Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You Never Know Who's Watching

During her senior year in college my daughter found herself on the painful side of a break up. They had been together for five years and it was an incredibly difficult experience for her. At 21 years old, five years is one-fourth of your life-- it's a long time to spend with one person. They were on the downward slide to college graduation and planning on attending graduate school near each other. As far as my daughter was concerned, they were going to begin their lives together.

There are ways to handle break ups with maturity, kindness, and respect. Yet unfortunately, this was not the case with the boy whom I had grown to love like a second son. He was incredibly mean and hurtful to my daughter, which was way out of the character that I knew. She was devastated and confused, to say the least, that someone she trusted could treat her in this way.

My daughter leaned on me quite a bit during this time. It was frustrating for me, since this was the first time in her life that I couldn’t fix something. However, she knew I’d been through a divorce and a recent breakup myself and would be able to share a lot of my own experiences with her. I tried to show her that in the times of my life that were difficult, I stayed strong, kept my head up and took the high road. And that ultimately, these actions, as hard as they can be, lead you to a better place.  I would be lying if I said that my strength never wavered, but for the most part, I tried to set an example for my kids. I was hoping that through my struggles they would learn how to maneuver through relationship problems of their own and know that you can come out of these troubles in a positive way- as a better person.

Through it all I was amazed at how tough and tenacious my daughter truly was -facing it on a daily basis, head-on. She, too, took the high road on many occasions when I knew that it would have been so much easier for her not to.

In his senior year of high school, my son was on the opposite side of a break up. He had spent a major part of his high school years dating her on and off- but decided to end the relationship.

Her mother came to see me shortly after the break up. She wanted to thank me. She said that my son had set the bar high for any future boys her daughter dated and went on to say that even in breaking up with her daughter, he treated her with dignity and respect and she wanted me to know how much she appreciated that. To date, my son and that girl are still friends.

These events in my children’s lives were not only learning experiences for them, but they taught me so much as well. Although it was challenging at times for me to stay strong in my own situations it was well worth the struggle because I had been an example for my kids on how to handle themselves at similar points in their lives. They both demonstrated to me that they were able to navigate these circumstances positively- and be better people for it.

I read somewhere that you should strive to handle the difficulties in life with strength and fortitude because you never know who is watching. I know now, my kids were watching.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We Are Always Exactly Where We're Meant To Be, Even If We Get There Kicking And Screaming.

My daughter has always been a great student. She was not one I had to nag about homework or ask about grades. She is very ambitious, and has a hard time accepting anything less than an “A”.

As her senior year of high school approached, I reminded her that this was about to pay off. With a 97 average, highest honors and ranking in the top 10% of her class, I told her she would write her ticket. So, imagine my disbelief when she only got into one college.

At $100 a pop, we only sent four applications. I learned later from her advisor that this may have been our biggest mistake. However, this was my first child through the process and it was never communicated to me how steep the competition truly was...until it was too late.

On several occasions through the process I suggested that she should consider applying to Siena College. We had a strong family legacy with the school. My father was one of the school’s earliest graduates (in the 40’s) and spent a good portion of his career at Siena retiring in the late 80’s. Several members of my immediate family were also graduates. Siena played a big role in my father’s life- he was very proud of the school and it had a special place in his heart. When he passed away a few months before my daughter’s graduation, she witnessed how great the Siena community was to my family. But despite my urging, she still didn’t want to apply. She was convinced it was too close to home and she wanted more independence. So, in the true ‘never a quitter’ spirit she possesses, she moved forward with her four applications.

As each rejection letter arrived my daughter became more and more distraught. It was difficult to explain to her how this could even happen. I was dumbfounded myself. On a daily basis lunch table discussions with friends and Facebook posts were a glaring reminder to her that others were having greater success than she was. I could see the disappointment growing each day. I wanted her to be enjoying the last few months of high school, but it became a stressful time. We put a deposit down on the one school that accepted her, although she was not enthused. She was not able to enjoy the experience of choosing a school, as it was her only option.  At the Freshman orientation that summer, I could see the sadness in her eyes. They separated the parents and the students and as I looked across the campus I saw that she was not engaging herself in the activities and it pained me to watch. The thought of leaving her there on move in day was breaking my heart. I couldn’t stand that she felt so defeated when she should be celebrating her accomplishments.

But again, she is not a quitter and was focused on sticking with the cards she was dealt. I knew it was a mistake, but I also knew that she had to come to her own conclusions.

One day- less than a month before she was to leave for college- she came to me and asked if she could bring her car to school. When I asked her why, she said it was because she planned on coming home as much as she possibly could. I explained to her that this was not a good sign. I told her that being away from home would be a big adjustment under normal (Freshman) circumstances and that if she already felt she couldn’t stay there she needed to give that some serious thought.

Then the next morning, I got a text.

“Do you think it’s too late for me to apply to Siena?”

I felt both relief and panic at the same time. It was late in the summer and it was possible they wouldn’t look at her application. I feared yet another bumpy road ahead and didn’t know if she could take it. Even if they accepted her application there were other hurdles; getting her transcript and other needed documents together in AUGUST, was there any aid left, would they give her an equivalent financial package at this late date?  I explained all of this to her but told her I would make the call. Ultimately, Siena did agree to look at her application and the call from the admissions counselor was just what my daughter needed to hear. “When we looked at your grades it was a no-brainer. We definitely have a spot for you in our incoming class.” The package they offered also made it possible for her to attend.

Remarkably, once she made this change everything began to fall into place for her- like it was meant to be from the beginning. There was a new enthusiasm inside my daughter and she was finally excited about the prospect of starting college.

Her four years seemed to sail by, smoothly and easily, from day one. Her experience was rich with opportunities I don’t believe she would’ve otherwise had. She had a fantastic work study job. She somehow fell into the best housing. She made amazing friends. There were no hurdles in her path and she graduated  Magna Cum Laude. A reluctant graduate I might add, because she didn’t want to leave the school she had grown to love.

We came so close to sending her to college kicking and screaming and here she was kicking and screaming to stay! 

I'm convinced from the very beginning; she was meant to be at Siena. Maybe it was what we came to call her Siena Angel (my dad- who would’ve been over the moon that she was there) but I believe it was supposed to be her college experience all along. She was so fixated on what she thought her course should be that she fought the glaring signals- in the form of struggles- along the way.

And all the while she was meant to be somewhere else.

Sometimes we are too focused on the trip when we just need to relax and let the journey unfold before us.

And, trust that we are exactly where we are meant to be – even if we get there kicking and screaming.