A College Mom Graduates

Grad photo

For the first time in a couple of decades, my August activities did not include anything related to the insistent “back-to-school” call that is part of the parental DNA.

My college son’s May commencement was happy and memorable. We can look, at our leisure, at the tangible reminders of Jack’s accomplishment — the diploma, official graduation photo, i-Phone shots of the ceremony and the blue mortarboard with gold tassel perched atop a bookcase in our living room.

Now, I am oblivious to any school calendar. Instead, his father and I are watching Jack navigate the working world and learning about some of the differences in work culture from when we started our own careers.

But I’m aware of all those parents and kids just starting the college experience.

My fellow communicator Mary Beth Coudal wrote movingly on her blog about the angst-ridden period when her son Hayden had heart problems. He got a final good report from his pediatric cardiologists as he prepared to leave for college. He arrived there this week.

At the Sunday farmer’s market in our neighborhood, a young woman helping customers for an upstate orchard overheard me telling her co-worker about my vacation in Portland, Maine. She told me she was leaving for Bowdoin College, near Portland, the next day and it was wonderful to see her enthusiasm as we talked about Portland for a few minutes.

My friend and co-worker Mike DuBose dropped his second child off at college. “For the first time in almost 23 years, neither Jane nor I are involved in or directly responsible for the care and feeding of at least one of our children,” he wrote on Facebook. “Not sure how I feel about that just yet. But it’s going to take some getting used to.”

I wish them well and will enjoy watching the journeys of other sons and daughters. But as a college mom, I am signing off.

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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


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College Days: The Last Transition

Jack shows off a preschool art project.

Jack shows off a preschool art project.

My son, Jack, went to a wonderful preschool where the teachers were loving, kind and full of creativity, teaching art by using icing on cakes to illustrate the different styles of painters like Seurat, Pollack and Miro.

Just before the transition to kindergarten at a much larger public school, I sat in the preschool’s parking lot and felt very sad that he would be leaving this place where he was nurtured and encouraged to grow and where parents were given ample opportunities to join the experience. Even though it was natural and important that he was moving on, I really wanted him to stay in that moment for a bit longer.

A week ago, I had the same emotions as I watched Jack give his aunt, uncle and grandmother a special guided tour around his campus. It was their first and last visit to the college from which he will be graduating in two weeks.

It’s easy to find something wonderful about every phase of raising a child — even the teenage years — but sometimes the significance of the milestones make you yearn to pull back.

Last Tuesday evening, I went to a movie with Tiziana, a friend who lives in the apartment building next to ours. Matt, her son, and Jack have been friends since they were toddlers and had the same babysitter. They ended up choosing the same college, so the details of graduation have been a topic of discussion for us.

But that night, we also were looking back — to a preschool birthday party on their building’s rooftop playground, to fifth grade graduation, to that first year of middle school when they would walk together to school in the mornings.

Those were cherished childhood stepping stones, but this is the big one, the transition from years of schooling to work and a career. I may be holding on a little too tightly to memories of moving him into the freshman dorm and wishing the four years after than hadn’t gone so damn fast, but Jack seems to have no such hesitation.

He is ready.

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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Final Countdown to Commencement

This appeared in our mailbox just after spring break.

This appeared in our mailbox just after spring break.


It came in the mail two days after Jack returned to college after spring break: a guide to commencement for undergraduate parents.

His last spring break. The final countdown.

“You are no doubt looking forward to celebrating your student’s successful time…” the guide said by way of “greetings & congratulations” before warning us that traffic most likely would be at a standstill as we try to reach the campus that day.

Even so, there likely will be plenty of time, as the “candidates” line up with their academic schools, to find a spot in the reserved family seating area and think back to that first tour of this campus, the open house for accepted students, orientation (for all of us), the freshman move-in and parents’ day and the new class schedules affixed each semester to our refrigerator door.

As parents, we worried and fretted a little; relived the college experience vicariously on occasion and struggled to redefine the family dynamic to encompass new categories such as “empty-nester” and “young adult.” And each year, we realized with pride that our college kid had matured a little more.

Now, four years have gone by — too fast — and graduation day this May will be move-home day. For awhile, our nest will no longer be empty but the difference is that Jack now has the tools to build his own nest. When the time comes.

So, when the guide asks, “What do I need to know about commencement?,” I think I’ve got the important stuff figured out.

And, yes, we will celebrate.

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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


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College Kids’ Favorite Things: Now and Then

The top item in poll of "what's in on campus."

The top item in poll of “what’s in on campus.”


Here’s something that’s not the least bit surprising: a survey shows that the iPhone is the most popular thing on campus.

As reported Feb. 8 in the New York Times “Education Life” special section, the Apple phone was the top choice for “what’s in on campus” in the opinion of 1,200 undergraduates, followed by coffee, texting, Facebook, the Apple iPad and Instagram. All were prioritized above “drinking beer” (No. 7).

The iPhone certainly has been the No. 1 “thing” in my college son’s life since he first possessed one. He’s not big on coffee but lives to text. Jack would rate Instagram over Facebook and doesn’t own an iPad, preferring to spend time with his Macbook Pro (laptops were 11th on the list of favorite things, right before “hooking up”).

I’m assuming the list of 77 options for favorite things on campus concocted by Student Monitor, the market research firm conducting the poll, did not include writing papers or studying in the library.

But what might strike most parents looking at the survey is the fact that 9 of the top 15 “what’s in” items — which also include Snapchat, Twitter and taking photos with mobile phones — did not exist when they were undergraduates.

If I search my hazy memory, I would say that these were my top five “favorite things” at Ball State University;

  • Smith-Corona typewriter;
  • Life-sized poster of Robert Redford from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid;”
  • Popcorn popper;
  • Portable TV;
  • Working at the student newspaper.

Okay, it was a different world then.


Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


Baby, I’m Amazed: Last Semester of College

As college graduation approaches, still remembering the baby.

As college graduation approaches, still remembering the baby.


Whether real or feigned, that’s the reaction I get when I tell people that my son just started the last semester of his undergraduate years.

Take Friday, for example. Joan, a work acquaintance from another agency, never fails to ask about Jack when I stop by her desk to say hello. This has been going on for years. So even though she has seen evidence, through photos, of his growth and I probably mentioned last summer that he would be starting his senior year, it still hadn’t registered.

“So, is Jack a sophomore?” “A junior?” She seemed, well, amazed when I corrected her, then told me about her grandchildren in high school and college, as if she couldn’t quite believe that either.

I guess the point is that it’s difficult for all of us to grasp how quickly life goes by. Traditional educational milestones, like the end of grade school or high school graduation, are one way to keep track of time.

But college graduation, of course, is imbued with even more complex symbolism than those earlier achievements. The onset of adulthood, the entry into the work world, the emotional and (sometimes) physical separation from the parental home — it’s a permanent change of status.

Or maybe not quite yet. Depends on the kid and the circumstances, I suppose. Still, the parents who have watched their kids continue to mature through each year of college know that graduation signals both an end and a beginning.

Are any of us ever really prepared for that? This growth spurt from babyhood to baccalaureate happens so fast.

That’s why we’re all so amazed.


Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Carrying friendship beyond the campus

Celebrating friendship and a wedding at Niagara Falls.

Celebrating friendship and a wedding at Niagara Falls.


My husband has really put a lot of effort into keeping in touch with his closest college buddies.

But it wasn’t until this October — when Paul and I traveled to Niagara Falls for the wedding of a daughter of one of those friends — that I really was struck by how wonderful it is to have those friendships.

As the mother of a college senior, I can only wish the same for our son.

This was the second of Larry P.’s three daughters to marry, the second trip upstate to join with several other couples in celebrating both the occasion and the lasting bond among these men — Paul, Larry P., Don, Mike and Larry E. — who connected as undergraduates at the State University of New York at Albany. The year in between, we all were a part of the wedding of the Larry E.’s older son.

During their days of shared dorm rooms and off-campus apartments, it’s probable that none of the Albany boys had a vision that over the years they would be sharing memories of taco-eating contests and foosball tournaments with their wives and their children — all boys, except for Larry P.’s three girls — as they gathered at various points around New York State.

The logistics of these gatherings took some effort, but the comradery was easily unpacked.

I think that Emma, the October bride, has some idea of what I’m talking about.

During the reception — after the hip hop tunes and the obligatory slow dances — she and a group of college friends took to the floor to stamp their feet and holler along with the Michigan State fight song.

May that connection endure through many reunions.


Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Never Too Old for Halloween Treats

My son got into the Halloween mood by watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," on his laptop.

My son got into the Halloween mood by watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” on his laptop.


I didn’t send a package of Halloween goodies to my college son this year and, today, I regret it.

(Hold on, just had to answer the door twice for some trick-or-treaters).

During Jack’s freshman year, I ordered a Halloween gift basket from one of those send-junk-food-to-help-them-study plans that colleges like to promote to the parents of new students.The next two years, I mailed a small box on my own, because, let’s face it, he likes candy.

This fall, when Jack was home earlier in October for a long weekend, I gave him a bag of candy corn to take back to the dorm. That was it.

The truth is, I’ve been too busy to think much about Halloween beyond throwing a couple of bags of treats into the cupboard and pulling out my all-purpose pumpkin harvest centerpiece for the dining room table, which can stay there through Thanksgiving.

But, suddenly, on October 31, I’m into the Halloween spirit. It started early this morning, when I received a Halloween e-card from a friend and decided to get an e-card subscription so I could send a few of my own.

(Just a sec, have to turn down the Haunted House CD).

Then I had fun looking at the Halloween-themed Google doodles and thinking about how Jack and the other kids in our building would roam all 15 floors of our apartment building in their relentless quest to fill their plastic pumpkins.

I know my son was in a Halloween mood at college because he put up a mix of spooky music on his website and texted me a photo of his laptop screen, which showed he was watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” online.

Luckily, he only had one class today.

But he would have liked at least one Reese’s peanut butter cup from me.

Next year. I promise.


Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Uncategorized


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