Navigating the Ever-Changing Terrain of Parenting

Parenting is a funny thing. 

When your child is young you need to be involved in every step along the way.

As they hit middle school years, you need to start stepping back; giving them the space they need to start maneuvering their world on their own.

By high school you need to be watching from the sidelines. It’s sink or swim time preparing for college.

The irony though is, if you’re too involved, you can be accused of being a “helicopter mom.”

AND

If you step back too much, you can be accused of not caring.

You’re constantly walking a fine line between over-stepping and under-stepping.

As my Son was growing up, I was by no means a “helicopter mom.” I was what I classified as his advocate.

An advocate he desperately needed at times.

Like when his parochial elementary school told me he had behavior issues and was ADHD. Yet official testing proved he was gifted IQ, not ADHD. Basically he was bored, which was why he was acting out. He was in 2nd grade at the time, and most certainly not mature enough to comprehend that.

The school refused to do anything because they stated the behavior issue had to be addressed first. Needless to say, I had to transfer my Son to public school where they had the resources available to challenge him.

OR

Like when my Son had trouble adjusting to middle school, and his teachers reached out to me requesting my involvement in overseeing his transition to the new demands expected of a middle school student. 

OR

Like when a bullying issue in high school was eating away at my Son’s self-esteem. As if Freshman year in high school wasn’t enough of a challenge. 

OR

My Son’s challenges with time management, which severely reared its ugly head when he hit middle school. Intellectually he was advanced, but emotionally immature. Prioritizing and estimating how long something would take were chronic issues.

This prompted me to bring in a tutor to help with the process, but I did have to keep tabs on him when he had large projects.

By high school he was doing pretty well on his own, so I stepped back, knowing he would be on his own his college. If he faltered, he had to accept the consequences of his action, or should I say non-action.

By the time he graduated from high school, he had this pretty much under control, which served him well his Freshman year in college.

Last semester however, he hit a hiccup.

As it turns out though, the hiccup was a combination of things, not just time management/under-estimating how long the assignment would take.

Junior level classes with a more demanding workload caused quite a few late nights, add in a roommate who decided to stay up late on his phone that caused lost sleep and missed alarms which in turn caused my Son to miss enough classes to impact his grade.

I was unaware of this because my Son tried to handle it on his own, which I respect, but had he spoken with me before it got really bad I may have been able to give him advice that could have avoided the negative impact on his grades. 

In particular I would have suggested he speak with his advisor who suggested he take the Junior level classes, and who just happened to be the instructor of the classes.

Needless to say over Winter break there were many discussions about all that transpired. I told my Son he needs to get back to the methods that helped in high school and left it that

I also noted I felt he does better when he’s playing music, as was evident his first semester Freshman year when he made Dean’s List. Class schedules forced him to drop jazz band for two semesters, which disappointed him, but unfortunately was necessary.

AND, I told him I felt he needs things other than gaming to relax. Like leisure reading or even dabbling with Legos, which was his saving grace in Middle School.

These were all just suggestions, and a parent giving general advice. I didn’t push. I knew he was already feeling bad enough about getting a bad grade.

The more my Son pondered what I said though, the more he realized I was right and even told me so. That about floored me, but I knew it was a sign my Boy was maturing. He was willing to listen to what I had to say and not just ignore me, as had been the case most of his teens.

I do believe we may have finally hit the point where my Son actually respects what I have to say. 

There was an obvious shift in the dynamics of our relationship while he was home on Winter Break. I noticed Mom was still Mom, but there were definitely more “buddy” moments.

I’m excited for this change, but I know it means he’s truly growing up and will one day really leave the nest to venture on his own life quest, not just off to college.

Until then though, we have to make it through his college years, which I found out recently may demand more of Mom stepping in than either one of us thought would be needed.

With all the negativity of the Fall Semester behind us, we both looked to the Spring Semester with high hopes.

That was until the Friday before classes were to start. At 3:30 in the afternoon my Son received an email from his advisor stating two key classes he needed for his major were being canceled.

This was the second semester in a row.

It made our hearts sink. Now what?

The fear that this could happen hung over our heads since the start of the Fall semester. The instructor who taught these classes, and headed up the program, had left abruptly in August (we assume), and although the students were told they had a replacement in the works, they never got any confirmation this had indeed happened.

This news threw my Son into a tailspin. He began to wonder whether he was meant to stay in college. He was beyond deflated. This hurt more than the bad grades from the last semester. This made him feel like his dreams weren’t worth pursuing.

Seeing my Son crushed and hurting was heartbreaking, but it also made me furious. No one was going to do to this to my Son. Something had to be done, but first I had to back my Son off the precipice of the cliff he had himself on.

The next day however it was time for me to strike. After pondering what actions to take, I decided I would reach out to the college President and voice my thoughts on the schools unconscionable behavior. I was very diplomatic, not throwing stones, but approaching the subject from the angle of what such actions do to the student.

Much to my surprise the President responded within a few hours, and agreed with me. Stating I was right about everything, but also adding neither she, nor the Provost were aware that these classes had been canceled. Noting the head of the department canceled them without following proper protocol and reviewing the needs of each student registered for the classes.

She also noted they were addressing the issue, and hoped to find a way to resolve it, but couldn’t make any promises for this semester.

Much to our surprise though, within an hour she once again emailed with good news. They were able to find an instructor from another department qualified to teach the cancelled classes. Noting the Provost would be reaching out to all the students to work with them to get their schedules back on track.

Needless to say my Son and I were thrilled they were able to salvage this semester, but shocked they knew nothing about this until I reached out to the President.

How long would this travesty have prevailed had I not reached out to voice my thoughts? 

I also wondered if I was the only parent who had done so?

If so, why?

We’re paying good money to send out kids to college and if the money isn’t going to the classes they need for their degree we should be pissed and stand up for our kids, right?

I know I’ll never know if any other parent spoke up, but I do know I will continue to be the one that does. Just because my Son is in college doesn’t mean he doesn’t still need Mom to be his advocate

AND, this just proves how important it is for a parent to stay engaged in their child’s life, even when they’re away at college.

I don’t mean meddling, but if they have an issue that’s causing them great stress, help. Navigating college life can be challenging enough, so every little thing that shows you still have their back most certainly can aid in their success.

There are some that may not agree with me, but I know for my Son and I, this is truth.

So, although I may be traveling the road of self-rediscovery while my Son is away at college, I can honestly say the biggest thing I’ve learned through all of this is that being a Mom will always be the most important part of me.

No matter where my travels go, at my core I am first and foremost a Mom and proud of it.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Tightrope – ©123rf – Khoon Lay Gan

Time Running Out – ©123rf

Home for Dinner – ©123rf

Depressed – ©123rf

Advocate – ©123rf – arcady31

Photos from personal collection

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#MomMemoir

#ParentingCollegeKids

Traditions

TRADITIONS – the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction

CUSTOMSa usage or practice common to many or to a particular place or class or habitual with an individual OR long-established practice considered as unwritten law

It’s hard not to think about traditions this time of year. From Thanksgiving straight through the New Year the season is brimming over with traditions and customs. Whether they are unique to a family, culture or faith, they’re there, large and small.

Even if you don’t think you have them, you have them.

If there’s something you do annually, like coloring eggs on Good Friday, going to a pumpkin patch every fall, or putting up holiday decorations on Black Friday, you have a tradition.

Some of them may be ones passed down from family members over the years, while others may have been created or adapted from another source.

It doesn’t have to be annually, or even tied to a holiday. It could be something you do monthly, or even daily that has become part of who you are. 

For example, my Son and I had a little ritual every night before bed when he was little. After reading a book, I would tuck him in and say, ”Good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams” and give him an Eskimo kiss. And, although he’s older, when he’s home from college, I still make sure I give him a kiss on his head and say, ”Good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams, Eskimo, Eskimo” Saying Eskimo, Eskimo replaces the Eskimo kisses. 

Funny thing is, my Son looks for this. It has become part of who we are. Hopefully when he has children of his own he will carry this tradition on.

Traditions/customs are the threads that weave the fabric of the family together. No matter how small or simple they may seem, they matter. At their root is the history of who we are.

Understanding them is important, but not always essential because some are just how they make you feel, like my Son and my bedtime ritual.

Religious traditions are some of the most interesting and most certainly need to be understood in order to appreciate them.

Growing up as a Slovak Catholic our family had plenty of traditions tied to faith and heritage. Below are just a few:

• The Blessing of Food Baskets at Easter https://www.thespruceeats.com/easter-food-baskets-blessing-tradition-1136995

• Cirak – Slovak Easter Cheese https://www.thespruceeats.com/slovak-egg-cheese-recipe-for-easter-1137379

• The Stations of the Cross during Lent https://www.britannica.com/topic/Stations-of-the-Cross

• Christmas Eve Meal – including Oplatky, Mushroom Sauerkraut Juice Soup (eaten to bring you good luck in the new year), and Bobalky https://www.catholiccompany.com/content/Oplatki-Christmas-Tradition.cfm

Having a Slovak father and a Pennsylvania German Mother our holidays were packed with traditions. The bulk of which revolved around food.

My fondest memories are of my Mother preparing the traditional foods of the holiday and the smells coming out of the kitchen. To this day certain smells will trigger these images, and make my heart swell.

How my Mother accomplished all she did still astonishes me. I can’t seem to find time to bake cookies at Christmas, yet she made cutout cookies, nutroll, kiffle and bread, in addition to the main course. To say she was amazing is an understatement.

As the years have gone by, with siblings growing up and moving, and my Mom aging and passing in 2015, not all those traditions have survived, but the memories are still there.

Memories I share with my Son in hopes they will not be forgotten.

Some of the traditions my Son and I have are rooted in the ones I grew up with, like coloring eggs on Good Friday, keeping our Christmas tree up till the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th and burning a bayberry candle on Christmas Eve.

But, there are also new traditions I have created with my Son, like a new pair of PJ’s for Christmas Eve, conveniently left by Santa somewhere in the house. 

This tradition continues even with my Son turning twenty this month. Of course Santa is not part of the equation anymore, but let’s hope when my Son has children he’ll be hiding PJ’s for them. Finding the perfect pair of PJ’s has been one of my greatest pleasures every year.

The PJ tradition is a borrowed tradition from a former co-worker. Where she got it, I have know idea, but I loved the idea and once started my Son looked forward to tracking down the package with his special PJ’s every Christmas Eve.

Over the years some of our traditions have evolved. When my Son was younger, New Years Eve was pizza, games and snacks till midnight. When my Mother was alive, she would be part of our NYE tradition, and sometimes a sister or nephew or two would join us.

Now however, we head to a late day movie, then dinner, and get home with time to either watch a movie or play a game before the ball drops. Sometimes family or friends will join us, but generally it’s just us. 

I thought for sure this year my Son would want to do something with friends, but he said New Years Eve is suppose to be the two of us. I was truly touched by this and certainly hope at least through his college years this stays the same.

It brings me great joy to see as my Son has grown, he has become noticeably more in tune to the traditions of our family and certainly looks forward to them.

My Son is an avid history buff, so the traditions and customs that are tied to our family heritage intrigue him, which is a positive sign they will be carried on, in some way shape or form, even if just by word of mouth.

Keeping traditions/customs alive is critical to saving the core of the family. They not only tell the story of who we are, they show respect and appreciation for the past, and remind us that we are part of a larger community.

In addition, the birth of new traditions woven into existing ones will strengthen the core of the family and ensure the traditions will live on for decades to come.

So, with not only a New Year, but also new decade upon us, I look forward to keeping the fires of old traditions alive, and stoking the ambers of new traditions.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year, and Decade, filled with family strengthening traditions, old and new.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Photos from personal collection

Eskimo Kiss – ©123rf – Eladora

Threads – ©123rf – Andrius Gruzdaitis

Signs of Growth

Last month I met an old friend for dinner. This is something we had tried to do for years, but between raising kids, and caring for our aging Mom’s, time just got away from us. BUT, with both of us now having our children back at college for their sophomore year we knew we had to make it happen

OR, it may never happen.

Once seated at our table, my first words to her were “How are you doing since the girls went back to school?”

Without any hesitation she stated sophomore year has been tougher than freshman year. I agreed, confessing I was downright depressed the first week or two.

I hate to say it, but it was refreshing to find out it wasn’t just me feeling this way. 

Freshman year I had many texts, emails, and even a somewhat regular Sunday afternoon call from my Son. Plus, I had a few runs to the college to aid with roommate issues and moving. And, bring things he discovered he needed for the dorm. 

This year however has been drastically different.

Which is good for my Son. It means he’s becoming more independent, self-confident and self-reliant.

For me however, it has been beyond challenging. The feeling of not being needed was overwhelming at times.

Before I let it get the best of me though, I knew I had to put my energy into something positive. I needed to be proactive and not dwell on the void.

With an endless list of unfinished projects staring me down, I set my sights on those, and created a plan of attack based on the time I had till my Son’s first visit home for Fall Break.

Continue reading “Signs of Growth”

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

My struggles leading up to my Son’s departure for college and during his Freshman year were well documented in multiple posts in “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her Son’s zombie years, aka his teens” and even on this site, so I won’t rehash them here.

If you haven’t already read them, I’ve included links below.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/loosening-the-tether/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/season-of-transition/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/home-for-dinner/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/08/31/but-really-what-are-you-feeling/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/adjusting-to-my-new-norm/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/12/30/every-new-beginning-comes-from-some-other-beginnings-end-seneca/

https://wakingthewoman.com/2019/04/28/confused-self-image/

I mention these struggles because it sets up my state of mind this month.

AND

How my thoughts meandered from facing my empty nest again, to where I am in my life, to what comes next, to my age, and the thought that my age, late fifties, has got to be some of the weirdest and toughest times to navigate, next to adolescence and teens of course.

I’m no longer middle-aged, but not quite yet considered a senior citizen, even if AARP is available at 55. Although, some days I do feel like I’m prehistoric, especially at the end of a long workday or week.

With my Son in college, my parenting demands are extremely diminished. As a matter of fact, while my Son is away at college they’re practically non-existent. Which is quite an adjustment after single parenting from day one.

AND

I’m not old enough to retire, but most certainly wish I could. 

BASICALLY

I’m somewhere “IN-BETWEEN” raising kids and retiring, and not quite sure where I fit in. It’s kind of a time of limbo.

A limbo that will take some adjusting too.

WHY?

My Son does still need me, at times, so my parenting duties are on again off again. This creates a push and pull scenario with me.

Just when I get in the rhythm of flying solo, my Son is home on break and it’s back to full-time Mom duty.

Particularly in the kitchen. Having to seriously plan dinners for a week after a long break takes some adjusting to.

Then there are the fantasies about retirement that sometimes make the workday seem longer.

Knowing I have a little over 8 years till I can officially retire and get full Social Security can challenge my psyche. It’s like the notion of retirement is taunting me. Closer than it was five years ago, but longer than I wish it was.

The thing with retirement though, it may be too early to start a countdown, but it’s never too early to start planning. This certainly helps push me through every workweek. Realizing there is light at the end of tunnel, even though faint, lightens the load.

I have friends who have retired, as have the majority of my siblings, yet the bulk of my co-workers are just starting families, raising young children or just starting the high school journey. To them the thought of college, empty nesting and retirement hasn’t even crossed their minds.

Not that I don’t have co-workers in a similar place as me. It’s just that we’re out-numbered by the young-ins.

Being somewhere between these worlds is kind of strange at times, and really does make me think about my age.

Something I never really did before. I guess because I was too busy raising my Son and helping with my Mom in her later life to even consider it.

BUT, with my Son turning twenty in December, it finally hit me.

I’m knocking at the door of 60. 

Not that 60 is old, my Mom was 94 when she passed, and up until 90 she was doing pretty good. She was very youthful in her thought process, and I feel all her children inherited that.

Age is just a number; it’s your state of mind that impacts how old you actually feel. 

That’s probably why I never gave my age a second thought, until now.

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” years makes my mind wander to the past, thinking about all the life I’ve already lived.

AND

Wonder about the future and the prospect of retirement and how to make it a reality.

I certainly have a real desire to slow down and take a little more time for me, but because I still have the sometime demands of parenting and the full-time demands of work, it’s hard

Then I look around my house at all the unfinished projects (that accumulated during my Son’s high school marching band days) that I thought I would tackle once my Son was away at school and get mad at myself because I barely tackled anything during his Freshman.

Not because I’m lazy, but because I’m tired during the week, having a thyroid disorder and doing overtime certainly doesn’t help.

Weekends then turn into to playing catch-up

BUT

As I discovered during my Son’s Freshman year, sometimes weekends turn into driving an hour one way to the college because of an issue with my Son. Whether it is moving him to a new dorm because of a rude roommate, or his computer is on the fritz, there goes any free time that could have been for projects at home.

Those “IN-BETWEEN” years rearing their ugly head.

I’m beginning to think though that maybe the “IN-BETWEEN” years are really more like a stepping-stone to retirement.

A time to not only plan financially, but mentally and emotional work on the adjustments needed to go from working full-time, to no-time, or should I say My Time.

Oh how glorious the sound of My Time is, but I know some people have a hard time adjusting when the daily routine of marching off to their job ends.

So it’s crucial to prepare for that change, and this “IN-BETWEEN” time is ideal.

And, I also have to start preparing for the day post college graduation when my Son heads off on his new career venture. This could be even harder than him leaving for college.

So, I guess, instead of being challenged by this “IN-BETWEEN” time, I need to embrace it.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Images originally posted in “Waking the Walker” – purchased from 123rf.com

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