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

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#ParentingCollegeKids

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

60 – 123rf.com – copyright – miceking

Confused Self-Image

Self-Image –
one’s conception of oneself or of one’s role
the way you think about yourself and your abilities or appearance

One of the key things I’ve discovered since my Son went off to college is the fact that my self-image is very much tied to being a Mom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Being a parent is at the same time the one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs anyone can take on.

As a parent you’re responsible for molding a little human. For me I prayed every day I was making the right decisions in guiding my Son on the right path to become a competent and compassionate human being, capable of standing on his own two feet.

I put my heart and soul into being a Mom, working tirelessly day and night never looking for anything more than a hug or an “I love you.”

My life revolved around my Son’s needs. I took a back seat.

Who I was before having my Son became a distant image in the rear view mirror of my life.

BUT, what happens to me when my position as Mom is downsized because my Son went off to college?

It’s back to being about me, but who am I outside of being a Mom?

How do I even begin to see myself as something more than my Son’s Mom?

How do I rewire my brain?

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/a-year-of-lasts/

Becoming a Mom was a dream I had all but given up on, so when I became one at 38, nothing else in the world mattered.

By that point in my life, I had done a lot of self-discovery, so “Mom” became just one more facet of me. A facet I was thrilled to explore. And one that quickly took over and became the primary facet, which I was content with.

I absolutely love being a Mom, but I see now more than ever, I’ve also attached my purpose and self-worth to this one role.

AND, with my Son off learning to make his own mark on the world, I’m feeling a bit lost. I feel as though I’ve lost my purpose. I’m not quite sure who I am any more. Am I still truly valued?

I realize my Son does still need me and I retain the title of “Mom” but it’s only part-time, so I have to figure out just “who” I really am beyond being a Mom.

The “me” before becoming a Mom has faded away over the years, and now that I’m older, I’m not sure that “me” is still valid.

I have to find the new “My Kid is in College Woman.”

And, I have to find a way to blend both the “Part-Time Mom” and the “My Kid is in College Woman” into one complete “me.”

I figured once my nest was empty the rediscovery process would just come naturally, but I’ve found over the course of my Son’s Freshman year this has not been the case.

After the first few months I thought I had reached a point where I was past the lost feeling and would be able to jump that hurdle, but last month kicked me in the butt. I lost all momentum and feel like I’m back at square one.

Just when I start to allow myself to tap into the “who” I am beyond being a Mom, my Son is either home on break, or has an issue at school that requires my attention.

In a few weeks my Son’s Freshman year of college will be completed and he’ll be home for the Summer.

What happens then?

Do I put my whole rediscovery journey on hold?

That would certainly be the easy route, the avoiding the growth route. BUT it would also be a disservice to both my Son and I.

My Son needs to see a Mom who is a healthy, happy and vital woman. He needs to see me as more than just Mom. This way he knows Mom will be fine when the day comes for him to officially go off to start a life of his own.

AND, I know for my own wellbeing; emotionally, mentally and physically; I need to push myself to grow beyond seeing myself as just a Mom.

They say the first step to change is acknowledging you need to change. So, at least I’ve gotten to that point during my Son’s first year of college.

I know I have a long way to go, but once I peel back the first layer of soul searching the real adventure will begin.

In so doing I’m quite sure I will find a new direction/purpose and finally begin to feel whole again.

Let’s just hope I can stand my ground once my Son is back in the nest for the Summer. In all honesty that will probably be my biggest test.

I’ll keep you posted.

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

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

Female Icon – donets

OUT OF SORTS

So, after my ever-optimistic “Dare to Dream” post last month I headed into March feeling really good about everything. All seemed right in my little world.

I had direction and an end game when it came to my writing. Even if I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.

I was adjusting to being an empty nester and even looking forward to free weekends that I could start to fill with unfinished projects.

AND

I was in a rhythm at work, busy, but not overloaded. I felt like I was firing on all cylinders.

UNTIL

The first week of March when I started to feel ”out of sorts.” Everything seemed out of whack. My mojo was seriously off and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

OF COURSE THIS MADE ME WONDER…

Was it stepping back into the world of the music boosters at my Son’s former high school to help with a fundraiser I had already retired from?  Going to a meeting after months of being away felt very strange. I most certainly felt out of place.

Was it the unexpected trip back and forth to my Son at college because his computer was on the fritz? This of course ate up a weekend. And the following Saturday because when I returned the computer to my Son, he injured his foot coming down the steps to meet me, which landed us a trip to the local emergicenter. So much for the free weekends to get back to unfinished projects

OR

Was it the slow period at work that lasted longer than a day or two? Which is not the norm. So much for firing on all cylinders, my cylinders were stalling. 

ALL THIS WONDERING DIDN’T HELP – IT MADE THINGS WORSE

It put me into an overthinking mode, especially about work and money. Which pushed me into the “how am I going to make ends meet if this slow period keeps up?” and  “should I start looking for a P/T job just to be safe?” mindset. 

My brain got caught up in a constant loop, chronically rewinding and reviewing the same thoughts over and over again. This is the kiss of death and guarantees there will be no resolve to whatever the dilemma was I had built up in my head.

This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it takes over, usually for a day or two, and then I snap out of it. This time was different. It lingered, and meandered into every aspect of my life. 

I wasn’t depressed. I just didn’t feel like myself. It felt like my sense of order was gone. I was not inspired about anything. 

Even thinking about writing wasn’t enough to snap me out of the funk that had taken over. As a matter of fact I was at a loss for what the topic of this month’s post would be. Which is kind of ironic because being “out of sorts” is a perfect topic.

As the month unfolded things picked up at work, like a flip of the coin, so that helped me shake some of the funk, but it wasn’t completely gone. My mind felt very distracted at times, and my focus was off. And the fears of another slow down still lingered on the peripherals.

To be honest, as I write this it’s still kind of lingering around, especially with the writing. I’m truly struggling finding the words.

ADDED TO ALL THIS WAS…

My Son home on Spring Break for a week. Of course having my Son home is always nice, I enjoy the company, but it seems every time I start to get into the rhythm of just me at home, I have to switch back to being Mom full-time and all that goes with it, like making dinner every night. Something I don’t have to do when it’s just me.

And, this makes me feel like I’m starting all over every time my Son goes back to college.

AND LET’S NOT FORGET…

The time change. That certainly didn’t help. The first week went well, but by week two I started to feel like I had jet lag and it’s still lingering. I’m tired off and on all day at work, but at night can’t sleep through the night.

OH, AND THEN THERE’S…

Mercury retro from March 5 – 28th. Mercury retro can wreak havoc on many fronts, the most of which are all things electronic and communication.

Although mercury goes retro a couple times a year, I don’t recall ever experiencing this level of funk in the past, but considering all that has gone on, I can’t help but think it comes into play. Especially the mess with my Son’s computer and the stuff at work.

For those of you who aren’t astrologically minded, and would like to learn more about mercury retro, below is a link from my favorite astrologer Melissa Stratton. 

https://www.heavenlymessagesbymelissa.com/2014/01/31/mercury-retrograde/

SO….

As the month of March draws to a close, I am still teetering back and forth with coming out of the funk and meandering back in. Something is definitely off with me, but just what it is, is still not clear.

Despite all the wondering, I have not come to any clear conclusions.

Throughout the month however, I have tried many things to help break through the cloud of confusion. Some have helped, while others had no impact.

The one thing that aided me the best was verbal and written affirmations, especially in regards to my work/money anxieties.

Affirmations and prayer all tie into spiritual development and if there’s one thing I’m sure of, when on a journey of self-discovery, part of that journey has to tap into spiritual growth.

So, maybe this swirling cesspool of discombobulation is really just the universe nudging me, or should I say pushing me, to dig deeper into my soul before any real self-discovery can be accomplished.

IF there’s one thing I have discovered since becoming a parent, it is so much of my time has been spent doing, with very little time to just be. It is in those moments that we have revelations or discoveries.

I honestly don’t know what that means any more, and this month has certainly brought that to light. When I left my husband back in the nineties, I spent two years doing some major soul-searching. It was during that time I unearthed my love and passion for writing.

As I look back at that time, I remember how alive and free I felt. I know I can get there again. I just think it may take a little longer.

Why? Because I’m twenty-some years older now, and the life experiences I have had have made a huge impact on who I am now. Becoming a Mom being the most impactful.

Although my Son may be away at college, I am still caught between two worlds, the world of Full-Time Mom and Empty Nester. And it is in this limbo world I need to learn to exist, and grow.

SO, with all this said, I’m guessing my “out of sorts” feeling is one that will more than likely come and go until I can get to the other side of this limbo world.

Until then, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s hope April brings greater clarity allowing me to move forward.

© 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 my personal collection

Leap of Faith – Sawitree Pamee

Change Ineffective Behavior

It is hard to believe my Son’s first semester of college is now behind me. Those first couple weeks my heart ached. I missed him immensely.

As a single Mom with only one child, when that child heads off to college, your empty-nest becomes salt in the wound of being alone.

I reminisced longingly at all of the highlights of his Senior year. And for that matter all of high school.

With time though I settled into my new norm and even embraced the opportunity to re-discover the me that got lost while raising my Son.

rediscover

Don’t get me wrong, I looked forward to every visit home he made, and was thrilled when we started to have weekly phone conversations. Something I certainly didn’t expect from a teenage boy.

So, I could hardly wait for Winter Break. He would be home for five weeks. And with how wonderful all his other breaks went, I thought for sure him and I were heading into a whole new dynamic between parent and child.

I was however in for a rude awakening, and a reminder that change does not come quickly or easily.

Continue reading “Change Ineffective Behavior”