Meet Shelley, who is sharing her experience as an OC parent through her blog. Her children Emily, (OC '13) Rachel, (OC '15) and David Michael (OC '18) are only mildly embarrassed by her stories.
It’s high time I caught you up on the life of Emily, the Eldest. You might recall that she graduated from OC in December 2013. She then spent a couple of months working in Zambia with her cousin Meagan.
A couple of pics for proof…
So that was a good time.
She then returned to Edmond and commenced with the dreaded job search. And it was touch-and-go there for a while…I mean, let’s be honest:
“Looking to hire a college graduate with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies.”
Said NO want ad ever.
But she dutifully sent her resume to local nonprofits and a few other entities looking for, well, warm bodies. I mean smart warm bodies, but still. And she paid her bills by working as a summer youth intern at a church, so we couldn’t complain.
And lo and behold, she was eventually offered a few decent jobs and one that we were pleased to see her accept, at OC with the Ethos program. So that was happy news, even though at the time we had no idea what “ethos” was. But turns out it’s a good thing, and a perfect fit for her.
Here’s a photo of my baby on the very first day of her first grown-up job (taken by Jana Miller, by the way)…
(Haha, note the spiral notebook.)
This was also the day she started calling us on an almost daily basis so we could walk her through all those pesky employment decisions involving insurance and retirement accounts and the like. So that was an unexpected bonus.
This was also shortly AFTER she turned 23, which apparently has been tagged the “Freshman Year of Adulthood”. According to my sources (the internet, no less), this is the year people feel self-conscious because they are younger than most of their co-workers. But on the other hand, they are surprised to find out just HOW OLD their colleagues are, and they feel weird to be actually “hanging out” with such aged folks.
So here’s a photo of my 23-year-old hanging out with her older colleagues (and bonus, Donald Miller)…
And honestly, I think she looks right at home there. And she hasn’t complained about their oldness. Not yet, anyway.
So yes, there is life after OC. Although, sometimes life after OC turns out to be life AT OC.
Meanwhile, she’s also looking grown-up in other areas. She’s living in a house with recent OC grads, paying rent, utilities, and student loans. She’s even saving money to help fund her fifth trip to Zambia, this time as a sponsor of a group of OC students. And thanks to those travel plans and the pesky student loans, she is also shopping second-hand stores. And I have never been more proud.
Last summer, she picked up a sad, beat-up, dresser, and a few frames at Goodwill, and then she went a little nuts with a can of orange spray paint. And here’s the result…
I’m not a big fan of the color orange, but I must admit she has style. Far more than I have, anyway.
From the time she was very young, Emily delighted in structure. I mean, one time her third grade teacher asked her to stay in from recess to organize the classroom closets, and she was THRILLED to do it. Sure that’s kind of cute, but it’s also kind of weird.
The real downside, though, of her love of structure, was that it was accompanied by a fear of change. I’m ashamed to admit I sometimes used this to further my own agenda (literally scaring her away from piercings for many years). But more often than not, I found myself pushing and prodding her into the unknown, because I knew she would like the result.
She’s come a long, long way from me dragging her, kicking and screaming, to ballet or archery or tennis, to where she is today. The thing is, she still loves structure and I’m pretty sure she still fears change. But in spite of this, she’s living her life to the fullest. She’s a brave girl, but don’t tell her I said that. I don’t want her to get the big head.
I have a friend who recently became a foster mom to a beautiful seven-year-old boy. And since this is her first foray into the joy of parenting, I love hearing about how it’s going. I have many stock questions for her. How does he like school? Has he made any friends? Does he wake up in the middle of the night? Is he a picky eater?
And she is imminently patient with me, even when my questions border on the nosy, and even when I show my amusement at her newly-acquired parenting quandaries. I ran into her at a ballgame the other night and in answer to my simple “How are you?” query, she replied, “Conflicted”. She proceeded to tell me that she would like “Joe” to sit and watch the game with her in the stands, but he wants to run around with his new friends. And all the other parents let their kids run around, so she doesn’t want to be the bad guy. And of course that’s when I started laughing. Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting, dear friend.
And mostly I laughed with sympathy, because I have been there. But a tiny part of me laughed with superiority because I was completely done with those issues. (I know, I know. I can be so rude sometimes.)
When I finally composed myself, we talked about how parenting is filled with angst moments. The highs are not nearly as common as Facebook and Instagram would have you believe. The lows take over the board quite frequently, but those moments don’t make it onto social media. And I forgot to mention to her that night that it’s still so worth it. But I think she already knows that or she wouldn’t have joined the fray.
Today, my heart aches for her a little bit. I am thinking about two aspects of being a mom that I took for granted. One, how easy it is to fall in love with babies that issue from your body. (Sorry for those words, men and young people.) And two, how great it is to know those babies will ALWAYS be yours, even after they leave home. My friend doesn’t have those two luxuries. She must learn to love her foster child without the advantage of being there for his first 7 years of life. And, at least for the moment, she must give her heart to him without knowing if he will be hers tomorrow. (This wasn’t supposed to be a tribute to brave foster parents everywhere, but as an aside, you are the real MVPs.)
But enough about her. Let’s talk about me. The whole scene just reminded me of how blessed I am to have had my children from the beginning and for as long as I did. I wish I could internalize this lesson, and stop my incessant whining about them leaving home. Leaving me. I know I’m weak, but I will at least TRY to be more positive, and count my blessings. Slap me if I regress, okay?
So did I dole out any advice to my friend that night? Haha. Of course I did. She is perfectly capable of letting it go in one ear and out the other. But here are the pearls of wisdom that dripped from my lips that night. I said to her: Talk to him. Talk to him when he’s rolling his eyes, when he’s arguing, when he’s walking away. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk…and then talk some more. Because he might be listening, and especially when you least expect it.
I learned that lesson rather late in my parenting life. When Emily was in high school and complaining about sitting at the back of a classroom with no one to talk to except an extremely quiet guy (we’ll call him Jack) she didn’t know well. So I said to her, “Go in tomorrow and ask him a random question, like what his favorite flavor of ice cream is. Do that every day, and soon you will know him.” I thought it was a brilliant idea, but she gave me that look (you know the one) and said, “No way, Mom.” Or something to that effect. But months later, I overheard her telling a friend, “Yeah, Jack likes vanilla ice cream. Isn’t that boring?” And I piped up and asked, “How do you know?” And she said, “Duh, Mom. You told me to ask him that.”
So that’s the day I decided to continue talking a blue streak to my kids even when they didn’t appear to be listening. And since I like to talk, it was one of those win-win situations. Well, for me anyway. Maybe not for my poor children.
I don’t have a good photo for illustration, but my nephew (and most faithful fan) had a birthday earlier this week, so here’s a random pic of him with my daughter Rachel at Pops. Happy Birthday, dear Luke.
When my kids were young, I sometimes woke them up on a Saturday morning with a cheery, “All hands on deck!”, and then proceeded to assign various housekeeping tasks to the little sailors. This tactic (surprise, surprise, surprise) did not go over well.
I mean, I honestly thought I was being one of those fun kinds of moms…Come on kids! We’re all in this together! You find the fun and, snap! The job’s a game! Hey, it worked for Mary Poppins, so why shouldn’t it work for me?
But no. Apparently nothing I said or did could turn a morning of dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing into “a lark!” or even “a spree!”. That, at least, was plain to see.
At some point in time, the children informed me (in the chilliest of tones I might add) that they despised my WORDS the most. They not only hated my perky “All hands on deck”, but also my ordering them to “Report back to me!” after completing each task. Imagine what the little kill-joys would have said if I’d forced them to address me as “Captain, my Captain”. I desperately wanted to you know. But hey, I showed restraint. And was I appreciated for that? Of course not.
So did I choose my words more carefully after I discovered I was the only one amused by them, on those Saturday mornings? Haha. No. But what I did change was the timing of my call to arms. You see I figured out if I needed help cleaning on Saturday, I should gently break the news to the troops on, say, Tuesday. Because, generally speaking, people don’t like sudden moves, especially when it comes to impending pain or discomfort. We all like a little warning in those cases, don’t we? It’s why your nurse says to you, “This shot is going to pinch a bit,” and gives you a chance to brace yourself.
So that’s one of the problems with parenting. There are certain sudden moves that you can’t avoid. One day you are holding your son’s hand as you cross the street, and the next day, he is pulling that hand away. One day you are helping your daughter put on her strappy sandals, and the next day she wants to do it herself. It would have been much better, for me at least, if she would have said, “Okay Mom, you can put my sandals on three more times, but then you have to let me do it myself.” Then I could have braced myself. But the end of so many parental duties comes suddenly. With no warning. One day you are needed. The next you are not.
Of course the overall process of “becoming obsolete” takes time. About 22 years to be exact. Even after your kids THINK they are doing everything for themselves, you continue to be useful for a few things. Like sending them a picture of your recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and telling them to go to the doctor after three weeks of fighting some respiratory ailment. But most of the little things you do for them come to an end, one by one, usually with no warning and no time to prepare. In fact, sometimes you don’t even notice the changes. You go merrily on your way, until one day you realize you haven’t straightened your daughter’s twisted skirt or pulled her hair back in a ponytail, in like…forever. And you don’t remember where you keep the Bandaids because you haven’t put one on your son’s knee in so long. And on that day, you will be sad.
And yes, I am now officially depressed (and I still don’t know where the Bandaids are). But I’ll get over it.
The last weekend David was home, I did his laundry again. The good news is I don’t think there’s going to be a sudden end to that particular task. I have a photo for you, if you need proof.
Please be assured that the folding of my son’s boxers was not a desperate attempt on my part to remain relevant in his life. He doesn’t even think it’s funny, let alone necessary. But trivial pursuits are a hobby of mine, especially when there is real work to be done in my house.
And one more photo for you…just for kicks.
These children obviously needed my guidance, but I chose to take a picture of them instead.
Okay, I feel better now. Thanks for listening.
I love my big family, but not everyone does. I mean, we can be loud, obnoxious, and extremely opinionated at times. And by “at times”, I mean when we are…awake. So why is it that in a world where splintering families are all too common, our family has stuck together? Why do we still plan vacations and other get-togethers despite the logistics nightmare of housing, feeding, and entertaining a group of 45 people? Are we nuts? That could certainly be argued.
And it’s not just us old, nostalgic folks driving this insanity. Last week, eighteen of the younger generation met at Main Event in OKC to celebrate a belated “Cousins’ Christmas”. I mean, maybe they got together because my nephew Dillion works there and scored discounted bowling tickets for them. Or, maybe, just maybe, they like each other. I hope that’s the case.
Here’s a pic they sent out where they at least APPEAR to be liking each other.
But lately, I’ve been thinking about another thing we might have going for us.
We apologize. Here’s a verbatim sampling of the printed apologies sent by email shortly after one of our big family vacations:
It all started with this heartfelt (sort of) listing from nephew Lxkx (names changed to protect the innocent):
I’d like to apologize for the following:
1. Reacting harshly to 1 person about the boat situation ($100? 2 hours? We’re OUT!).
2. Rear-ending 1 golf cart.
3. Making several (mostly unintentional) inappropriate comments.
4. Being assigned one of the “premier” rooms (attached bath, big TV, and lake view).
5. Pawning Knxx off on my parents for the week.
Next came these abject apologies from niece Bxtxy:
1. I am sorry that I make inappropriate comments at times as well.
2. I am sorry that I slept in a room on a top bunk with 3 other grown adults. (Ed. Note: I think the other adults were in the room, not in the bunk with this woman.)
3. And I can’t really think of anything else that I need to apologize for.
Except later, she remembered to apologize for the volcano zit she had during the week. (Ed. Note: We forgave her for that.)
Another listing came from niece Abxxe:
Things I apologize for on vacation:
1. Not spending as much time playing cards with the family. (Dxllxxn’s fault.)
2. Ruining every game of beach volleyball hits. (Ed. Note: Truth.)
3. Sleeping on the floor in a room with 6 people where every morning the door gets shoved in my face. (exaggeration) (barely)
Abxxe also apologized on behalf of Dxllxxn for:
1. Using most of the toilet paper.
Next, this rambling offering came from nephew Zxxh:
I apologize for wearing my safety green vacation shirt like a big dog, for exposing you mugs to the sometimes ugly side of my oldest child, for being a middle man when some of you hated middle men, and for saying the term “ines” way too much.
(Ed. Note: Please number your apologies from now on, Zxxh.)
And finally, from Niece Cxxtnxy, who kept it short and sweet:
I also apologize for having our own room. I love family vacation. Love you all so much.
(Ed. Question: How could any of us continue to resent her for having her own room, with all that love wafting about?)
More apologies were offered and duly accepted after that vacation, but you get the picture. We behave badly…but we apologize.
So all that to say this: I have an apology for you. Well, really for Emily and Rachel. After pressing send on my I Have a Dream post, I felt slightly guilty for implying that they aren’t standing on their own two (or is it four?) feet. The truth is, they are rapidly nearing the shores of financial independence with full-speed-ahead attitudes, and in a very small way, this might be painful for me. So for occasionally masking my pain with an attempt at humor, I apologize.
Also, Emily informs me she was not in middle school when we took her to that game where she fell in love with the Cavaliers. She was a freshman or sophomore in high school. And for that misrepresentation, I also apologize.
Finally, here’s a picture of my big, fat, apologetic family on vacation a few years back, taken just after having church services together on the beach.
And for the cheesiness of the matching t-shirts and the jumping, I apologize.
You know, I do hope the road rises to meet you. And that the wind will be always at your back. But when I think about the upcoming summer (recent 70 degree days sparked this rumination), I have but one wish for you. That your college student (or students) will come home.
It is my understanding that quite a few OC students choose to stay in Edmond for the summers. And I blame OC for this offensive behavior. They offer bogus jobs to students that come with free housing and plenty of time to hang out with new comrades. Seriously, one of these “jobs” involves spending 6 weeks at Christian camps, where the only real task is to talk up OC. And the rest of the summer is just play, play, play. And what do the parents get? A couple of lousy weekend-at-home crumbs thrown at them. Badly done, OC. Badly done.
Fortunately, we managed to buck this troublesome trend with the girls. Emily came home for two, and Rachel for three, glorious summers. (Well, MOSTLY glorious, but that’s a post for another day.) And you may be thinking that their resistance of the evil-OC-summer-empire was just a fluke of nature. That whether your child stays in Edmond or comes home is totally out of your control. Hahahahahaha. Do not be naive, parent.
Here are my top five strategic moves for forcing, er…I mean, encouraging your college student to come home for the summer:
1. Prepare them in advance. Talk to them early and often about coming home. And by early, I mean it probably wouldn’t hurt to begin the discussion as soon as he or she begins to talk. Many a 2-year-old can learn to recite the mantra: “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Of course, thanks to the whole #OCishome campaign, you might want to specify “my parents’ home.”
2. Use your words. Your student needs to believe he or she has no options. At all times, pretend it’s a foregone conclusion that they are coming home. NEVER say to them, “IF you come home this summer, we will blah, blah, blah….” ALWAYS say, “WHEN you come home this summer, we will blah, blah, blah.”
3. Play on their sympathies. Children are not the cold-hearted beasts we sometimes think they are. And even the most insensitive child can sometimes be broken with a few well-timed tears. So don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve. And bonus: You will not have to tap into your Oscar-winning acting skills for this one. Your heart WILL actually break the first summer they don’t come home. #spoileralert
4. Exploit their naturally short attention spans. Fortunately, for parents who likes their kids, it’s a classic Freshman mistake to not think ahead to the summer. They are busy, busy little beavers. Between planning their first big Spring Break, all those Spring Sing practices, and a tad of actual school work, the summer might just sneak up on them. Your job is to help this natural process along, using classic distraction techniques. Every time they even mention the summer, interject with, “When do you leave for your Spring Break mission trip?” or “How’s your Spring Sing show coming?” You’ll need to be more creative when activities start to slow down later in the semester, but persevere! And if all goes well, they’ll end up coming home because they don’t know what else to do.
5. And finally…make that first summer a doozy. Most parents can get at least one summer home from their child. So it’s crucial that you make that summer great. Allow them to work part-time, enter a Netflix-induced coma, and basically, just be lethargic for a good part of the summer. Meanwhile, cook their favorite foods, do their laundry, and under no circumstances ask them to do chores. Other no-nos include reinstating a curfew and complaining about their underwear on the bathroom floor. If you implement this “first summer strategy”, your chances of getting a second summer are vastly improved. And the added bonus is if your little Queen/King Bee chooses not to come home after their Sophomore year, maybe, just MAYBE, you won’t miss them so much. But don’t count on it.
Sort of in context, I have a couple of my favorite “summer” pics for you. Lately, I’ve been regretting the fact that we never took our kids to Washington DC, the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone during their formative years. But hey, we did take them to…
Yes, that’s CARHENGE…and also..
Roswell. So we weren’t all bad as parents.