Saturday, August 16, 2014

So Your Kid Is Off To College?

Our Scientist will soon begin his senior year of college. On the very same day, our Engineer will begin his senior year of high school. I know. Trust me. I can't believe it either. I've never been that great with math...but seriously...it just doesn't add up. There's no way that many years have passed since holding those sweet little newborn babies in my new momma arms.

And yet...here we are. They both tower over me now. Instead of me squatting to them...they are bending down to me. It's a fact that both amuses and saddens me. They are growing into amazing men. They are...for the most part....making choices and conducting themselves in a way very pleasing to Hubby and I. On pretty much any given day, we find something to be quite proud of when it comes to them.

As I think about my goal of Celebrating School Days this month...I can't help but think about how we got here and where this is all going with our sons. Their first day of preschool...kindergarten...high school...and college are firmly planted in my forever memory. Those were days of mixed feelings: excitement and heartache.

To preserve my sanity...I try not to think much about the after college days. All I can really acknowledge right now is that it is clear things are gonna change...big time.

The first day of college was the most difficult one for us. That one was ALL THE FEELINGS! For our little family, it meant leaving our Scientist in a state far far away...All. By. Himself.

It was a CRAZY plan. Who came up with this idea? And please tell me...who approved it? Because it was totally unreasonable and ridiculous.

And yet...that's what we did. We left him there....697 miles away from us. That's over 11 hours away by car. Let me tell you, it didn't happen without lots of tears...heartache...and prayers.

And you know what? It was the craziest...most ridiculous....incredibly unreasonable....horribly painful decision we made as a family. It was also the right thing to do. It was a huge blessing to our son. It wasn't always easy...he's had some difficult days at college...but it has been the best experience for him!

Hubby and I have cried...cheered...argued...prayed...lectured...rolled our eyes... chuckled...coached....advised....loved...understood...misunderstood...yelled...prayed... muttered...laughed...rejoiced....and prayed with (and at) our Scientist through these past three years of college.

Yep. All the feelings.

Of course, our Engineer will continue taking college classes as the main part of his high school senior year curriculum. Having him still at home with us, but experiencing college level education is also a unique experience.

It's a fine line for us to balance. As we guide and assist him in developing good study habits and practices, we are still trying to let him figure some of it out on his own. That can be exceedingly challenging as well.

This parenting gig isn't easy...but it is an incredible gift of ups and downs...happiness and pain...sweet times of holding tight...and extremely tough times of letting go.

So today as I Celebrate School Days, I want to send a loving shout out of encouragement to all of the parents who are sending off their brand new college freshman this month. Whether they are moving into a dorm and will be far away from home, or taking local classes and commuting from home...you are beginning a new season of life and things are changing at a rapid pace for your child and you.

Hubby and I have been there. We have felt the pain and cried the tears and lived to tell this tale. Your heart will ache with this change, but you will get used to your new normal. They will too.

And if it's just too much and try as you might you just can't adjust? Well then...do what we did: Give it a good three year try and then move to your child's college town! It worked for us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August: Celebrating School Days

From the last few days of July into the first few days of September, "Back to School" days are occurring across America. So I'm thinking...why not Celebrate School Days for the month of August? As a student...momma of students...homeschooling momma...and teacher, I have many wonderful memories and a few encouraging words about this time of year.

When I think of my own school days, one of the first people to come to mind is my first kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Teacher. Oh what sweet memories I cherish of her. She was a gentle, kind lady who spoke softly with an easy smile and crinkly eyes. 

I just adored her. 

She is well into her nineties now...but a few years ago when I got to see her again...all the feelings of a little five year old me came flooding back. 

How thrilled I was when she recognized me and called me by name! How cool is that? Mrs. Teacher was so delighted to see me as a grown woman with children of my own. It was a happy reunion for us both. She was definitely older, but her smiley eyes still danced with joy as she quietly asked about my life. I was so pleased to find her just as I remembered her. 

We had a wonderful chat and as we parted ways...she patted my hand and told me how proud she was of me. I beamed back at her because in that moment I realized how much I still craved her approval. 

Our forever bond was established in August 1974 on the first day of school. And it didn't matter how many students she had then...or before me...or after me...I was important to her because I was her student. It's something that will keep us connected throughout this life. 

It's true that you learn so many meaningful life lessons in your kindergarten year of school. For me, one of them was how to be a lifelong teacher. Mrs. Teacher showed me how a teacher loves her students...connects to them...and makes them feel treasured. And through her actions she gave me a love for school...and teachers.

I had no idea in 1974 that I would grow up to teach my own children...and then...eventually classrooms of students. Mrs. Teacher did not know that she was modeling for me an amazing example that I would reflect on and try my best to emulate when I became a teacher. 

Of course, God knew the plan even then...and he placed me in that classroom with that loving educator at that impressionable time in my very young life to begin the preparation for my own teaching experiences to come many years later. 

That's just how awesome God is.

And I'm not the only one to notice this. Here's what the Psalmist (probably King David) wrote a long long time before I would discover God's wonders for myself:

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.     Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

And Isaiah noticed it as well:

Lord, you are my God;
    I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
    you have done wonderful things,
    things planned long ago.    Isaiah 25:1 (NIV)

What a gift to be able to look back and see the beauty of God's perfect faithfulness in preparing me in Kindergarten for all the School Days to come...as a student...a momma...and a teacher. 

That's something worth celebrating for sure!

Please join me the rest of this month as I Celebrate School Days with you.

*Update*
Here is my other August Celebrating School Days post:
So You Kid Is Off To College?