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 Continue reading →

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 →

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 →

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 →

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?  Continue reading →

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 →

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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When Success Leads to Failure…

Periodically I bump into articulate explorations of topics near and dear to the heart of this on-going conversation about how we attentively partner with our college-aged children.  There are more than enough articles in the public conversation detailing the negative ripple-effects of helicopter parenting (many of which are based in a finger-wagging shame that I don’t sense really adds value to the conversation).

Fortunately, there are also thoughtfully pieces with the quality of what I’ve begun calling a “healthy emotional archeology” – that is, writing that leads to a deep consideration of the personal and cultural dynamics of this thing we call parenting.

I find the Atlantic article below to be one of those.  It has a grounded criticism alongside what I find to be thoughtful and helpful questions that can bring us back to our own story as well as the larger cultural story and the ways we may have each, at least implicitly,  made some small contribution to it’s narrative.

I would invite you to consider the issue for yourself and your children, as well as the larger cultural ethos the author shines a bright light on.

As always, Peace on your journey…

Dane

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/when-success-leads-to-failure/400925/?utm_source=On+Being+Newsletter&utm_campaign=09b0d5e36a-20150822_rex_jung_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1c66543c2f-09b0d5e36a-69848605.

A Year in the Life of a Freshman: October

October

Transition Issues

  • Time management & setting priorities
  • Mid-term projects and expectations of academic performance
  • Missing home and old friends

Tips for Successful Parenting

Write often – postcards, letters, emails, it all matters!  Although your student is in the throws of new experiences they are still anxious to hear from home.  There isn’t a student alive who won’t get excited about a care package from home full of Continue reading →