He’s Off


Or, as my neighbor said, gone. We dropped Geeky Boy off at college this morning.  Because it’s nearby, it was kind of anticlimactic. We knew the place well (I worked there 12 years ago) so we weren’t as dazed and confused as we might have been or in awe or whatever.  In line, someone helpfully told us that lots of kids from our state go to school here. To which we thought, “Duh, we live here, we know.”  But we were polite, of course. And we heard, “She just fell in love with it right away. Was it like that for you?” Geeky Boy just smiled and said, “For me, it’s about the city.” He might have been thinking, “It’s where I got in.”

Geeky Girl waits with Geeky Boy’s stuff

We got him unpacked, made the bed, put up a few mementos Mr. Geeky snuck into his box, and then headed to lunch and to buy the handful of things we needed but didn’t bring.  We forgot a pillow and turns out we needed a trash can, some hooks, and an extension cord. We were early for moving in so Geeky Boy will have a day or two without a roommate (mixup about what floor we were on).  So it will be quiet, though we hope not too lonely.  A couple of his close friends also left today for college. Several others leave in the next couple of days.  They have plans to connect with each other in the next few weeks (all being only a few hours apart).  We’ll see how long that lasts. Travel costs money and takes time, the first of which will be in short supply for sure.

It will be an adventure, and I think it’s definitely a good thing for all of us to be apart, which sounds weird, but it was time. He’s ready, we’re ready.  He’ll still need us occasionally, I’m sure, but he’s going to start figuring some things on his own, getting himself out of bed on time being key among them.  I think he’s going to be okay. He’s looking forward to a fresh start and to being around different people and learning new things.  And I know he’s looking forward to not having as many rules or getting up at 6 a.m. (his first class is at 1 p.m.)  I’m looking forward to seeing what he grows into.

Mr. Geeky and I were talking about our own first weeks of college.  I remember my parents being around for maybe an hour at best and then it was just me and my roommate and floor full of girls suddenly without parental supervision.  We had some planned activities but mostly, we were looking forward to being out on our own.  Mr. Geeky called his first weeks the time of girls. Enough said.  Things are different now, but not that different. We saw more parents sticking around, but I think the kids look forward to the same things we did.  In a word, freedom.

Siblings being goofy
Refusing to smile

Home Again

We arrived home late-ish last night.  Today I’m dedicated to laundry, grocery shopping, getting the house in order.  I didn’t check email at all while I was away and I’m going to hold off for one more day.  Tomorrow, Geeky Girl heads to sports practice at 8 a.m.  I will likely go in for a bit.

Sending Geeky Boy off to college on Tuesday feels both like just one of those things we have to do this week and a hugely momentous occasion. I think his close proximity to us makes it feel less like a production, as it was for me when I went 8 hours away from home.  He’s got a lot of his stuff, but if he forgets something, it’s a quick train ride home to retrieve what he needs.  With him away a couple of times this summer without us and with him following his own schedule, we’ve sort of gotten used to the idea of him not being around.  I’m sure it will be more profound than that, but it’s hard to anticipate.

After next week, it’s going to be a whirlwind of meetings and getting ready for school. I’m glad we stepped away from that for a while and I’m now in a state of mind where I think I can approach the coming busyness in a more relaxed way, methodically even.  Here’s to being home and cherishing that feeling for just a little longer.

The Pool

Mr. Geeky’s school provides us with the opportunity to join a pool for the summer, which we’ve done for 12 years. Nowadays, I go mostly alone as the teens have no desire to go. It’s been incredibly hot the last week or so and so I’ve been visiting the pool nearly every day. Certain things never change. There always seems to be a kid, named Henry, who is rambunctious. His parents and the lifeguard are frequently telling him to slow down, not to splash, and to wait his turn for the diving board. There are little old ladies who can swim circles around me. They swim the breaststroke and/or freestyle for what seems like hours. I’m up to 10 minutes.

Some days it’s father-daughter day, lots of dads with toddler girls. Very cute. In general, the parents get younger, though among academics, there are plenty of 40 year olds with toddler kids. Either way, I feel old.

My worlds often collide here as a handful of school parents belong to the pool through alumni status or because of a spouse. It’s better than what used to happen, which was running into my boss here. In fact, I haven’t seen anyone from my old (Mr. Geeky’s current) workplace all summer. Many have quit coming as their kids aged or they moved or whatever.

In general it’s quiet, I can read, cool off, relax. I’ll miss it.

48 hours

I have 48 hours ahead of me with no real schedule. I’m not counting the weekend. I’m debating what to do with this time. I definitely need to do some prep for my classes, but I think I only need a couple of hours for that. I also want to continue my decluttering. And I need to do some rejiggering of my technology systems. Yesterday, I missed an appointment, which was mostly because I had it in my head that it was today. Had I checked my calendar on my computer, though, I wouldn’t have seen the appointment anyway. The appointment was only on my phone and didn’t sync with my web calendar. So I turned syncing on again, and moved my agenda to my main screen, so it’s the first thing I see. Because sadly, this is not the first scheduling snafu I’ve had. Mostly I end up double-booking myself (even triple-booking!). I used to pride myself on being organized about my time, but the last few months have been challenging in this regard. On the one hand, I’ve relied on technology to help, but I also need to remember to check or to otherwise have cues to check my schedule and I often need to do so more than a couple of hours in advance.

So, mainly, I want to continue the clean slate process so that things are set up better to avoid pitfalls, and, honestly, to not feel like things are slipping through the cracks. I don’t like being that person, and I’m not usually. I need to recognize, I think, that filling my schedule too much is unproductive for me, but so is not having enough on the schedule. I need time in the day to plan, think, etc. And I need down time, but not so much that I lose track of time, which is kind of what happened yesterday.

So I’ll spend the next 48 hours cleaning and straightening, planning and looking forward. On Monday, I want to come home and feel relaxed after my first day back, and not feel like I’m ready for another vacation.

First day

And so it begins! Last night, we enjoyed watching tv with Geeky Girl and her friend. The music was theirs, but they made references to older music, like MC Hammer, old Michael Jackson, and others. That sent us to Google and YouTube, where we watched Hammertime and Hungry like the Wolf. We made it to midnight and called our relatives. We were asleep by 12:30.

I enjoyed being online last night, seeing friends post to Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I’ve been thinking lately about being connected online. When I posted about Geeky Boy the other day, I didn’t just hesitate for privacy reasons, but also because over the years, my blogging has shifted to being primarily professional, as has most of my online activity. Back in the old days of blogging, we used to say that part of what was refreshing about blogging was the mix of the professional with the personal. It helped us see people as human.

Bryan Alexander has posted about returning to blogging. I think we started around the same time. I’m still reading so many of the people I started blogging with, and count them as friends, as people I’d look up if I were in town, and would hope they’d do the same. Nine years is a long time.

I also agree with Bryan about the ownership issue. I’ve owned this space for five or six years, at least. And while I love connecting via Facebook and Twitter, they own that space. I talk to kids about that when I do sessions on “Internet safety”. So many of them entrust their photos to FB and Instagram, and I ask them if they really own those photos. They’re surprised to find out they don’t.

Blogging for me has always been about connecting, but also about reflecting, about thinking out loud about issues, both personal and professional. I look forward to a year of doing more of that. Happy New Year everyone!

Blood is Thicker than Water

This is not a statement most teenagers believe. It’s a classic struggle. The teen separates him or herself from the family by finding a group of friends to spend time with and pushing away from the family. Not every teen does this. Mr. Geeky says he didn’t really do that too much, but he says his sister was “raised by her peers.” I felt that to be true about myself, and I felt that my parents could have done things to prevent that. Looking back now, I know my parents were going through their own stuff and that just a year after I graduated high school, they were in the process of separating.

So I tried as a parent to provide reasons to believe the statement: having more family activities, spending more time with extended family, having more open lines of communication. To some extent we’ve succeeded, but not entirely. But I think I’ve done the best I can, because honestly, teens do need to have a peer group and they will be going out and making their own lives and their own families, and it is healthy to have connections outside the family. I know people whose primary, and sometimes only, peer connections are family. And that’s not good either.

I have only one or two friends from high school and/or college, people I connect with when I’m home or visiting their cities. One thing my kids don’t realize is that that might be the case for them as well. Family will always be there and can often provide a better safety net than friends. It’s also true that sometimes friends are more supportive than family. I know people whose families are unhealthy. But I also know that people with healthy families just seem more stable, and that it’s harder to launch into the world without the foundation of the family. But I see teens, both my own and some of my students, who sometimes think they’re just going to go it alone. And I see parents who are too involved.

So it’s a balancing act. And it’s a difficult one as a parent. You want to follow your child’s lead, but you also have the benefit of having been there and learned these lessons before. You don’t want your kids to learn them the hard way, but you can’t always prevent that from happening. Which is not fun to watch. But that’s what parents are for, to pick kids up and help them learn those lessons. And that role, I’m realizing, is going to last a long time.

Stuff happens

I realize I disappeared for a bit. Well, stuff happened. I got permission to write a little about what that stuff was.

About a month ago, we ended up in the emergency room with Geeky Boy because he had called the suicide hotline. Luckily, he had called before he had even really thought through what he might do. Still, we were scared. We sat in the hospital for several hours waiting for the social worker. There were several people there in a similar situation. Finally, it was recommended to us that GB be put in a residential treatment program for teens.

GB’s depression was not new to us. He’s suffered on and off for years, having a major bout just last year. After getting on medication, it seemed the worst had passed, until this happened, and then we were right back at square one. Only worse. He spent two weeks in the residential program, and came home on Thanksgiving. It was a difficult transition, for all of us.

We worried that he would try to hurt himself if we left him alone. We worried about making him do his regular household chores. We had no idea what to do. We were given zero instructions. Do we let him go out with friends or not? Do we punish him if he’s late or not? Do we push him to finish his college applications or not? Do we keep him busy? If so, how? We had no answers. The normal answers we might have if he weren’t vulnerable didn’t work. Punishments sent him into a dark hole as did pushing him to do things.

The first few weeks, we spent a lot of time talking to him, which was hard. His view of the world and himself didn’t mesh at all with ours. We couldn’t force him to see things differently. We couldn’t force anything.

Things are definitely better, but we still worry. We’re still trying to feel comfortable with where he is, and trying to let him make his own choices and figure things out for himself. Which is hard for any parent of a 17 year old, I know. But most parents of kids this age seem to have some faith that they will come through in the end. Our faith in his ability to do so is not very solid.

Our biggest setback has been college. We’re days away from deadlines, and I honestly don’t know if they’ll be met. His depression has meant that, despite being really smart, his grades are not good. So his choices are limited. There are plenty of options still, but I worry what not getting into somewhere he really wants will set him back emotionally. I am prepared to help him come up with alternative plans for next year, probably community college and work. Yes, I’ve had to adjust my expectations–a lot. But believe me, I’ll take anything over not having Geeky Boy around.

Let the crap shoot begin

Yesterday, Geeky Boy and I hashed out his college application plan.  Mostly, it was me prodding him to do things.  He’s decided to apply early action to one place.  He has three other definite options, and he plans on adding two or three more that we likely won’t visit unless he gets in.  We’re using mostly the Common Application, of course, but two of his schools, state schools, do not use the Common App, and when he tried to sign up for the online application at one school, he got a SQL error.  Utter fail.  Not a good face for a school to put forward, frankly.  I’m annoyed that the state schools don’t use the Common App, but at least they should have a working application of their own, ya know? It makes me not want to apply.

We made a list of the things that need to get done, and set a two-week deadline.  They’re things like getting a new Naviance password (Naviance is the system high schools use to send transcripts, recommendations, etc.), ask for letters of rec from teachers and/or guidance counselors, and start crafting the essay. The main question on Geeky Boy’s mind, “What if none of these schools let me in?”  He Googled acceptance rates for all his schools.  They’re all quite high–70% or so for most of them.  One is around 40%.  I said, “It’s a crap shoot, really.”  He said, “So it’s like playing poker?”  “A little. So you have to put your best cards on the table.” “I don’t like this metaphor,” he said. Me, neither.

I articulated this issue before, using exactly the same phrase, “crap shoot.”  But now here we are, actually have to make some choices and to let others make choices about Geeky Boy.  It’s nerve wracking.  I think the decision to apply early action was a good one.  He will either get in or he won’t.  If he does, it will take some pressure off, and even though it may still come down to money, that’s an issue we can deal with.  I can’t tell a school to please let my son in.

While I’d said how nerve wracking the process is for Geeky Boy, with his uneven record, I’m seeing seniors at my school with better records, agonizing about it just as much.  They may be stretching to try to get into a school they really want to get into.  They may end up disappointed with the schools that do let them in.  They’re not enjoying gathering all those materials together or writing essays about themselves. I realize there has to be a process, except for open admissions places, but it just seems like a lot to put on an 18 year old.  It definitely wasn’t like this 25 years ago when it was me.  I felt like–and my record was uneven, too–that I’d get in somewhere I applied.  Geeky Boy is not so sure.


Take the train

A couple of weeks ago, we were in the car behind an older driver, who clearly was having difficulty. I said that when I got uncomfortable with my driving skills, I was going to take the train. We had a whole conversation about how my kids should gently let me know that my driving skills were deteriorating. I said, “Just tell me to take the train. I’ll know what you mean.” Moments later, I said something silly, so my family said, “Maybe you should take the train.”. So now they say that whenever I’m acting a little goofy. I’ve already heard it this morning if that tells you how goofy I sometimes am.

On a serious note, Mr. Geeky and I watched How to Live Forever, a documentary about aging mostly gracefully. Aging kind of sucks in our youth-focused society. The minute the wrinkles appear or you show up in comfortable shoes, you get the old label. I try to ignore most of it, but it’s hard not to. And I succumb too often to rituals and practices meant to keep the aging process at bay. Every morning, I stare down my wrinkled and aging eyes and sigh. I know those wrinkles were earned, in long nights up with kids or studying or preparing for class. But most people don’t think that way–about themselves or others. So I try to repair or cover them. At some point, I know I won’t care anymore. But in these middle years where I straddle youth and age, I can’t help but try to stay youthful. Someday, I’ll take the train, but right now, I want to keep driving my own car.

At the arcade

At the arcade by lorda
At the arcade, a photo by lorda on Flickr.

Last night, the Geeky family trekked over the over river to a video game museum and arcade. We put actual quarters into machines and played Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and even Space Invaders. Geeky Boy got to play the original Mario Bros, Geeky Dad played Joust wit his son and I played The Simpsons with Geeky Girl. We barely spent $10 and were entertained for about an hour. Geeky Boy declared it worth the trip even though we had to practically drag him out of the house.

It definitely brought back those days when my parents would drop me off at the mall and I would spend hours at The Gold Mine (decorated like and old west saloon). Even into college, I would seek out arcades for cheap entertainment. We found one 15 minutes away where we’d play Galaga for hours. More than once, we drove to the airport (pre 9/11) and played pinball and defender. I was jealous of friends with Atari or Sega but was past that by the time Nintendo came out.

I’m glad I could share some of that nostalgia with my kids. If you’re nearby and want a cute place to go, the place is called High Scores.