Thinking, Playing, Reading

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.

I bought her this book after reading some reviews on a home school site and we love it.  It has a little duck hidden on every page-we have had a few other books like this over the years (this 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.

Patrick and I are still working on Big Red.  That boy and his dogs.

Andrew is reading this book and really liking it.


  1. I always love these posts of yours! Thanks for sharing so many good thoughts and ideas and books over the years! When you're done with Big Red, I thought I would recommend Shadow the Sheepdog by Enid Blyton. I read it with my son last year and he loved it, we both did in fact. We had lots of discussions about obedience and good behavior and loyalty and friendship and faith and it was just great.

    1. Thank you Stacey! That sounds great-I will put this on our list.

  2. I've been following you for years-YEARS! and never commented. But I want to thank you for your perspective and experience. I lost my Mom when my oldest daughter was 3, and it is hard to know what parenting advice to trust and most of us feels off to me-but yours doesn't. I have five at the moment, from 8 months to 11 years, and all that you say about balance and peace and the importance of home has helped me to center us and simplify us. Thank you!

    Can you offer any tips on how to teach children to be friendly? I have been realizing lately how important it is, and trying to be better about it in my own life-any pointers would be appreciated.

    Grace and peace to you.

  3. Those little blank receipt books (maybe you can buy them at a Dollar store even? OR Walmart?) with carbon copy pages were SO much fun to play waitress & restaurant with! We also used to color and cut out food to eat at ours... HOURS spent making the food, so we could play with it for a few minutes.

    1. Our Walmart has them! I never thought of getting them for my kids to play with! I am going to pick some up today!

  4. I love this! When I went to college I didn't know how to cook very much. I also didn't know how to use a dishwasher because our home never had one! I called my older sister long distance phone call (lol) to help me figure out the dishwasher because I was too embarrassed to ask my roommate, and I knew my mom didn't know how to use one either! But like you said I got it figured out and the most important skills I had learned at home. Hanging out with kids of same values and standards of behavior, taking my studies seriously, being kind no friendly, respecting teachers, not trying risky or stupid things... So while I was embarrassed I didn't know how to do somethings, I had the most important things down. I hope I can prepare my own children for that. How to not run out of money, how to be responsible, how to study hard and take hard classes not just the easiest options, etc.

  5. Yes, our Walmart has the waitress pad too found in the office supply aisle. Another great creative play item that we foudn in the Walmart office supply aisle next to it was an "open and closed" sign with a string to hang it to a door knob or play kitchen with a little clock of when the shop, store, restaurant, post office etc. opens or closes. Just a few dollars but offers lots of fun, creative options.

  6. My nephew used to love to take our "orders". He just used one of those palm sized spiral notebooks with the spiral at the top. At the time I had had a pile that I had bought to have on hand for my purse. At back to school time I had paid 10 cents each at Walgreens. He went through them like crazy be he just liked to pretend. I know he got it from all the supper clubs our family goes to on Friday nights in WI. Got to have that fish fry!

  7. It's interesting to see what life skills different parents value before sending kids off. I recently read the book "the teenage brain". It made me think differently about how I'm preparing my kids and where they are at developmentally. Putting all those kids together without their frontal lobes developed is scary. I know when I went to college I was too busy studying and working to have much of a life. Maybe these party kids need more work? Interesting to think about.

  8. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us. I really value the perspective you have.