Hmmmm. Back to school. A topic fraught with pride, expectation, a little fear, and a sense of inevitablility. All I can convey to you is my experience from my not so typical perspective on the subject.
Some background. My daughter Elizabeth and I are unusually close. I had her late in life, an only child, and because I work at my home studio as a graphic designer/illustrator, I was lucky and blessed during all her school years to be there when she got home from school. Each day, for about an hour after school, we would discuss everything from the events of her day, her courses, her teachers, the unpredictable incidents, the sometimes amazing accomplishments and sometimes incredibly stupid antics of her classmates, how friends can be so wonderful and sometimes let you down so unfairly, the general lack of fairness in life in general, and how this all related to her personal growth. As a result, we now have an almost 20 year old daughter who is psychologically stable, trustworthy, highly creative, multi talented, extremely insightful, kind, self-critical almost to a fault, driven to succeed in life and in love, and hopeful about her future. In short, I am the luckiest Mom I know.
Please don’t throw up. It was a huge trade-off to stay home. I had worked as a full time graphic designer for many years before I had Elizabeth. Freelancing is very tough. You never know when a client will change their mind about using you, whether your estimate is too high or too low, and sometimes whether you will even get paid at all. It has been quite a ride. My husband Peter is self employed too, so together we are this wacky, seat-of-your-pants, entrepreneurial entity. Sometimes I help him in his business, sometimes he helps me in mine (as well as we are able!) Take my word for it: it’s not for the faint of heart. If you crave security, don’t use us as a model. Elizabeth has never taken anything for granted in the way of material things because of all this.
So, last September, daughter goes off to her first year as a college Freshman. Did I have major adjustments to make? Did I wonder whether my feelings of accomplishment were too tied up in hers? Did I cry every night for the first two weeks? Yes, yes, and oh yes. But very gradually I began to realize that I could pick up the pieces and find a new normal in my routine. I got into the habit of going to more business networking events and lunches, going out with friends in general, and keeping in touch with Elizabeth by phone, email and text. I looked forward to hearing from her, the good and the bad (plenty of both), and knew that her growing independence was a result of the challenges she was forced to face and resolve on her own. After all, that’s what kids are supposed to do….. grow up. It’s ultimately up to us to stand back a little and let them do exactly that, while cheering them on and supporting them from afar.
This summer, back at home, I have watched as she has thrust herself into new situations, new relationships, and new work challenges. Now it’s almost Sophomore year. Our relationship has grown quite a bit since this time last year. It’s not so inter-dependent. She fixes her own meals, works, and socializes on her own schedule with minimal dependence on me. She challenges me and doesn’t share every little detail of her thoughts and experiences like before. But that’s okay. It’s a trust thing and a privacy thing. When I think of myself at her age, circa 1974 (ouch), I can remember pulling away and starting to own my life too. Isn’t it funny how you can sometimes do an instant flashback and see your child in yourself?
When she goes back to college in a couple of weeks, I will still feel that nagging push-pull pain of letting go. Can’t help it. When you become a parent, your life is linked forever to the ups and downs of your child’s. All you really have control over are your hopes and prayers for them. It is the hardest thing we parents are called to do.
But what else could ever be more amazing?
Sandy Gerger is Liz Gerger’s Mom. Liz is a student at The College of New Jersey, both agreed to write about “Back to School” creating a perspective of this event from a mother and a daughter. We thank them for this wonderful contribution. For Liz Gerger’s perspective on her daughter returning to school click here.
Sandy Gerger is a friend of friendlysuggestions.com. She is a contributor and has designed our wonderful logo. She is available for your art and design needs. If you would like to contact her, here is her infomation:
Sandy is available for illustrations and art work, feel free to contact her at:
Sandy Gerger • Design and Illustration
phone: 215-491-4659 • email: firstname.lastname@example.org
see her work here • www.ifreelance.com/pro/47207
Book photograph is from http://www.evanhaslanded.com