By the time you read this, Dear Reader, I will have completed my first of two necessary grad classes to reinstate my elementary teaching license. Lord willing! I’ll admit, twenty-five years after my college graduation, being a student again was a bit of a shock.
One Saturday I spent six hours just reading a textbook. I’m a fairly quick reader, and feel my comprehension skills are decent, but by hour number four, I began to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.
The second week of class I had to write four academic papers. Hey, just because I write narratives in no way means I enjoy writing academic papers. Cite your sources. What? When I write my source is me. For better or worse the thoughts, ideas, and notions are mine! I find it difficult to academically regurgitate information and make it sound interesting.
Naturally, at my age, my biggest struggle has been technology. When I graduated from college, no one I knew was on the Internet. Enough said. At one point I was creating a Google Slides presentation. My son was home from school on a snow day and I asked him for his opinion.
He was horrified. I’d chosen cute little fonts, multiple colors, and pictures I thought would be adorable. “Mom! You’ve used comic sans font!” He spat out the words as if I’d just ingested an illegal substance. “What’s the matter with comic sans,” I inquired innocently? “You just,” he stammered. “You just,” he paused. “You just don’t use that in an academic presentation! This isn’t for third graders! This is for adults!”
The comic sans was quickly changed and my pretty multiple colors were replaced with boring, black text. I checked with a respected adult in education just to confirm that what Cam said was true.
But probably the biggest benefit from my return to school has been the perspective it’s reminded me of in regards to my own favorite college freshman, my daughter.
College coursework is a major commitment. I’m taking one class. One class. It has affected when I wake, when I sleep, when I do laundry, and when we eat. This is how my daughter must feel.
College coursework is filled with constant deadlines. To print that eight-week, three-page syllabus and take a look at the numerous expectations is daunting. In the beginning, you’re just trying to figure out the system. I remember the week I finally went from just keeping up to actually working ahead on assignments. What a glorious feeling! And even though I’ve technically been “ahead” for a few weeks now, there’s still always the nagging feeling that I could be doing more. This is how my daughter must feel.
College coursework makes one strive for balance. I’ve got forty-eight life years of experience, and it is still a trick for me to figure out how I will get everything fit into my day. And let’s be real, I’m not even working full time! If I’m trying to figure this out at age forty-eight, do we honestly think that young adults thirty years my junior will have balance figured out in two weeks? This is how my daughter must feel.
I’ve taken some low-level-Christian shade from some folks regarding my daughter attending college this year. You know what I mean by that: a pained look, a shocked expression, a long pause followed by, “Oh!” Or my favorite, “Well, we see (insert name of son or daughter) all the time.”
My daughter rarely comes home unless it’s on a break. When we drive to her campus and take her out to eat about once every two weeks we make the most of our visit, but we don’t consume her whole evening. She usually has more studying to do. Or, gasp, she’s eighteen and actually wants to spend time with friends and not every moment with her parents. And oh, is she grateful for a meal off campus!
I don’t communicate with my daughter every day. I remember this past fall when we dropped her off at college. We texted that Sunday we left her on campus We texted the next day for a brief exchange. And then I didn’t hear from her for two days. Two days! I was determined not to make her think I didn’t trust her or would hound her all the time, but let me tell you, the only other time I’ve felt that way is when she was a baby and she began crying not long after we’d put her to bed for the night for the first time in her own room. It was at the two week old mark. I started to get up and my husband put his hand over my body. “She’s fine. We just checked on her. We know she’s been fed. We know she’s dry. She will be fine.” I cried in one room while she cried in the nursery. And about ten minutes later she had gone to sleep and I didn’t hear from her until it was time for her next feeding. By one month old she was consistently sleeping from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. She was fine then. And she will be fine now.
When my daughter does have time to communicate it is literally a texting storm. I usually hear from her about every other day, but sometimes she will have something major she wants to discuss. In my generation we just would have called, but texting is the preferred method of eighteen year olds, so I try to abide. I try to be available and open and ready to hear what she has to say. I try to share in her joys and support in her disappointments. And then just as randomly as her texting storm began, it will stop. And I know she is off on her next college adventure.
And so I’m grateful for my own recent grad class experience. I don’t go and do the things I used to go and do. Life has shifted a little bit and that’s okay. I can’t communicate as faithfully with everyone like I might like to communicate. It doesn’t mean my love for them has changed or I’m not interested in them. It simply means I’m in a different season of life. And balance at any age is hard. I need people in my life who will not hound me with more expectations of my time, but instead will give me the freedom and blessing and encouragement to be the best student I can be because right now, being a student is part of my job.
And as a college freshman’s mother, I believe I owe my daughter the very same considerations.
Until the next Wednesday, the Lord allows.