I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: 12th Grade

The Pause


Before What Is Next

Well. Here we are. Already. August. End of Summer. End of his childhood. The pause after the exhale before the inhale. Before September, the new school year. 12th grade. Before he begins whatever he will be beginning a year from now. Because we don’t know.

Our vacation this summer was a quiet week in Vermont, just the three of us. I missed my daughter, but it felt important to have this time with him. It was sweet to be away from our routine and entwined together, synchronizing our lives to be focused on each other, if only for the week. We listened to music together, impressed that he had such eclectic taste and appreciation for “our” music of the 1970’s. (Thank you, Guardians of the Galaxy.) We adventured together, zip lining down Mt Mansfield and rock climbing a wall. We walked in the woods, read by the pool, and found restaurants with wings for him, pasta for my husband, and vegetables for me. It was a delicious, restorative break, nothing fancy, and I am trying not to be too sad that it is over.

17 years. Over.

I stare at him. Often. He hates it. He thinks I am judging or noticing something he wished I wouldn’t notice. He is self-conscious. Embarrassed. My gaze is really more about wanting to connect. Wanting him to know, to really know deep down in his soul, that I love him and want him to be happy and to know that he is enough just as he is. I want him to know that I am sorry for all the times I do judge and nag and wish for something to be other than it is.

I spend a lot of time judging and nagging and wishing for something to be other than it is. Like the end of August. The end of summer, the end of vacation, the end of childhood. I don’t want it to be over! Hell, I’m just figuring out how to do it … and it’s over?

So. Instead of clinging and resisting, I am trying – trying! – to be patient with the pause. Open to possibility. Open to change. With not knowing what is next. With not rushing to the inhale, but fully and completely exhaling all the air out and pausing. Appreciating the breath. Appreciating the boy who is becoming a man. Gazing at his graceful shape, searching for eye contact with his soul that is embarrassed to be seen. Trying not to be frantic about the college application process. Trying not to grieve for the time that is gone. Trying not to regret all that I could have done differently. Trying not to regret that I’m not a different mother, but to accept that I am the mother I am. Just as he is enough, I am enough.

We are here. Abiding in the pause. Open to what is next. Because we don’t know. Now is enough. We are enough.

10 Questions


Conversations with the Mother of a 12th Grader

When I was a new mother, it seemed like there was a finite timeline placed on the parenting experience, concluding decisively 18 years later with COLLEGE.  At the time, that seemed like an eternity away.  Now that it’s quite suddenly here, I am deeply aware that motherhood does not end when they leave for college, nor do I want it to end.  As I sort through how best to help my daughter navigate the college application process, I find that the well-meaning curiosity of the people in my life tends to heighten my anxiety and, frankly, my anger at the process.  On a daily basis, the questions go kind of like this:

  1. So, got those applications in?
  2. No?!  She’s not applying Early Action?
  3. Isn’t the deadline soon?
  4. Where does she want to go?
  5. Oh.  Pause.  So, she decided not to apply to Harvard?
  6. Or:  Oh.  Pause.  Wow.  What’s her safety school?
  7. Where are her friends applying?
  8. How’d she do on her SAT’s?
  9. What does she want to major in?
  10. Somehow we all manage to pay for college!

They are not satisfactory conversations, and I don’t help.  I put on my cheerful and confident persona – making jokes or giving curt answers – masking the intense anxiety I have and minimizing the potential for a genuine conversation that is honest and connecting.  My anxiety prevents me from revealing how I really feel, which goes kind of like this:

  1. How much should I help?  Should I sit down next to her until she’s done and presses the submit button or should I let her struggle with completing the applications on her own?
  2. How high should she reach?  There’s so much pressure to apply to top tier schools, but what if she doesn’t get in?  Or worse, what if she does get in, but we can’t afford it?  I am jealous of and angry at the more affluent families who are legacy’d in to the top tier schools and have the money to pay for it.
  3. Where will she be happy?  What if, like me, she has trouble adjusting and her confidence wavers?
  4. What if she has little trouble adjusting and doesn’t miss me?
  5. What if she gets in somewhere far away and wants to go?  Do we let her?  I am going to miss her.  Should I tell her how much I am going to miss her?
  6. Should I advise her to be pragmatic and follow a path that pays well or should I advise her to follow her heart?  Can one do both?
  7. How are we going to pay for college?  When do I get to start working less hard?
  8. I’ve go to do this again with my son in 3 years?!
  9. I can’t believe 18 years have gone by.  I am afraid I have squandered these years with my own career ambition, short-changing my children and my time with them.
  10. When I left home for college, I never returned.  What if she never returns?  May she and I do a better job at creating a loving and connected adult mother-daughter bond.

If I were more open with how I feel about the college application process, I imagine that the questions could go more like this:

  1. Hey, how are you and your daughter handling the stress of applying to college?
  2. It’s okay that she has no idea where she wants to go what she wants to do.  She’s only 17!
  3. You must be so proud and excited for her!
  4. How’s your husband doing?  This must be hard for him too.  Are you able to take advantage of the opportunity to spend more time together and reestablish some closeness in your marriage now that it’s not all about the kids?
  5. Yeah, finding the balance between letting her do it at her pace and nagging her is challenging.
  6. It’s hard to let them go.  I cried a lot too.
  7. You’ve raised an amazing girl.  You are a good mom.  She is happy and will do well.
  8. She still needs you and loves you.  Your relationship will evolve to a new place.  You are not your parents.
  9. Your son is different and you will be different when he goes through the process.
  10. What a time of transition!  What next?!

Indeed, what next?  I will tell her I am going to miss her.  I will help her as much as she will let me.  Together, as a family, we will find a school that makes sense for her.  We will help her leave home.  And we will welcome her back home when she needs, or just wants, our love.

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