I loved this article that Melissa linked to on her site. I have been thinking a bunch about college and college prep lately now that I have had one graduate, one finishing her second year and one starting the college visit/application/testing process.
I realize that a lot of what we parents worry about and think has to happen before college, and what is going to happen during college isn't really reality. There are checklists of course of things that the kids need for dorms, and things they must be able to do (laundry) but in the grand scheme of life, these are inconsequential. For instance, my oldest didn't know how to do laundry when we started college-I'm not sure Abbey did either-but I knew they could figure that out on their own by asking someone, or reading the actual dials. People make such a big deal out of the things that don't matter, I guess, is my point. So talking to people, being confident enough and friendly enough to say, "Hey can you help me with this", or just smart enough to figure things out on their own is helpful. And it is different today than when we were in college, because mom was not a quick text away. So that is enough learning opportunity-as parents we need to be able to balance ourselves when it comes to promoting independence with back-up support-that's so important.
I will say this for sure-college is about growth, huge growth, when it comes to learning about their peers and living with others. It's about learning to manage time, and learning how to make good personal decisions. I've talked a lot with different parents and what they've heard from their college kids. Things are definitely scarier in terms of bad decision that kids can make. I can use this is one example-when I went to college I saw people smoking marijuana one time, and the only alcohol that was present was wine coolers, and cheap beer. Yes, damage could be done with that type of alcohol, but how much damage? As much damage as straight vodka? From what I have heard, hard liquor and marijuana and other drugs aren't as scarce as they were back in my time. I've heard and read many stories about alcohol poisoning, something I never heard about when I was in college. Recently a beautiful girl was found dead at a campus in my state from alcohol poisoning-a freshman with a wonderful future ahead of her. And the next weekend at her campus dozens of kids were in the ER for alcohol poisoning-I don't think this is rare anymore on weekends across our country. (This is a whole other subject-when I was in college we were all poor enough to make our $ stretch like crazy just for meals-so if anyone was buying alcohol it was cheap-where are these kids getting the funds to buy all this? Parents.)
These are the things that we parents need to talk about more than anything-'not being an idiot' is what I call this talk. Knowing how to still have fun and not drink or if you choose to do so (and if you are under 21 you are breaking the law)-well, don't be an idiot. The consequences of lower inhibitions from alcohol etc. is all on topic. I find the way so far that has worked best is using real life examples, and discussing these-why would someone do this or that, the pain that was caused to others from this choice, the consequences of the action and how that affected that person's life forever, and just treating your own brain and body with respect.
On the chance that I am scaring someone, it does seem to me that one thing that has changed-peer pressure isn't too much of a thing anymore. That it's not "cool" to pressure peers to do things or make them feel like the odd one out. This is a good change, isn't it? Because I definitely felt that in high school and college. Maybe that also has to do with the friends kids keep.
The personal growth in college can be huge-but it ebbs and flows for sure. Sometimes I have thought-Alleluia! and other times I have felt like one step up, two steps back in terms of management skills, and independence. For example, I found that my kids became worse at some things-here they had to be more independent at making their own meals at different times so if they needed a lunch or breakfast and I was busy or driving someone somewhere they fixed their own. In college, assuming they are living in a dorm, they now visit a cafeteria with a ton of different options all made and waiting (and paid) for them at any time of day.
There is a good argument too, that the concept of college life-this age group of kids living together in dorms etc., is an absolutely crazy invention-or what it has turned into-the culture of college- vs what "college" really was, is crazy. And I could agree with that also. These are still kids without full brain development. And college is really about learning stuff. That has nothing to do with sports, Greek life, dorms and parties.
These are just my thoughts-I am NO expert, maybe by the time Patrick gets through college I will be more confident in what I know about college prep and maturation during this time. I think by then I will have hit every college-my oldest's experience at a small private school has been different in ways from my daughter's experience at a huge state university. And knowing our children, what their strengths and stressors are-and having those good conversations with them-that is most important.
I think if I had read that list that I linked to I would have panicked in some ways-are they ready, do they have this all mastered? I think we have to realize that mastering all these skills continues into the college years. There is much learned from experience and trial and error and mistakes and confidence is gained from this-just like the way we are still learning about life now.
On to fun things:
Janey is so cute right now with her imagination-I spy often and hear her playing mommy or school or shop lady or waitress.
She loves envelopes and stationary and little pads of paper. This is so easy to buy cheap at the grocery store. She has a wallet and a few purses. (I have to find her a waitress pad!)
She is really really into playing with her borrowed Fisher Price doll house (thank you Aunt Julie!). Everyday she has it all spread out and every girl and boy and mom and dad named and they go on adventures every day. Hours and hours.
his one is geared toward younger kids) and my kids have always just loved finding the hidden item. There are also so many opportunities to count the apples or the chicks etc. We read it at least once a day.