Last Call List for Senior Year

Lisa writes: Here I am, 365 days out from the empty nest.  The temptation is to spend a year boring you with lasts.  The last first day of school, the last birthday at home (trust me, this one is the real killer), or the last varsity game. But I am going to try and resist the pull to be maudlin and instead create a Parent’s Bucket List for senior year in high school, perhaps better thought of as the Last Call List….Everything I wish I had done before my older kids went to to college.

senior year, senior year before college, off to college

 

1. Pay a professional photographer

Try for that one perfect set of family pictures that no amateur can capture.  It seems like the kids are grown, that the need to document their gorgeous faces has lost its urgency as the transitions slow.  Wrong.  That just-finished-childhood-not-quite-adult look is fleeting. Get someone who knows what the are doing to capture it.

 

2. Talk about failure and tell them of your failings

Tell them why you failed and how you recovered and how, for some period of time you thought you might not.  We loom so large in our children’s lives, as the people who once held superpowers. Let them know how those powers have often failed you as both an adult and a parent.

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Oh, No, It’s the Teenage Years, Again

Gabby, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: When I became a new mother, I was often surprised when my youthful mother-in-law answered my specific questions about her own three babies with a shrug and the response, “You know… I just don’t remember.” My youngest child has befriended quite a few “first-borns” and, when I am asked questions by their moms, I have to admit, my own recollections are often vague much like my mother-in-law’s. When did I first let them ride public transport alone? Did they drive at night? When was curfew? -  leave me scratching my head. Embarrassed, I wonder to myself whether I was a bad mother, too stressed with our three children or simply blocked out the teenage years.

Re-entering  ”the pre-launch stage” with my youngest child is a mixed blessing.  I enjoy things more, am more flexible, and less judgmental.  I don’t worry about the minutiae or, at least everything, and am I definitely more confident.

But there are times when I do think,  ”Oh no, not this … I just can’t do the teenage years again.” Either I can’t muster the enthusiasm (like those energetic sideline moms) or I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it right the first time, or worse yet, now that I better understand the hazards of this specific stage (driving and texting, academic pressure, unhealthy relationships, under age drinking etc.) I realize I should really worry more.

teenagers, color wars

While I can’t recall all the specifics around parenting my older two during those high school years, I have learned quite a bit from the experiences.  So this time around my plan involves these top eight approaches…..

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Prom Commandments

Mary Dell writes: As the mom of a teenage daughter, I occasionally feel like I am parenting on a separate planet from my friends who have teenage sons.  At Lisa’s house, sports are in full swing, and the mountains of standardized tests and specter of finals loom ahead.  At my house, we have all of that plus what can only be referred to as high season for the high school prom.

For Lisa, it has been three sons, three trips through 11th grade and barely a word about the prom.  Fifteen minutes to rent a tux, a five-minute phone call to order a corsage and yes, the sum total of time boys spent on the prom…twenty minutes. 

prom commandments-prom date-high school prom

With the biggest attire decision a boy has to make is peaked lapel or shawl, there is little to talk about except for the invitation. The onus of asking, despite so much about our gender roles changing, still lies with boys so whom to ask and how, are the important questions concerning young men.

But at our house, talk of the high school prom pops up with my daughter’s group of friends with the regularity of a favorite TV show which, at times, the conversation resembles.

While I flip their post-sleepover pancakes and lean into the conversation, the girls talk about more than dates, dresses and updos. They recount episodes of “prama” and review and revise their plans for the big night. At each step, they carefully abide by an unwritten code about prom behavior that I believe is not all bad.

Here are what I have dubbed their “Prom Commandments:”

1. Be considerate

Think of the male ego in choosing the heel height that complements your date. Think of the photos which, in the words of one girl,  “you will be looking at for the rest of your life.

2. Be inclusive

It is not just you going to the prom but it is each of your friends. Much of the planning involves making sure that each girl has a date or, at least, a group to join.

3. Be original

If the girls in your school have created a Facebook group to which they post their dresses, check to see if the one you just fell in love with has already been taken.  With a few taps on the smart phone, the answer is available while you are still in the dressing room.

4. Feel pride

Prom is as much a photo-op as a night out, so your hair, nails, makeup… go ahead and schedule those appointments, but just don’t overdo it.

5. Plan ahead

Shop for a dress early before the most popular colors and sizes get snatched up.  According to The New York Times, the red carpet at the Academy Awards in February  kicks off the prom dress shopping season.

6. Be respectful

The senior girls signal the dos and don’ts about length of dress, for example, and who rules the prom committee.  It is their last dance and they deserve center stage.

7. Be practical

If wearing a strapless dress, get it fitted so you’re not pulling it up the whole night.

8. Be polite

Say “yes” to any boy who asks you to be his date, especially if there is an audience when he invites you.

9. Be confident

If you don’t get invited by a boy in your school, take the initiative to ask  a date, especially if you have someone in mind from another school.

10. Be smart

Obey school rules. Do you really want to get in trouble the last month of high school?

(I confess, the last one is mine.  As moms, we are allowed to dream, aren’t we?)

Yikes! The New York TImes has an article suggesting that to make a big splash when asking a girl, teenage boys are seeking out professionals, Prom is Easy: The Ask Takes Planning



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College Admission and Toxic Questions

Mary Dell writes: Once our children become teenagers, there is one big question that looms large over their four years of high school – where will they gain college admission. Lisa and I both have 11th graders who are taking the SAT, visiting schools and, along with three million other kids, seeking the answer.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnQKxns6krA [Read more...]



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12 Most Salient Ways to Help Your Teen Through Eleventh Grade

12 MostI am going through eleventh grade for the fourth time.

First, in the late 1970s, I endured it myself. Then as the mother of three I watched my boys battle through this long tough year, struggling with their academic and athletic schedules while trying to visit colleges, navigate a minefield of standardized tests, have a social life and learn to drive.

It is an exhausting process for both parent and teen, fraught with emotion as our kids prepare for the next stage in their lives. At Grown and Flown, I have explored my journey towards the empty nest and there is no question that 11th grade is the first step on that journey. Here are some suggestions to help them on their way: [Read more...]



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College Board Drops the Green Flag

Mary Dell writes: For our two families, the fall is well underway with our older kids back at college and our younger two  starting 11th grade. However, we have parented juniors before and we know what is heading their way. This year will be different for our youngest as they enter a new phase in their lives, thanks to the College Board.

 

Daytona 500, green flag, racing flag, PSAT,NASCAR, family trip to Daytona, teenage kids at Daytona, racing start

Like a Daytona 500 starter dropping the green flag, the College Board will soon summons juniors to sit for the PSAT,  signalling the beginning of the race known as college application season.

SAT, College Board, PSAT test, college acceptance tests for juniors, high school testing, college testingThe PSAT is big –  3.5 million kids big – and it is the one pre-college test that all juniors take with all of their classmates on a single day in October.  It is a rite of passage going back to 1971 (hey, we took it too!) and, for generations of kids, the PSAT  has started the college ball rolling. [Read more...]



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What I Really Love about College Football

Mary Dell writes: Fall is my favorite season. Along with the just-turning foliage, comes the return of my preferred spectator sport – college football. My passion stems from the Friday Night Lights elements of my upbringing and the four years I spent in Austin at the University of Texas.  I am a genuine Longhorn fan and spent many happy game days at the UT Stadium.  But the real reason I love college football is that our son, a college senior, is a big fan, too.  Now a fun and shared pastime, following the sport during his teenage years was more like a lifeline that kept our relationship afloat.

UT Football, Longhorns, college football, UT stadium, Texas Longhorns

While he was in high school, our son developed the evasive skills that all teenagers acquire fielding questions from well-meaning neighbors, family members, and perfect strangers. Where do you want to go to college/ have you taken your SATs/ what do you want to major in? Against that backdrop of inquisition, we had moments when our disagreements over studying, tests, and college applications would have made for excellent reality television. More recently, we have had a few “animated discussions” as we both adjust to his young adulthood status. [Read more...]



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Surviving High School, It Begins in Sixth Grade

 

middle school challenges, junior highLisa writes: Ahhhh…the beauty, the certainty of 20/20 hindsight.  As my youngest nears the end of high school, I have reflected upon what qualities allow kids to perform at their best and enjoy their four years to the fullest. What were the most important things I could have done for my kids, starting in perhaps sixth grade, that would have impacted their chance of surviving high school and beyond?  Not surprisingly, they were not the things uppermost on my mind as my kids turned 12. If I had it to do again…

what to do in middle school

 

I would make sure that my child, if possible, was above average at a sport, music, art or another activity.  Not get-recruited-at-a-D1-school good, but get-picked-for-the-JV-team good. Part of high school is finding your place and that is much easier to do if you are selected for the field hockey team or given a role in the school play.  I know educators often advocate the benefits of being well-rounded, but competence and accomplishment breed self-esteem and social well-being.

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College Parents Discover a Secret to Staying Close to their Children

From Gabby, a Grown and Flown writer: In the spirit of saying goodbye to your child, we college parents want to assure you that “goodbye” isn’t for long….

college parents, college kids, family vacation at the beach, family vacation

My witty sister-in-law coined the expression “Forced Family Fun” when referring to the mandatory family gatherings in which she requires her reluctant teens to take part.  It has entered our family vernacular as we try to gather together all of the cousins, even those who are less enthusiastic about the “togetherness.” [Read more...]



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Note to Self

Parenting teens can be an emotional whirlwind and in the heat of the battle it is easy to forget lessons learned the hard way.  So, note to self…

Note to Self, Teen age son, son surfing

It is not your life, it’s his.

Your mother thought she knew what you were up to.

Sometimes it really is better if they don’t tell you.

Only spy if you really want to know. And answer that question first.  You can’t unknow something. [Read more...]



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Cats Eye View of the Empty Nest

Julie, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: The cat has no one to wake up in our empty nest today.  We have no alarm clocks in our house to rouse us for work unless you count the one with a tail and whiskers, and she starts duty promptly at five a.m.  First she works me over; my husband is next in line.  Finally, at seven, she quietly approaches the shut door of my younger daughter and sets to work.

high school graduation, empty nest, college graduates

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Man of the House: Thoughts on a Son’s High School Graduation

From Suzy, a Grown and Flown friend: My first child celebrated his high school graduation last weekend. It’s all good – he’s ready. He’s heading off to the college of his choice and is excited to broaden his world beyond the school community where he has spent thirteen years. As I look ahead to September, so many thoughts and emotions bubble to the surface.

high school graduation, son, oldest son, son going to college

I imagine what he will take with him and what he will leave behind.  I imagine his dorm room and (still faceless) roommates, the way they will live together.  I wonder if he will keep his room neater than he does at home.  I imagine how he will come home and be thrilled to sleep in his bed again in his newly cleaned room. I pray that he will be happy. I have thought about all of these things except the space it will leave in my life.

My sons’ father and I split up when the boys were young, and my older son, then in second grade, without any urging from me, assumed the role of “man of the house.”  This was not necessarily a good thing – sometimes he threw his weight around too much.  It took some effort to make him understand that the seat at the head of the table was not, by all rights, his.

Yet as I look back, I am struck by the many ways in which he, in assuming that role, took care of me. The note he wrote me on the anniversary of my father’s death. The meaning-filled gifts he has given me. The times he told me to sit down and relax.  The ways in which he has helped protect family time. As he grew into a man, he has carried the heavy stuff, reached to get the boxes stored up high, taken responsibility for so much.  The kid in him whines sometimes and pushes his younger brother to share the load, but at the core, he takes pride in being there for me.

My younger son and I have a quieter partnership, fewer ripples. The house is still when it’s just the two of us, and more peaceful.  My older son walks loudly and consumes more emotional space. But I know that in that large and dominating personality is a deep loyalty and commitment to me.

Now that we have now finished with all of the high school graduation festivities, I think of his next move to college. He will need to let go of me as much as I will be letting go of him.  I promise him, I’ll be just fine.



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Half In, Half Out Before Our Daughter’s Senior Year

By Sue, A Grown and Flown friend: As we count down the days until the end of our daughter’s junior year, I find myself questioning my eagerness. Do I really want to wish this time away? Am I ready to face the reality of her senior year of high school and the end of our comfort at having her under our roof? Is it okay for me to look forward to getting through this incredibly demanding year so we can all breathe a little easier?

high school child, daughter, teen daughter, senior year

My emotions are mixed. While I feel as though I am ready for this rigorous, challenging and eventful year to be over, part of me is struggling to hold on to each and every moment.We are immersed in her junior year; yes, you read that correctly, we have discovered that while she still has one foot in our cozy family nest, the other is already on its way out. It is a time of delicate balance and the collective we is straddling two worlds. While it is indeed her junior year, our family is going through the ups and downs and in-betweens of this pivotal year, together. Soon enough, she will enter her last, her senior year.

Since September, I have found myself reminiscing on her early years, when every day seemed to bring a first; her first smile, the sound of those first babbles that morphed into words, the attempts to Commando crawl, the first time she sprung herself from the confines and safety of her crib, the first day of Kindergarten. We would eagerly pull out the baby book and take note of those exciting milestones. Newborn, infant, toddler, preschool, school age and now a group of stages that are not clearly defined—teenager, young adult, adult. None of these post-school tags seem to accurately describe our junior.

At times, I am reminded that she is indeed a teenager who still needs guidance and life lessons, although she would beg to differ—adamantly! On the other hand, I marvel at the way she handles herself and approaches the demands of a childhood that seems so much more complex and dynamic than ours. Is she ready for the next step? Have we done our job as parents in preparing her to take on the world without us?

I want to pull out that baby book again and write about all her firsts that are happening right now because she is making them happen: taking the SATs, getting her driver’s license, preparing for AP exams, visiting colleges, writing her college essays, meeting application deadlines, traveling abroad without her family.  She is hitting all these milestones and accomplishments while working hard at a demanding academic, athletic and extracurricular schedule. It’s all a balancing act as she manages these responsibilities while carving out time to enjoy being a teenager.

For the moment, our nest is still intact. I can feel the pulses of it changing, and in the not-too-distant future it will be incredibly different. I like to think that I can kick back and let it all happen,  soaking in all of the emotions, changes and milestones that are making us all feel a bit uneasy. Maybe it is the uneasiness that has pushed me to take the time to not only try to figure this out, but also allow it to take its natural course and remind me to be present. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Half in, half out—- she’s getting ready to fly.

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