Tag Archives: college

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.

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?

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.

Pack It Up

25 Jun

Packing is one of the travel necessities that can be so daunting I might choose to avoid it and stay home!  While sharing personal stories about who packs the children for summer camp or family vacations, two of us (controlling) mothers admitted to usurping this task. We have no qualms over feeling more capable of ensuring that our children have enough clothing, toiletries, etc. and that luggage space is maximized. I gloated that I know how to fill each corner of the luggage by rolling shirts and socks to fit into each nook and cranny.

The conversation led me to ask, “Who taught you how to pack or did you just figure it out?” And, of course, we each had the same answer—“MY MOTHER.” I remember my mother’s pride as she folded, rolled and secured each item into the most efficient spot. As she maximized space, she also minimized creases and wrinkles.

As your children prepare for summer camp, vacations or even college, do you pack with them? For them? Do you do a final check to make sure nothing is left behind? Who influenced your packing? Did your mother have certain rules or methods? Which is more important to you (and which would your mother choose), maximizing space or minimizing wrinkles? If we control the packing too much, are we shirking our responsibility to pass along the packing protocol?

Road Trip

25 Apr

This is destined to be a repeated theme—the road trip to explore college choices. I imagine it conjures up all sorts of memories of time spent with your mom. Or, was your dad your college visit companion? Or, did you not visit colleges because of your mom (and/or dad’s) history, philosophy, etc.?

This is a timely topic that surfaced when my daughter and I visited colleges this week. My most vivid memory of my own college road trip is the one that just my mom and I took to tour Cornell. I still remember thinking she was a great sport—she helped set me up to stay in a dorm and get the full experience. She did not mind being left on her own as I hung out with Cornell students—getting to know their college culture, eating the amazing Cornell food and “traying” down the snowy hills. Yet, the most memorable part of our trip was the ride home-through a huge snowstorm. I can still picture the highways in a state of complete white-out. I do not know if my mom was as frightened as I was, wondering if we could possibly get home safely. She was a great driver and must have stayed calm because it’s my own shivering that I recall. What a trooper she was—taking me on such a long journey, staying alone in a hotel and navigating a dangerous drive home. Teenagers are often unappreciative of their mom’s efforts and I often modeled that stereotype, but I think she knew how grateful I was for that trip.  Cornell did take away some of my pride when it did not accept my application; yet, that disappointment could not take away the great road trip with my mom

Fortunately, this recent college road trip was much easier—a plane ride with some long, but picturesque driving. I also stayed alone in a hotel, but found great music and food to enjoy on my own. I did not suffer, in fact I felt indulged. Maybe my mom did too. I can only hope!

I know that we have a long road ahead with the entire college process and just hope that we continue to create great memories. What do remember about college exploration with your mom? Or, if your dad was your research partner, why was it him and what involvement did your mom have? How do (or did) you plan to make the experience with your child similar or different? How can we use this special time to cement the good relationship we want with our own children?