things in our lives, it is more complicated and competitive. We can’t really blame this change completely on technology, but the fact that a tremendous amount of the planning and applying takes place on-line, makes this another task we can obsess about 24 hours a day!

There are some important similarities I recall about my own experience. We think that our teens go overboard with tutors and counselors, but even I had a few appointments with a college counselor to help me figure out what I might study and where. College visits/ road trips were all exciting. I enjoyed visiting Tufts with my parents and actually recall walking around the campus with dreams of a 4 year stay. I also remember the Reuben sandwich I enjoyed when we took a break in Boston’s Faneuil Hall. My mother and I enjoyed a long car ride to Cornell and then survived a scary ride home in a white-out snowstorm. I remember being thankful for my mom’s willingness to stay in a hotel while I camped out in a dorm room there.

My most  vivid memory is actually a regret.  My final decision to attend Rutgers College makes me proud, but I never shared the exact reason with my parents. After Tufts and Cornell rejected my application (easy to say now, a horrible feeling then), I had to choose between Brandeis and Rutgers. Even after meeting with my lovely counselor, I was still unsure of my career path. I thought I should follow my sister’s grand footsteps and consider law or a similar, highly respected career. At the time, teaching was not the popular choice. Salaries were still low as  was the esteem, or so I thought. Yet, somehow I knew that I might choose to be a teacher. And, so I privately decided to opt for the less expensive education, I started out majoring in economics and taking courses that were not right for me. Fortunately, Rutgers was the perfect place to alter my path and follow my true calling to become an English teacher.

I wish I could tell my mom and dad about my secret decision, but I also think they might have known. Most importantly, I still get chills as I recall their show of approval and support of my decisions. I know I made them proud!

So, now back to my current journey as the mom of a college-seeker. And, since I do not recall my mom nagging me to edit college essays and finish applications (most likely a selective memory loss), I aspire to be the supportive and understanding mom.

How about your experience, then and now? I would love to know your story—it might just help this current journey.