If you take it really seriously, parenthood is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. The hours are long and the pay stinks. It requires the most emotional investment and the greatest patience. And no matter how well you do it, there will always be that nagging little voice in your head wondering, “Should I have handled that differently?” But parenthood is also the most rewarding and important role you’ll ever play. And the good news is that we're all in this together...

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I could hear the screams from my daughter’s bedroom echoing down the hall. “I got in, I got in!” She just learned she was accepted early decision to Duke University. It has been her dream school for over two years, and she put all her emotional eggs in that one basket, even knowing that it is one of the most competitive schools in the country and one that doesn’t have a history of accepting kids from her high school. I must admit that, despite fiercely believing she deserved to be admitted anywhere she applied, I had my doubts about her getting in, knowing what a crap shoot college admissions can be. I’d even asked the school psychologist just a week or so ago at a PTO meeting, “How can we be prepared to help our kids if they don’t get into colleges they have their hearts set on?”

Her advice was simple and confirmed my own instincts:
Listen, be a compassionate and sympathetic sounding board, validate the feelings, then help your child contain those feelings so she/he can move forward. For those kids applying early decision, like my daughter, that would have meant letting go of that long-held dream in order to take the next step – applying to other schools. She had a solid list of secondary choices, including the recommended back ups, and the common app was done, so it would mostly be a matter of adding a little here or there, tweaking. The hard part would be summoning the mental fortitude and spirit to sit down and do it after being slammed with rejection. (Been there, done that with my older daughter.)

So I was all ready with the pep talk and the platitudes, the shoulder to cry on and a list of all the possible reasons she didn’t get in that had nothing to do with her personally.  Instead, I was happily confronted with tears of relief and elation – from both of us. She immediately began calling family and friends, and my husband and I shared a quiet moment of intense gratitude that our daughter’s hard work and determination paid off for her.

What I didn’t expect was the follow up that came hot on the heels of those other emotions– trepidation. Early decision is binding, and that next flood of emotion involved a little wave of  “uh oh, no turning back now” second guessing. But I realized something else when my daughter said with a dazed look on her face, “I’m a little scared. I really am going to college, aren’t I?” The reservations she was feeling in the throes of all those big feelings was not really “Am I making the right choice?” but her first real confrontation with the looming separation anxiety that the milestone of going away to college inevitably brings. It didn’t matter that we’re talking almost nine months from now. This is a major transition, one of life’s biggest, and that acceptance letter made it all hit home in one fell swoop. And not just for her, but for me as well. This is my baby, and she’s not going just 20 minutes away to MIT or Boston University, but over 700 miles away. And though I vow to help both of us live in the moment while she’s still here at home, that sense of loss is already starting to creep in.

“Mom, I’m nervous.” Yeah baby, me too.

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