Quiet and peaceful defines the empty nest

Quiet and peaceful defines the empty nest

Although my daughter went “home” to New Jersey for the better part of the Thanksgiving break, we did get to spend some time together before and after her trip. And you know what? I’m starting to understand why empty-nesting parents miss their kids. Or rather “young adults” and that’s the difference.

My mother and I grew closer after I started college which I always attributed to her missing me and learning to appreciate me more when I wasn’t home. Sure. How things change when we can finally see them from the perspective of another. I only wish now that my mom was around, so I can share my revelation.

I picked her up on Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving. We went to the movies (only $5 for AMC Stubs members on Tuesdays!), something we’ve started doing fairly regularly in the past month or so because she doesn’t have classes on Wednesdays. We just relaxed around the apartment on Wednesday. Thursday, she slept in while I ran my early morning Turkey Trot and then we had a nice lunch just the two of us before she began her journey back east.

Nothing really exciting. No monumental story to be shared with her children someday down the road. Just a very quiet and peaceful time together. The “difficult teenage years” (as my own mother referred to that time in my life) were behind us. I recall mothers of older children telling me that it would get better, that they grow out of it; hard to believe when you’re in the thick of it.  I found myself having that conversation with the mother of young teens this week. It’s nice to finally be on the other side.

I still believe that my own mother would say the turning point in our relationship came as I matured, and from my new perspective as the mom, I wouldn’t argue with her. Although I think the responsibility for the transformation in the mother-child relationship is everyone’s. Yes, I will admit as the mom, that my daughter is not the difficult teen she once was. It would appear that in living with three other girls she has finally learned to clean up after herself and put things back where she found them. She also confesses to actually “liking” laundry day (“it’s meditative”)!

While my daughter has matured, I also miss her. And now that I don’t have to clean up after her when she is at home, I miss her even more. She’s also less argumentative. Maybe has come to appreciate me? Perhaps. Regardless of what’s changed, I enjoy her company. I enjoy her stories about her new experiences and her excitement about what’s she learning. She’s funny and cleaver. We have similar interests. She teaches me new things and she is my go-to person for help with social media.

Someone told me a long time ago when I was a new parent, that you have 18 years to impart as much wisdom on your kids as you can so that you can let go and trust them to make their own smart decisions. I know I’ve made mistakes (what parent hasn’t, right?). I feel now though that I’ve done a pretty good job navigating some difficult terrain over the last five years.

There’s no finish line in parenting. I will of course continue to be there to support her (and pay the college tuition bills) and make sure her basic needs are met for a few more years. Beyond that though, there’s a lot less “parenting” to be done. And I can now say that my daughter is one of my best friends. I am very grateful for that.

Alone time with another close friend. Diversey Harbor. Chicago, Illinois. November 2018.
New city. New traditions.

New city. New traditions.

The tradition in our family was to put the holiday decorations up after Thanksgiving. Never earlier. They stay up until January 6 (“Little Christmas” or the Feast of the Epiphany), although when I was working full-time outside the home, I’d put them all away on New Year’s Day in order to feel a fresh start going back to work on the 2nd. Once my daughter came along and developed an opinion, she objected to both. Read more

Some thoughts about Move-In Day

Some thoughts about Move-In Day

This week, I moved my daughter – my only child – into her college dorm room. This is a “room” that I would more accurately describe as a “suite.” There are two bedrooms (with the expected amenities) and two full bathrooms for four girls. In addition, there is a living room (with a cable connected, flat screen TV, two chairs and a sofa) and a full kitchen. There is as much, if not quite possibly more, square footage in this space than I have in my new apartment. And I certainly didn’t have anything like this when I was in college. Read more

3 months and counting

3 months and counting

It’s been over six months since I wrote about the countdown to high school graduation. While I am committed to being respectful of my daughter’s privacy, sharing only minimally about her here, I am entitled to a proud mom moment every once in a while, right?

My daughter was accepted into a four-year college in Chicago (one of her top choices). This might not seem like an impossible feat. Especially here where we live. 89% of our high school graduates go on to attend four-year colleges (95% go on to some post-secondary education). But for us it seemed like a long road.

My daughter was always someone who has marched to the beat of her own drum. My parents described her as “a spirited child.” One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as her parent is that she never accepts the status quo; always looking deeper, always challenging. Her middle school guidance counselor said this was a personality trait that would serve her well in college and career, not so much in middle and high school.

She encountered a structure perhaps too rigid for her personality and learning style. While that was somewhat demotivating for her, my cancer diagnosis and then losing her father when and how she did certainly had an impact on the secure life she had known at home.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl

My daughter’s high school transcript does not show the good choices that she has made and the maturity and growth that she possessed in managing grief and loss on top of the struggles of adolescence. By her junior year she was facing the possibility that maybe a four-year college wasn’t in the cards for her.

But I believed in her. And she believed in herself. We both ignored the naysayers and last summer I took a risk and made an investment in a 3-week college program for her at this school in Chicago. It wasn’t in the budget.

She got an A in the course and proved to everyone she could do college level work. Then she came back to start her senior year and made the honor roll! She finally took the SATs and did much better than expected. She courageously applied to a bunch of four-year schools.

There were a number of disappointments before the email from Chicago. Her surge in the last quarter of the race however, paid off. But most importantly – and what makes me the most proud – is that she mustered the courage to start; she put herself out there when others were telling her that it was a long shot. She didn’t settle for anything less than what she wanted. She set her sights higher and didn’t listen to anyone who told her it couldn’t be done.

That should be a lesson to all of us. Ignore the naysayers. Don’t give them power over you. Be courageous. Focus on your own dreams. Don’t back down. One foot in front of the other. Forward. Commencement.

The New York City skyline as seen on my run through the Heights of Ridgewood, New Jersey. March 2018.

This week in Marathon Training (getting real now! -only 5 weeks to go)…Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 11.04.35 AM

Twenty miles was the longest I’ve run in almost 2 years and was a big jump from the 16 miles I ran 2 weeks ago. I took it slowly with a goal of only covering the distance comfortably.

How to write a college application essay (a parent’s guide)

How to write a college application essay (a parent’s guide)

I feel a little like my daughter writing her college application essay as I write this week’s post. Or maybe more accurately, not writing it. Since I try to meet my challenge of publishing something at least once a week, I’m always thinking of ideas. I have a word document with just ideas. Then I expand on those, usually in my head on my long runs. I will then do a somewhat stream of consciousness draft that I will further edit into the published version you see.

Sometimes a topic emerges that moves me so much it goes from idea to publishable in a matter of a few hours. Then there are weeks like this one where my mind has been occupied by other priorities – including trying to figure out ways to motivate my daughter to write her essay. I’ve looked at my ideas list and a couple of ‘not quite fully developed’ drafts; none of which motivated me.

So yeah, here my daughter and I both sit with absolutely no motivation. I wonder how I can motivate her, when I’m struggling myself. Is there any advice or guidance I’d like to give her that I can heed myself? I decided to first read the suggested topics for college essays contained on the Common App. Maybe they would give me some ideas.

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