Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Advice From the Expert

One of my favorite parts of writing this blog is that I am the oldest mommy blogger I know. I may, in fact, be the oldest person on Blogger, but I'm not going to say that with certainty. As the oldest Mommy Blogger, I'm the undisputed (self-proclaimed) expert and will give advice at the drop of a hat. Most of the time this advice isn't solicited or appreciated, but a couple of days ago another blogger actually asked me to weigh in! Woo!

Twisterfish, who has a funny take on life and family, wrote "After You Cut the Apron Strings, You Have to Take the Apron Off." That, my friends, is practically a perfect post in 13 words. But the post goes on to admit that it's awfully hard to let our new adults make their own decisions, and consequently, their own mistakes. What is parenthood if not letting our offspring learn from our own painful missteps?

"I liked being needed," Twisterfish wrote about her new college kid. "What bothers me is that I’m sure there were other times, times he did need me but didn’t think he did — or he wanted to not depend on me or the help I could offer. Times he fixed problems on his own, or let them slide, or made the wrong decisions."

When I empathized with her experience, she responded! To me! Through the internet!

"Please share your experiences since you’ve done it four times already! Does it get easier? Do you say “ha! I told you you’d need me” when they come back for help/guidance? Or do you do a happy dance when no one is looking? Or do they even come back for help after they’ve been gone a few years?"

Well. Husband and I were the helicopter parents from hell during the college selection process. We hovered over every application, and backwashed every interview with our own questions and comments. I'm guessing admission counselors had a special stamp they used when filing correspondence with the Boys--"Great candidate; nightmare parents."

Once they went off to school, though, we made a conscious effort to stay out of their business. I was shouting advice to them as we drove away from the first drop-off (okay, and also mopping some tears), but after that, Husband and I used the same method we used when we were sleep training them as infants--we took turns being the one who kept the other from dashing in and picking up the wailing infant. Not that the Boys wailed once they got to college, but all of us have heard that sad, exhausted, empty voice that a freshman invariably uses sometime during the first few weeks. Then you just have to be a listening voice, and a sympathetic ear, and repeat over and over--"It'll be okay. You can do this. God's in control. It'll be okay. Have you had a good meal lately? It'll be okay. You can do this."

And then you hang up and cry, because you really would like to fix it. But we also were reminded, as we knew from when the Boys were still living at home, that children are resilient. They bounce back from being sad and exhausted, and they are okay, usually much more quickly than you would imagine. They don't usually want your advice, they want your sympathy, and there's no limit on how much sympathy you can provide. (Also, believe me when I say you'll be asked for sympathy more if you give advice less.)

We made a couple of exceptions to the no-contact-with-the-school rule. When Husband's father died we called Boy#1's dean of students to ask him to touch base with our son during the aftermath of this, the first death in the family. An hour later, when One arrived at class, a professor conveyed his sympathy and his availability to talk. (I love small colleges.) Another exception is in dealing with financial aid officers, because holy cow, much as I love financial aid officers that is one confusing operation and Husband's analytical mind and knowledge of our finances make life happier for everyone including the financial aid officers themselves. I would have intervened, had I known about it at the time, when Boy#3's roommate turned completely creepy and began peering nose-to-nose at my sleeping son and asking if he wouldn't be better off dead. (Whoa.)

But we don't, ever, intervene with professors on behalf of our son's grades, or in roommate problems that are simple conflicts of schedule or taste. Even when Husband and I agree that the professor or roommate involved is a complete jerk, these are training grounds for jobs and relationships, for life, and the Boy needs to figure out how to deal with the issue.

Then we sit on our hands and don't write e-mails or pick up the phone to make a nasty phone call, and we reassure ourselves it will be okay, he can do it.

God's in control. 


  1. Great post . . . great advice! :)

  2. I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to have found your blog (via Quinn Cummings' "QC Report" blog). I am a recent empty nester to two college kids (20 and 18) and one high schooler who might as well not live her for the amount of time she spends away from home at her various activities (good, I know, but hard on The Mom). I have struggled so hard this past year with both of my older kids being away. Looking SO forward to reading more of your blog. xoxo, Michaele

    1. Welcome! You will find that I'm making it up as I go along, but isn't that what being a parent is all about? Are your older kids coming home for summer? Buy lots of milk.

  3. Just so you know . . . your blog posts are going to become reference material for me in a few years. :)