Fostering Grit & Resilience…

As regular readers of CP101 would tell you, I’m always on the lookout for the myriad ways in which this on-going conversation about relationship transition takes place.  It’s certainly not a new conversation, as I hear echoes of it throughout literature, poetry, story and film.

I watched the film “Ride,” written and directed by acclaimed actor Helen Hunt recently.  It was a fascinating look at the unprocessed pain of a parent working itself out and through her relationship with her son who was in the process of transitioning from high school to college.  It was hard to watch and yet Continue reading “Fostering Grit & Resilience…”

Year in the Life of a Freshman: February

February

Transition Issues:

  • Plans for Spring Break?
  • Conversations about Alcohol & other drugs
  • Begin thinking about summer employment &/or summer school
  • Do I still want to major in this?

Tips for Successful Parenting

Spring Break is right around the corner.  Most students have been thinking about any number of options they might have: going home, staying on-campus to make extra money, or heading to the beach or mountains with friends.  This is a great opportunity to talk about his plans, as well as share your expectations about things like, who is financing a trip or what he might do if Continue reading “Year in the Life of a Freshman: February”

The Underground Journey

It would appear by the evening forecast that with few exceptions, we’ve no choice, no matter our zip code, but to acknowledge that winter has arrived in force.  As I type this there are winter storm warnings across much of the country.

I’m an avid gardener.  This season is one in which both I and the visible garden rest.  The fall greens have succumbed to the latest cold snap.  The sweet potatoes are dug and stored in the basement.  The wilted peas, cucumber vines, and spent tomato plants are piled in the compost bin.   

The garlic bulbs planted in late October and the daffodil bulbs I plant every fall (beautifully referred to by author Christopher DeVinck as “the flames of spring”) are setting roots and building strength and nourishment for the coming spring, for flavor and beauty.  I know that though many trees and shrubs are barren, the perennial flowers shriveled by the last hard frost, there is a rooted strength below the surface that continues to thrive.

If you were to speak the words that come to mind when I ask, “What comes to mind when you think of winter?”  I would assume that words such as, dead, bare, dormant, sleeping, resting, grey, and lifeless may be spoken.  At one level that appears to be true, and yet there is also that which we cannot see; that which is growing and gathering strength for the time to come.

The Underground Journey is taking place.  There is so much in our lives that occurs below the surface.  There is much that is building for the future – however long these seasons may be – that we cannot yet either know or see.  It is a season of waiting no matter how we feel about it.  There is nothing left to do about a host of things that lay in the humus of our lives but to wait.  No question that it can be an anxious time, full of the fear of our inability to do more than we’ve done.

And so there lies before us in this season our choices.  There is the choice to move toward doing more, born from our anxiousness of wanting to make something happen, to push or pull, dig or transplant.  Sometimes this is necessary.  I have dug up plants that were in the wrong place – they need more sun or less sun.  They need more fertile soil, or be in a place in which I can give them more attention. 

Then there is the choice to rest in what is and what may or may not come to be.  In our immediate satisfaction world, this can be a difficult place.  It requires a sense of trust in powers beyond my ability and influence, certainly beyond my knowing.  It asks me to let go of my sense of where my control lies.  I’m reminded of this each fall as the tender plants literally let go of their own structure and collapse into the soil.  Some of these will return while others won’t.  I must wait.

So, as we move into this season of winter, this time in which much may be occurring below the surface of what we can see, might we sit in the waiting of expectation of what is to come for yourself, those you care deeply for, and those you’ve yet to find.  Might you loosen your grip to allow time and space for the necessary rest of the underground journey that brings a growing season.

Peace by yours!  Dane

 

Year in the Life of a Freshman: January

January

Transition Issues

  • Readjusting to leaving home again
  • Getting back into the swing of campus life
  • Rethink her/his level of campus involvement and commitments
  • Conversations about academic performance & life choices

Tips for Successful Parenting

Lead with questions.  Most students still want their parent(s) to express interest in what she is doing; she will most likely still seek your permission/blessing for what she wants to do.  Try using “open-ended questions” (questions that demand more than a “yes” or “no” response) that allow her to tell you details while Continue reading “Year in the Life of a Freshman: January”

Peace for the Journey, Winter

By now, your student has returned for the Winter Holiday break.  My sense is that you’ve already experienced your expectations not meeting reality.  By that I mean, you and your student had expectations for what the return home would look like, or be like and things just haven’t played out quite like you wanted/hoped they would.

You haven’t witnessed the daily transformation of the wide-eyed freshman you dropped off in August; this new creature who now resides in the body of the person you thought was your child.  On the other hand, your student has not experienced the daily alterations made to life at home, sometimes beyond your own awareness, around his absence.  This is not the household he Continue reading “Peace for the Journey, Winter”

Year in the Life of a Freshman: December

December

Transition Issues:

  • Concern about academic demands – finals & projects
  • Talk about expectations for holiday break – s/he isn’t in high school anymore
  • Anticipation of good food, lots of sleep and seeing old and new friends
  • Re-evaluate finances

Tips for Successful Parenting

Expect change – plenty of it. The son you dropped off in August will not be the one who comes home for the winter holiday. Change is not only inevitable, it’s expected and necessary for healthy relationships.  Your student will experience new relationships, academic challenges and Continue reading “Year in the Life of a Freshman: December”

Practicing…

I post this poem by poet, Linda Pastan, to offer a different vantage point as we continually look at the ways we know our own story and how that bumps into the stories of our children.  I find her imagery and attention to be helpful in my own journey in identifying those “flashes of brilliance” in the commonplace events of our days. Though this poem speaks to a ‘son’ I’m hopeful that you can translate as needed to a daughter.  May her metaphor help you find your own truth in your own story.

Peace, Dane

My son is practicing the piano.
He is a man now, not the boy
whose lessons I once sat through,
whose reluctant practicing
I demanded—part of the obligation
I felt to the growth
and composition of a child.

Upstairs my grandchildren are sleeping,
though they complained earlier of the music
which rises like smoke up through the floorboards,
coloring the fabric of their dreams.
On the porch my husband watches the garden fade
into summer twilight, flower by flower;
it must be a little like listening to the fading

diminuendo notes of Mozart.
But here where the dining room table
has been pushed aside to make room
for this second or third-hand upright,
my son is playing the kind of music
it took him all these years,
and sons of his own, to want to make.

“Practicing” by Linda Pastan, from The Last Uncle. © W. W. Norton, 2002

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Tradition, tradition, tradition…

The commercials are unavoidable – images of family celebrations nearly every time you change the channel.  Thanksgiving is upon us, as are the Winter holidays which follow; the season of expectations and hope.

One of the dynamics at play this time of year is that the approaching holiday season is the most tradition-based on the calendar.  Families often travel to be with each other attempting to create something akin to the quintessential turkey-laden feast Norman Rockwell made famous.  How might this relate to my college student, you ask?  In what ways have you celebrated during this season since your student was young.  Have you hosted out-of-town family?  Have you packed up the car and headed to Grandma’s house, or some centrally-located sibling?

Whether your tradition is to stay home or hit the road, it is important, if your student is traveling some distance to college, that you consider how, either hosting a house full, or piling in the car for additional travel might affect the family dynamic.

The person you dropped off in August to begin this college adventure is in no way the same one who will show up at your door in the next few weeks.   She has made myriad of decisions which have begun to help her discover a new sense of herself.  He has made choices that have bearing on the direction of his future without consulting you.  To assume that your student is the same is to, from my perspective, create a “set-up” for everyone.  Essentially it is not letting go of who she was to allow them to be who she is becoming.

Frankly, whether you’re aware of it or not, you have changed in your student’s absence too.  We each make incrementally small adjustments to the space in our days that our student no longer fills.  As much as we enjoy having them home, it is an adjustment all the way around.  It is weird that you will feel the awkward space around him.  It is weird too for her to feel a bit like a guest when she walks through the front door of the place she calls home.  The best way to acknowledge the feelings is to talk about it – get it out in the open.

So, before this new creature springs through the door loaded with dirty laundry, late-night stories, new knowledge and opinions, new hopes and dreams, please make every effort to talk in advance about both your and your student’s expectations for the long holidays.  Talk about travel plans to determine if what you have always done is feasible.  Ask if she has made plans of her own.  Ask him if he has his heart set on some aspect of your tradition that you may need to adjust.  Talk to her about the parts of your family traditions you may like to keep in place, but your recognition that it will now be different.  I promise you it will be energy well-spent.

As I have said before, the ultimate goal of this transition is to acknowledge the changes you experience by communicating your way through the process.  Remember the adage: “Your job as a parent is never over, but your job description is changing dramatically.” 

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Year in the Life of a Freshman: November

November

Transition Issues

  • Excitement about Thanksgiving break
  • Talk about your expectations around family traditions & rituals
  • Registration for spring semester is coming up

Tips for Successful Parenting

Phone calls about low grades, difficult relationships or ruining a favorite t-shirt in the wash may be tough for you to hear, but none of them are the end of the world – yours or hers.  Be patient when you get those “nothing is going right and I Continue reading “Year in the Life of a Freshman: November”

Leaning into Change

When we are asked to change something, we’re likely to encounter a number of feelings: fear and anger are undoubtedly among them. But we may recognize that in the course of our lives we encounter or are asked to change a number of things which, sometimes, without even thinking, we do on a daily basis.

We change clothes – sometimes several times a day. Like it or not, we must change our child’s diapers. We change lanes driving the highway. We change our clocks back and forth each year. We live in the rhythms of the changing weather and the seasons. And, at times, we are aware that our feelings change by the second.

I wonder as I sit with this brief list of changes, among all the others which are now floating across the screen of my mind, what difference there is in my response, and therefore my resistance, to changes which are external (lane changes, which shirt to wear today, etc.) and those which are internal (what is my fear asking of me, do I need to alter my vocation, etc.). My sense of my own varying responses is that there are far deeper feelings about those inner questions of change; feelings that are so much more connected to my sense of myself, my purpose and meaning, and my hope that I do not yet know.

These “invitations” to change or consider change seem to threaten what I have put in place to keep things “ok” – whatever that means – such that I am once again faced with my inability (read: lack of control) to set a course which will not steer me into uncharted waters.

I recognize that this is the territory of fear. Anytime I am entertaining a need to control something/someone, I am now aware that I am feeling fear. It may not be the thing/person I am trying to control, but there is fear in the air. So invitations to change present me with a threshold to cross; a doorway into new space that holds something new which I do not yet know or see.

If I view ALL my fear as “bad”, then I learn to steer clear or avoid these doorways, and I’m aware of a lot of energy I’ve spent avoiding those places in which I have been asked to enter unknown space. But as the years pass, I have – gladly – begun to recognize that the “gift of fear” is learning to pay attention; to be alert, not so much vigilance, but open awareness: actually look for something new, rather than looking out for what to avoid.

I suppose this speaks to a posture, posture of leaning. The recognition I’m speaking of here is a directional one; one that asks me to be aware of which direction I am leaning toward the ceaseless invitations around change. My work then, as I sense it is for all of us, is to note which way I am leaning: leaning away from, or in to?

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