10 More Reasons Why I Love College Football

Mary Dell writes: College football is the second most popular spectator sport in the US after the NFL. Each fall, students and alumni pay homage to their colleges and teams by planning their Saturdays around kick off. My affection for the sport runs deep, beginning with childhood, building steam through my college years and becoming a family tradition that my husband and I share with our kids.

10 more reasons why I love college football
I have previously written about my gratitude toward college football during my son’s high school years.  It was our go-to topic where we ventured when all other subjects (homework, SAT prep, curfews, college applications) became toxic. And now, with a daughter who is two weeks into her college life, I see how football can be a perfect way for freshmen to make a deep emotional connection to their new home.

10 more reasons why I love college football:

1. Socialize

Game day is just that – an entire day where college football is the main course in a feast of activities coming before and after. For freshmen who are not yet involved in campus life, grabbing a roommate and a couple of kids down the hall and heading for the stadium can be a singular event helping them integrate into the community and feeling less like outsiders. To quote a recent college grad who offered her advice to freshmen, “when in doubt, go out.”  Making plans to go to the game is a perfect way to do just that.

2. Identify

Freshman committed to a college during senior year in what must feel like a lifetime ago. Though they have since told every single person who asked that they LOVE their school, the first weeks of college can be lonely. A college football game gives kids a chance to identify with the team and experience an us vs them sense of attachment, making their declared affection a reality. Games give students the chance to bond with classmates while sitting shoulder to shoulder on the bleachers. On game day, strangers who would never exchange glances while hurrying to class are all brothers and sisters.

10 more reasons to love college football

3. Inspiration

A good college football game is absorbing and a great game, unforgettable. It can also be inspirational as UVA English professor Mark Edmondson writes in his new book, Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game:

There are a number of ways to wake up and learn to aim your spiritedness. But I believe that football is one of the best. It’s a game in which you get knocked down over and over and have to get up and start again. It’s a game that awakens your passion and then can help you direct it at a worthwhile object: getting better at the game and maybe helping your team to win. When you have that model for how to deploy the spirit, you can use it for other aims in life.

Though he is referring specifically to playing the game, the heroics and perseverance of the players inspire the fans.

10 more reasons to love college football

4. Multi-sensory

Turning on the flat screen at home and easing back into a comfy couch for the afternoon is the way millions of fans watch college football. It is an easy stroll to the kitchen and the bathroom, televised camera angles get up close to the action, and the WiFi doesn’t fail. But the experience of walking into a football stadium on game day is visceral. Adrenaline begins to pump and each sense remains on overdrive. These things do not happen while sitting in a lazy-boy: hearing the roar of the crowd, jumping up to watch a receiver sprint down the field to score a touchdown. Cheering, high-fiving! Sweat trickling down foreheads during boiling-hot September games and wrapping up in blankets to keep out a chilly October night.

10 more reasons to love college football

5. Students First

Football fields are typically walkable from dorms with no complicated or time-consuming logistics required to go to a game. Both our kids have gone to schools where only their student IDs were required for admission. Some colleges are making even greater efforts to make sure students attend games in the face of a drop in attendance: “Average student attendance at college football games is down 7.1% since 2009,” according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. This is an ideal time to take advantage of any student incentives offered for attendance.

6. College Traditions

Freshmen are just beginning to figure out the hand signals. They are building their team color wardrobe of t-shirts and sweaters. They might not be sure when to clap, or understand the differences between the fight song and school song. One game into the season, they’re experts.

7. Family Traditions

College fight songs are filled with clapping and spirited, shouting lyrics. If you attended a big state school like I did, perhaps you sung your school song to your kids as lively lullabies. My sister and I learned to sing the Aggie War Hymn (Texas A&M) from our dad and I taught our kids The Eyes of Texas, Texas Fight and when to get your horns up (University of Texas) when they were little. Our daughter is attending my husband’s alma mater and we have made plans to join her for a game later this month. The chance for the two of them to lock arms, swaying and singing The Good Old Song (UVA) will be a priceless moment in our family life.

10 more reasons why I love college football

8. Alumni Connection

College football games are the perfect excuses for alumni to return to campus. Students see older grads in attendance and take note. Games on campus help build connections across generations of students, binding them in loyalty to their school. Since football is a sport with roots dating to 1876, read about the history of the football program helps to gain an additional layer of understanding about the school itself.

9. Ice Breaker

Conversation in the early school weeks revolves around the same few questions – where are you from, what are you majoring in, where are you living….over and over. Going to the game and having a shared experience with classmates makes it easy to talk about the team, the game, the schedule, big plays…. topics open to everyone, paving the way for friendship.

10 more reasons to love college football

10. Moms Back Home

It has only been two weeks since we dropped off our daughter at her freshman dorm. To say that I miss her does not begin to describe my longing to see my youngest child. Watching the game last weekend on TV was exciting and the best part for me? Hoping against hope that the camera would catch her cheering in the crowd. I don’t plan to miss a game.

10 more reasons to love college football

How to Find Success in College: 9 Things the Research Shows

Lisa writes: For years college feels like an endpoint, the focus of so much of our kids’ energies. But it turns out to be just a beginning. We have looked at the view of one experienced professor  regarding successful students and we have asked graduates for their input as well. Now we have reviewed what experts have found through years of research and present nine findings on how freshmen can find success in college.

How to Succeed in College

Stick to Your Own Definition of Success in College

Students who did best in college were not motivated by outside factors like jobs, or grades, but rather a genuine desire to learn.

“Intrinsically motivated by their own sense of purpose, they were not demoralized by failure nor overly impressed with conventional notions of success.” “These movers and shakers didn’t achieve success by making success their goal. For them, it was a byproduct of following their intellectual curiosity, solving useful problems, and taking risks in order to learn and grow.”

Take One Small Class, Every Semester

Students who took one small class, defined as less than 16 students, had a higher level of engagement and actually worked harder, according to Professor Richard Light of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Another study showed that students who took a small freshman seminar (thus had an early experience in a small class setting) were less likely to drop out of school.

“Students who choose at least one small course each semester have, on the average, a significantly better overall experience than those who do not. [They] are noticeably more engaged, by their own rating, than students who take only larger classes. …Either small classes demand more time or students choose to invest more.”

Engage With Faculty, Early and Often

Every study seemed to confirm that students who engaged with faculty, in venues outside of the classroom, had better educational outcomes. The studies concluded that for most students, more contact with faculty was always better.

“Informal student-faculty interaction activities—being a guest in a professor’s home, working on a research project with a faculty member, talking with instructors outside of class, and serving on committees with faculty—are positively correlated with student learning and development.”

How to succeed in college

Don’t Just Look to Get Requirements Completed

It is tempting freshman year to look at the list of graduation requirements and to try to knock off a substantial portion of them freshman year. Professor Light suggests being careful with this strategy, because when sophomore year begins, these students have little idea of what subject matter genuinely interests them.

“When talking with freshmen, I stress this point especially heavily. I urge them not to just choose a series of large, introductory courses during freshmen year. “

This is Not High School, Work in Groups

In many high schools, individual work is stressed, but this is not high school. Students who seek out study groups and connect with their peers over academic content have greater academic success and satisfaction during their four years.

“Not only do students who work in small study groups outside of class commit more time to their coursework, feel more challenged by their work, and express a much higher level of personal interest in it—they are also much less likely to hesitate to seek help. The critical point is that the relationships are not merely social. They are organized to accomplish some work—a substantive exploration that students describe as “stretching” themselves. And almost without exception, students who feel they have not yet found themselves, or fully hit their stride, report that they have not developed such relationships. “

If it is an Option, Live on Campus Freshman Year

Every school is different and not all students are offered on-campus housing their first year or any year. But multiple studies showed that living in freshman housing increased social engagement. Students living on campus were more likely to be members of study groups and get involved in extracurricular activities, both markers for success.

“…living on campus had a direct, positive effect on learning outcomes, and educational aspirations had the greatest indirect effects on learning and intellectual development. In fact, living on campus had the greatest total effect (i.e., the combination of direct and indirect effects) on learning outcomes of any institutional characteristic. “

Pick the Right Friends

Students should think carefully in choosing their friends because no influence seems to be as forceful as peer group pressure. A student’s peer group, according to one study was, “’the single most potent source of influence,’ affecting virtually every aspect of development—cognitive, affective, psychological, and behavioral.”

“Peer interactions are particularly important with regard to social integration because students are more likely to stay in school when they feel comfortable and connected to other students with similar interests and aspirations. … In addition, institutions with higher levels of student social interaction also have higher levels of student educational aspirations.”

Parents Still Matter and Our Kids Need Our Encouragement

Even as our kids move on with their lives, it appears our influence is still very relevant. College can be a daunting and far more challenging experience that high school, requiring a great deal more self-direction. Some kids stumble their first year and can become demoralized. Research shows they are aided by a reminder that their parents’ confidence in them is undimmed and support unreserved.

“Aspirations and family support foreshadow student success. … On balance, it appears that students perform better and are more likely to succeed when their families affirm their students’ choices and encourage them to stay the course; this is especially important for underserved populations.”

The Effects of Success in College Linger Long After Graduation

A 2014 Gallup-Purdue University study of college graduates showed that it is a few simple things that increase the odds of turning a successful college experience into satisfying work life. Every freshman should know that the positive effects of constructive relationships with professors, meaningful work experience and extracurricular activities and in-depth academic work, can last a lifetime.

“ if graduates recalled having a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in all aspects of their well-being. And if graduates had an internship or job in college where they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom, were actively involved in extracurricular activities and organizations, and worked on projects that took a semester or more to complete, their odds of being engaged at work doubled as well.”

 

Advice to College Freshmen from Recent Grads

Lisa writes: I would love to send my soon-to-be freshman son off to college with a fist full of good advice from me. But let’s be honest, it has been a little while since I was in college and there are those far younger and more knowledge than I who can help him on his way. Luckily I was able to corral some recent college grads (and current seniors) and here they share some very wise and relevant advice for college freshmen. college, campus

Very Wise Words

Find a Constant

There is an extraordinary amount of change you will encounter as you transition to college – find something to hold on to, something you can carry with you throughout college as you encounter a new living environment, schedule, friend group and set of academic expectations. Your constant might be an activity you’ve done your whole life, a new hobby, a book series you re-read for comfort right before bed, a TV show, a “splurge” you indulge in once a week at the local (overpriced) coffee shop, or something else entirely. Regardless of what your constant is, you should practice making it as routine as brushing your teeth.

For me, it was running outdoors and exploring my new environment. It was a different kind of hard work that allowed me to set goals for myself, but was not something to be graded or judged by teachers or peers. Finding a constant is a gift that keeps on giving; even after you graduate – or whenever you encounter intimidating transitions as you move forward in your career – you’ve got it in your back pocket to keep you grounded.

Now, the Nitty Gritty

Freshman Fall

Put yourself out there in the beginning of freshman year and meet as many fellow freshmen as you can. It is such a unique time where EVERYONE is in the same boat – no one knows each other and everyone wants to make friends.

The early days can be tough…if you think you hate your school and want to transfer, at least give it your all until after Christmas break. It gets better once you’re settled and find a good crew of friends.

If you are feeling lonely or homesick, you are not alone. We think about college for years and yet when we arrive it is a huge adjustment. All of the freshman around you are making the same adjustment, even if they are not showing it.

My recommendation to college freshmen would be to push yourself outside your core group of friends from time to time and try and meet lots of new people. Your core friends will always be your friends, but you may be glad you met a wide circle of people if you end up in a new city or country one day. Then a peripheral friend may become your new best friend!

Find a group to join early. Even if it doesn’t last, even if it isn’t something you are passionate about, join a club or a team because it will give you an activity and friends right from the beginning. The earlier you meet people and find a place to belong the sooner you will enjoy school.

The days of high school gym class and healthy home cooked meals are over and the Freshman 15 loom as a very real challenge. Less time in the cafeteria line and more time at the gym is the only answer. Find a workout buddy and keep each other on track.

When in doubt, go out.

Academic Advice

Take advantage of all the amazing professors you have at your disposal as a college student. Go to office hours, contact professors in a field you’re interested in and ask if you can get coffee and chat about the field and their work… get to know them! They’re there for you.

Take classes you’re actually interested in!! If you’re interested in that 8:30am Friday class –  take it! Get your butt up, go to class, and then you can sleep the rest of the day (another beautiful thing about college). You’ll regret it later on when you’re not looking at “Intro to Fairy Tales” on your transcript instead of something more useful and productive.

Just because you don’t need to keep up your grades to get into a good college now doesn’t mean stop working hard. Even three years of hard work after freshman year can’t erase a year of not trying at all.

Don’t be shy about getting academic help even if you have never had it before. College is a big step up. Struggling academically will ruin your first year and a tutor can get you on the right track. Many schools have academic support easily available. If you need it, get it.

Group work, study sessions and other academic collaborations are the norm in college. This is a change from high school. In college it is expected that you will work together academically and it is a great way to meet new people. Get into study groups early in the year, before the midterm rush.

Finally, for the Planners

If you are a planner, and always have been, get ready for some bumps in the road. After graduation nothing will go as planned – which might just be the best thing that ever happened to you. The job you expect to have for years will change, your friends and where they live will change, you will get married sooner or later than you had anticipated, and everything you had once dreamed your life would be after college will be different. Life is full of surprises and the best ones are still to come!

campus, freshmen advice, college students

 

 

That Perfect Letter

Lisa writes: You know those wonderful, heartfelt letters that moms slip into their kid’s camp bags or college duffels, the ones with wisdom and love that make lifetime momentos? Yeah, well, I have never written one of those. Everytime I hear of a wonderful parent who takes the time and care to compose such a missive to their college kid,  I beat myself up for a few moments as a derelict parent. And then promise myself, next time.

Love stamp And as I am fairly certain in the rush to get my third son off to college I will once again fail to write that perfect letter, here is what I might have said, if I could get my act together.

College is a Privilege

Sure, I expected you to go and, in turn, you expected nothing less from yourself. But this in no way takes away from the fact that spending four years learning, growing and focused almost exclusively on yourself is a gift like none other. Before you set foot on campus think through the sweep of human history and try to guess how many people were given this opportunity. Only after you have acknowledged just how rare and special this gift is, will I help move you into your dorm.

Best Four Years of Your Life

You have heard adults say it a hundred times and it may be true, but it is not automatically so. Imbibe deeply of all that a University has to offer. Heap your plate with its academic, athletic, cultural and social offerings. Never again will life mix youth, freedom, opportunity and resources together in quite this heady combination. If these are to be the very best years, you must make them so.

First Weeks of College are a Time like None Other

Everyone will want to meet you and there will be none of the social awkwardness that usually accompanies rushing up and speaking to total strangers. Do not squander this short window of opportunity, it will never come around again.

Drinking Dilemma

You are now in a place where alcohol is both tacitly allowed and legally forbidden. The only thing that stands between you and a very bad experience is your own good judgment. But here is the tricky part. You need to exercise that good judgment at the very moment when it is already impaired by alcohol.

Being Friends in High School was Easy

You sat in the same classes or did the same activities as your high school friends. In college, maintaining friendships is a bit more work. After college it is a lot more work. Investing in friendships now pays dividends forever, truly forever.

Living With Those Who Love You

It is your good fortune to never have lived in a place where no one loved you or frankly cared a whit about you. At the outset, college is that place. Despite everyone’s outward cheer in the first weeks of college you will have no real friends. Sure you will know some kids, but these are not true friends, yet. They are still just acquaintances you really like. It is better to live amongst those you love, but it takes time and only you can make this happen. College gets better after that first Thanksgiving.

Do Not Fool Yourself, I Was 18

When you look at me you probably see “Mom” and “Old.” Do not fool yourself. Not one fiber of my being has forgotten how it feels to be 18. If you have a problem, talk to me. Few things you will say will shock me and there is every chance, though admittedly just a chance, that I might have a good suggestion. And while the law may recognize you as an adult, I promise you that you still have much to learn.

I have loved you every moment of your life. Even as you prepare to move out, I shock myself by loving you even more. This love comes without strings, but life does not. If there are things you want to achieve, knowledge you want to gain, friends you want to make it is now entirely up to you.

Princeton Mom vs. the Facts, Grown and Flown in The Atlantic

In last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Susan Patton (known as The Princeton Mom) penned an op-ed  “A Little Valentine’s Day Straight Talk in which she advised young women by saying, “You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career—and you should start doing so much sooner than you think.” While her advice sounds dated, the more troubling aspect is that, in our view, it is simply wrong and not consistent with the facts. Grown and Flown took a look at the research and Lisa has written a rebuttal which shows that marriage has changed radically and our views of women’s roles need to alter as well.  Her story appears in The Atlantic.com.

Princeton Mom vs. the Facts

Susan Patton is attracting a great deal of attention with her polemic on the virtues of attracting a husband in college.  Her underlying theme, that the university setting is the ideal feeding ground for husbands, leaves many women up in arms over the suggestion that the goal of getting a guy should be right up there with getting a degree. In what can only be described as scare tactics, she offers her version of motherly advice, which is that women need to find the smartest guys in college and pursue them as marriage prospects.  It may be in her upcoming book she will fill in the facts that back up her many assertions, but her argument does not hold up, not because the message is offensive, although it is. Rather, because the argument does not square with the facts.

LisaHeffernan. College educated women and marriage

college educated women

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Professor Offers Best Advice for College Freshmen

From Michelle, a Grown and Flown friend: A year ago, when my nephew was beginning his first year of college, I put together a top-ten list of advice for college freshmen based on my years as a professor and the advice of colleagues and former students. Last week I checked in to see if my advice had been of any help. The original column appears below, with comments from Elias, now a rising sophomore.

1. SHOW UP.

Attend every class session unless you have a contagious illness. (Woody Allen was right: 80% of success is just showing up.) And don’t sit in the back; I can practically predict a student’s grade based on where he or she sits. Slacking in the back row = bad grades with very few exceptions. Elias says, “I can’t say enough about how important this is. Two-thirds of the students in my 9:30 class, where lectures were posted online, never showed up for class. I went to everything, and as a result I developed terrific relationships with most of my professors.”

freshman year, college professor

2. INTRODUCE YOURSELF.

Find an excuse to go to office hours, not just once but two or three times a term.  Take a draft of your essay to a TA or professor for review; once graded work has been handed back, go back and ask for advice on how to improve it. These people will be your references, advocates, and possibly even friends later in life; you want them to remember your name when the semester is over. And don’t be afraid to kiss a little ass. If your professor is giving a talk or performance, show up — and make sure he or she knows you did.  Helpful hint: always remind said professor, adviser, or TA of your name when you encounter them; they will be eternally grateful. 

3. ENGAGE.

Come to class prepared enough to ask a perceptive question or make a useful comment. Don’t be a wallflower, but don’t dominate either – your fellow students will not love you if your hand is always the first one up. When you e-mail a professor, do it for a good reason and be respectful (don’t address us as “dude” or by our first names unless we’ve asked you to). Turn off your cell phone and do not text during class. We can tell.

4. AFFILIATE.

Take advantage of what campus life has to offer – clubs, events, service trips, religious groups. Join something the first week; student activities start-up right away and there is no better way to meet non-freshmen. Try out any and all groups that seem interesting until you find your niche. Research shows that students who are affiliated with a campus group or who have a part-time job are less likely to drop out and more likely to progress through college on time. More important, it enriches the experience.

5. LEARN A LANGUAGE AND/OR LIVE ABROAD.

Once you leave college, language classes are expensive and hard to schedule. Take advantage of the daily classes and language labs that are included in the price of tuition. Try to study abroad. Even if you can’t get away for a whole semester, find a short-term spring or summer program and, when it comes to choosing where, the more foreign the better. Elias says, “This is one of the best things you can get out of college. I am sad I didn’t get to start taking language,” Next year, Elias plans to start Chinese language study, and he recommends going above and beyond the school’s language requirement.

6. STAY HEALTHY.

Don’t neglect your health. Eat well and be sure to get enough sleep. Getting sick means lots of missed classes and lots of missed fun. The recreation center, gym, or intramural sports are great ways to meet people and will help keep your mind clear. Do not abuse any substances, and do not kiss anyone who is sick. Elias says, “I had a lot of colds, although they weren’t debilitating and I could still get to class. Maybe it was being around sick people, maybe too much alcohol.” Whatever the case, he did not stay healthy and, sadly, “I did not go to the gym a single time.”

7. TAP INTO RESOURCES.

Career and professional advice; funding for internships, study abroad or travel; opportunities to work with professors on research; mental health counseling and disability support services – these are all offered by most schools, but it is up to you to recognize your needs and make use of such resources.

8. BE SOCIAL.

Leave the door of your dorm room open much of the day and cultivate a broad group of friends. Don’t walk around campus texting. Make eye contact. Chat with kids in class. Set up a study group of three or four people to share ideas, questions, and notes if you have to miss a class (see #1). Michelle adds: I neglected an important piece of social advice – practice safe sex! Nothing can put a damper in your college experience, and that of your partner, like an unplanned pregnancy. Elias says, “There was a lot of risky behavior going on – alcohol abuse, selling of prescription meds, people who wound up in the hospital because of drinking too much, girls who needed to take Plan B pills for unprotected sex.” Elias’s worst experience of the year was two car accidents less than a month apart. In both cases, the person at fault (not Elias, thankfully) was texting while driving. “I just don’t put up with that anymore. I would never drive with someone I thought would drive while texting.”

9. SAVOR YOUR INDEPENDENCE.

College is a time to grow up. Make the place where you live a home away from home so you have a measure of personal comfort. Create a positive atmosphere that will nurture you. Keep your support system – friends, family – in place, and call them when you need them, but don’t be afraid of loosening the ties. Elias says, “If anything, going to college has strengthened my ties with my family. It made me much more appreciative of having a stellar home life. I met people who were so happy to be away from home that they never wanted to go back. It made me really value my family.”

10.  MAKE THE MOST OF EACH DAY. THE YEARS WILL FLY BY.

best college advice

College Prof Top 10 List for College Kids 

College Graduation and the Parenthood Abyss

Mary Dell writes: My son, our eldest child, will celebrate his college graduation this weekend. Today, while I sit in the kitchen, I read the fine words of another mom whose child recently graduated. I begin to imagine the moment when our son’s name is called and he walks onto the stage to receive his diploma. I feel a familiar maternal adrenaline rush beginning to rise and recognize it as the same one I have felt every time I waited for my child to stride onto a stage or take his place at home plate.  But I also sense a new ingredient. After the ceremony concludes and we drive back home, he will no longer be our “school child.”  Exactly what will replace that two-decade long identity takes me to the edge of a parental abyss.

college graduation, schoolhouse, school, college

No longer will his schedule, and ours with him, be dictated by a calendar of September- May. The school schedule, with its rock-solid predictability, provided the foundation on which his life in the classroom and the sports field was built. For three months each summer, the structure relaxed but sprang back to life in the final days of August. Then, before the first class began, we bought new school clothes (last year’s were always too small, too short) and new supplies to load into a crumb-free backpack. The obligatory first day of school photos now fill our albums, shoeboxes and flash drives.

After Sunday’s college graduation, we will begin a new era with our son.  We will place graduation photos in last pages in his childhood photo album, close it and put it away.

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Christmas Morning, It’s Childhood All Over Again

Lisa writes: Like every parent I struggle to understand where the years have gone.  I gaze at three full-sized humans towering over me and feel like I just watched a movie on fast forward and would give anything to see it again at normal speed.  And while that might just be a mom fantasy, Christmas morning is the one chance to rewind the tape and watch a small segment of my sons’ childhood played over again.

Christmas Tree, Christmas Gifts

Barbara Brotman of the Chicago Tribune threw out a terrific question, “Anyone else have grown children who turn into excited kiddies at Christmas?” Her family has a wonderful tradition of packing lunch and going off to the zoo, and although her daughters are well into their 20s, the family tradition is going strong.

Her question she got me thinking about why I so love Christmas morning, a ritual new to my life.  The answer I believe is that when we rise on December 25, my family rolls back the clock. For one morning a year I get to gaze upon my grown and nearly grown sons as they once were, small boys bursting with excitement.
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12 Most Wise Things to Remember When Your College Kids Come Home

Lisa writes: Our college kids. We love them, we miss them — and then, when they come home for school breaks… we are ready to kill them. At Grown and Flown, we have explored life through these tumultuous years as we help our kids ready themselves for the adult world.

12 Most

Here are some things to remember:

1. College kids love us but they love their friends too

Don’t be hurt when they give you the hello and goodbye and head straight out the door to see their old high school buddies. [Read more...]

Christmas Traditions – Somewhere Between the Old and the New

Gabby, a Grown and Flown Writer, sent us this post as she prepares for the holidays: My youngest child complained recently that we don’t make as big a deal of Christmas traditions and celebrations as we did when her older brother and sister lived at home. Ironically, it was just about the time I had decided to skip decorating the house for Thanksgiving, something I have always done. And since we planned to be away for Christmas, I was also entertaining the notion of a “quieter” version of Christmas lights and decor.

I’ve written before about all the advantages my third child has in terms of my experienced and wiser approach to parenting, but I have not often considered the downside.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade spider man balloon, parade balloon, Macy's parade, Christmas traditions

I vaguely recall my youngest sister complaining that the focus of our family always seemed to be directed at the lives of her two older sisters.  Whether conversations were about college, first jobs or partners, she was always in an earlier stage and her life was never the topic of family discussions.

There are several precipitating occurrences which have inspired my “toned down” approach to our Christmas traditions. If I am honest with myself, weariness, boredom, and a little bit of cynicism are among the darker factors. However, at the same time, I am working hard within this second phase of life (along with my family) to remake myself so that I can shed certain outdated personas and make room for more originality, purpose and depth…..and isn’t that the point of these holidays to begin with? Finally, there is no denying that we have been forced to shift things around, both to adapt to our children’s new lives as they enter adulthood and also because of  the aging of the generation ahead of us.inflatable balloon, family trip to parade, Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Kermit the frog, Kermit balloon

As an example, this was the first time in 20 years that I did not have a household of extended family for Thanksgiving.  Instead, I hosted an early celebration with my husband, our three children, friends, significant others and some extended family before all but four of us traveled in different directions.

Yet in what might become a new tradition, I did something I have wanted to do since I was a little girl….my husband, two of my children and I went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

During past years when I flew around the house cooking up multiple meals for multiple days of visitors, I wistfully watched the TV’s rendition. This Thanksgiving there was room for a new (perhaps one-time) holiday tradition and I was mindfully present holding my youngest child’s hand as we watched those magical balloons drift by.

Don’t worry….right after my daughter complained, I pulled out the pilgrim candles and went out and bought my kids and my nieces and nephews chocolate advent calendars. However, with the run up to Christmas, I ask fellow bloggers and readers this question.  How do you keep the magic in your Christmas traditions…..while mixing the old with the new?

“Your concern  is not so much to have what you love anymore but to love what you have-right now.” Richard Rohr

Thanksgiving traditions, watching the Macy's parade, Christmas traditions,Thanksgiving in New York City, watching the parade

 

Thanksgiving Dinner: Meals and Memories

Mary Dell writes: Thanksgiving dinner is our favorite meal, hands down. Not only is it a day of fabulous eating, family and football, but it is also the day when we give our diets a hall pass, stuffing ourselves in a way we would never dream of the other 364 days of the year. But more than the food we savor, it is the scent of the feast that we love and that endures.

Thanksgiving Dinner

The sense of smell more than sight, hearing or even taste, is where we store our most cherished and vintage memories. Once you raise that first fork full of stuffing, you begin breathing in a memory of your childhood home. As you sit at the table with your friends and your kids, your parents, aunts, cousins…..everyone starts their own homeward journey remembering Thanksgivings when they were very, very young.

Lisa and I are getting ready for the holiday at our two homes and have asked our friends about their traditions.  While hewing to the classics, they shared a few favorites, both traditional and idiosyncratic, but all treasured like the family heirlooms they indeed are.

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Calm Before the Storm, Hurricane Sandy

calm before the storm, empty nest, college son

Dear Son,

While I trust you will be absolutely fine in your college dorm room these next few days with Hurricane Sandy heading toward shore, I cannot help but worry. You may be 22 years old but my instinct to protect you and your sister will remain undiminished throughout my life. Today it is the calm before the storm and we are prepared here at home. Unlike every other storm, this is the first time you have not been with us when the forecast has turned grim. A large swath of the eastern part of the country is in harm’s way and that includes you, dear.  So, just in case you have not already thought of these things, please humor me – you are good at it – and keep reading: [Read more...]

College Parents Discover a Secret to Staying Close With Kids

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...]

Home (Bitter) Sweet Home: A College Student Perspective

Caroline Finnegan, a rising senior at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, posted on Her Campus.com some words of advice to the typical college student on returning home for the holidays or the summer in Home (Bitter) Sweet Home: How to Deal with Returning Home for the Summer. We loved her post and asked her if we could share it with all of you (thinking you might want to pass it along to certain members of your household!) and to add a few words of advice for parents as well.  If only all twenty year olds were this sensible….

dorm room, dorm room mess, boys dorm room

Dear Parents,
A little intro from a senior in college and three-time champion of the smooth transition home for the summer. As the third child among my parents’ four darlings, I wasn’t the first college kid to come home for the summer and attempt to “rule the roost,” as my dad likes to say. The easy (ok, occasionally traumatic) transition was made possible by my two adoring parents who wanted nothing but the best for their kids.The thing to keep in mind when laying down the law in your home, from the perspective of a college student, is to remember that we’ve been on our own for a year (or two, or three, or four) now, and we’ve gained a lot of independence. Sure the messy rooms, the lack of ability to do laundry and the spoiled attitude might say otherwise, but the reality is, we’ve thrown ourselves into new situations without the safety net of parents and have matured in ways that might not jump off the page…just yet.

It’s tough coming home to the requests of parents when, for so long, we’ve been planning our days just the way we want them: wake up at ten, go to class, workout, get lunch with friends…etc…etc….

A lot of parents won’t see the maturity of their kids when they come home for summer, because the truth is, we regress back to our high school selves. We know our parents are there to dish out a few bucks, to say no when we ask to do certain things, and to encourage us to get off the couch and to do something active, so we’re relaxed.

At school, we don’t have this back up, and we’re forced to discipline ourselves, but you will never see that whilst we’re in the comfort of our homes. Even if your kids are acting like their seventeen – year old selves, try not to treat them as you did in the past, and hopefully they’ll get the picture. If you give them the independence they had in college, they will be encouraged to show you just how much they’ve matured while at school.

P.S. My dad would also like to note that college students should realize they are adults sharing a house with other adults.

Dear Students,
As finals wind down, most of us are packing up our rooms and getting ready to hit the open road back home. It’s a bittersweet feeling leaving the freedoms of school… ah, college…to return to the rules of our parents’ house. It’s a little difficult understanding the term “curfew” when you’ve spent the last nine months stumbling home as the sun comes up. The idea of “chores” seems obsolete when your room at school looks like a tornado hit it. Readjusting to life in your childhood home can be less than fantastic, whether you’re home for the summer after freshman year, or as a post-grad beginning the job search.

I can assure you, though, that if you focus on the positives, and try not to step on any toes along the way, these tips and tricks will make the transition as smooth as possible. It’s not easy listening to your parents after living a year without their rules, but it is important. Getting off on the wrong foot could literally ruin your entire summer.

college stuff, dorm room stuff

Don’t Forget To Call

It’s easy to forget to report back to your parents because you’ve been on your own for so long but they take responsibility for you when you’re back at home. If you’re going to spend the night out, don’t forget to let them know. Margaret, a mother of four, like most mothers, is constantly worrying. “I can’t go to sleep unless I know where all my kids are” she admits. “Even a text is fine. I just want to know that everybody is safe.” Having a worried parent calling and looking for you all night is stressful for both parties. Just remember to update them every once in a while and it should be smooth sailing from there.

kids helping around the house, college student at home, college student back home

Help Out

Don’t underestimate the plate. Putting your plate away after a meal is so easy. It’s a simple act we often forget to do, especially once we get back home, but it’s not only a sign of respect it shows your parents that you’re not expecting them to wait on you, and that you’re mature. If you do little things around the house, like unpacking your clothes early, or keeping your room mildly clean, your parents are less likely to treat you like a child. Remember, if you act like you need their help, they’re going to come at you full throttle. Instead of getting annoyed at your parents for asking you to help out, just do it and move on….you get more bees with honey.

Remember What You’ve Been Missing

Keeping in mind all of those things that you love about home will make the move back effortless (well, almost.) Being at home has it’s perks, that’s for sure. Don’t forget, before you know it you will be back at school (or moving out.)

Be Respectful

By this I mean, remember that you are not at school and that your actions are affecting a lot more than just yourself now. Coming home at 4 am and heating up the leftovers from dinner is fine, as long as you’re quiet and avoid waking the entire house up.  Throw your house key in your purse before going out and you won’t have to worry about calling your parents in the wee hours of the morning to let you in the front door.

Blend In

Don’t do anything in the beginning of the summer that is going to put you on your parents’ radar. I find that with my siblings, as long as I blend in and do my best to not cause a scene, my parents are less overbearing. If you don’t give your parents a reason to worry, they’ll be more lenient. Keep in mind that your parents are watching your every move as soon as you get back. It can’t hurt to be on your best behavior for a couple of days as you settle in.

Curfew?

If your parents try to reinstate your old curfew, chances are you haven’t been on your best behavior. Stating a curfew is a means of control and if your parents are dating back to the high school years it’s most likely because they feel like you need rules to follow. If you are being responsible, checking in and acting mature, you should not have to worry about the old 1 am curfew coming back to haunt you.

Get a Job

Laying out in the sun and bumming around the house all day sounds like an ideal summer to most of us, but the reality is that we are in college and should be taking on the responsibilities of a job and making money. If you’re working hard your parents will take notice and not come down on you for petty things. It will be easier to ask for that extra cash for the concert at the end of the month if your parents know you’re doing your part, as well.

Summer Flings

We can all agree it’s a lot harder in the guy department while living under your parents’ roof. At school, it’s easy to hang out at your apartment with your guy. You never have to worry about introducing him to the fam. However, being at home gives you more of an opportunity to venture out and try new things (let’s be honest, how much fun is watching TV together, anyway?) Walk to your nearest ice cream shop on a nice summer night or get dinner and have a picnic in the park. Spending time with your guy in new ways is not only better for your relationship but it’s more fun!

Just remember, make the most of your summer at home. Spend time with your family and friends, make time for yourself, and enjoy all the little things that make home so special.

My House, My Rules

Lisa writes: My family has rules, your family has rules, and the one thing I think we can be fairly certain of, no matter what those rules are, is that our kids are not obeying them while they are away at college.  While their transgressions might be large or small we treat them like responsible adults, capable of making their own decisions, right up to the moment when they cross our thresholds and then–my house, my rules?

My House My Rules, empty nest, front door, college kids, college break

 

The issues, be they drinking, sex or just mixing white and brights in the laundry, are complicated by our changing relationship, our ability to accept the adults they have become, our need to control what goes on in our own homes and the presence of younger siblings watching ever so closely. So what to do, when the person who returns home bears all the signs of adulthood, but is very much your kid?

When they lived here, my family had the usual dos and don’ts. Underage drinking–a big don’t. Letting me know where you are and with whom–a big do. Impeccable manners towards all adults at all times–another major do.  And then there were the usual, keep grades up, after midnight, keep the noise down and STOP kicking that ball in the house. Did they always obey? Certainly not, but they took a good shot at it and covered their tracks when necessary. But now they have another place they call home as well.  In that home, I am just going to put it out there and guess they are following whatever rules they have chosen to live by.  But what to do when they are in our home, the home they grew up in, my home?

Last week was spring break and that means two kids home from college.  I had missed them so much I had failed to think through all that they brought with them when they returned. It took only minutes to remember.  As soon as one son entered our house, high school friends arrived at the door to whisk him away to their favorite junk food joint. “Don’t worry mom I will be right back,” he said with that smile sons know to give their mothers, the one that melts your heart thus making it nearly impossible to speak, and he was out the door.

So where to begin. There was fact that in mere seconds he had returned to his pigsty ways and spilled dirty laundry out of his bag and all over the entryway.  It wouldn’t have been so bad but he threw it on top of the pile his brother had already left when he returned from school. Then there was a gang of kids I adore, but actually had not intended to spend spring break with, who were seemingly here to stay. Finally I had to face the fact that my kid, who was home, was already gone.

My first instinct was to grab the rules, the ones he knew well and had long lived by, and start checking off his transgressions.  But then, even before I could furiously start tapping my cell phone and send off a nasty text I would soon regret, I stopped and thought.  At that moment our house was the nicest most comfortable place he knew, but this will not always be the case.  Dorm rooms will be replaced with apartments, apartments perhaps with houses.  If our house is only a place of physical comfort, it will not long be his home.

Every night there were more kids sleeping in my house, every morning less food in my refrigerator.

I couldn’t stay up late enough to even see who was here or if the lights were turned out and what little food remained was put away.  A couple of mornings I awoke at 5:00 to hear their laughter and chatting as my day began and their night had not yet ended. After a few more valiant attempts at self-control, I asked myself, was it my house, my rules and if it was, could it be their home as well?

The conventional wisdom says that they are adults and in dealing with adults it is important to lay down the rules of engagement.  This wisdom says that if you make the rules of living together clear, chaos can be avoided.  Here is my problem.  They may be adults, but they are not just any adults. Chaos, I know from two decades of being a mom, is part of family life and I am pretty sure that real wisdom is never conventional.

I guess for me it comes down to this.  I know that they know the rules, after all, they grew up in this house.  And out of respect and love for us I hope they will abide by them, and while I will issue occasional reminders, I will no longer enforce them. So at Christmas a soccer ball and an expensive lamp had an unfortunate encounter (funnily we still have the soccer ball.) And as I took the pieces of lamp out to the garbage, I said nothing.  One of my kids stayed at a friend’s all night without a word of his whereabouts, and I said nothing. Why?

Because there is one thing I want more good manners and thoughtful behavior, more than I worry about knowing where they have gone, more than I want them to stop breaking things with the damn soccer ball, I want them to be themselves.  If they cannot be themselves, if they feel that there is a person they need to be in order to inhabit our house, then this will never feel like home.  And if there is one thing I want for my children, it is for this to always be home.