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”