Playing Catch UpPosted: October 17, 2016 | Author: joylibby | Filed under: About Family Life | Tags: missing your child at college, parenting a college freshman, staying in touch with college student |8 Comments
Let’s go to coffee and catch up soon!
Would love to catch up sometime!
I had so much fun chatting and catching up!
Do you have time for a quick catch-up?
We all know what we mean by Catch Up. We are looking for a connection, a way to know about the other person’s world and hear what’s been happening in her life.
I especially love catching up with my cabi team members. Many of them are friends as well as colleagues, so a long phone call checks the box of a “work call,” but also feels so yummy. “Tell me about your show last week, how are your kids, what are your plans for the new release collection coming up?” Even after just a few minutes, I feel “caught up” with them.
There’s nothing like a long, luxurious mid-week lunch with a girlfriend to cover all the topics: kids, spouse, travel, work challenges, body issues, parent problems, health scares, you name it. On my last trip to the States I got a text from a friend in Singapore, “Once you are back can you go to lunch and catch up?” My heart filled with anticipation. Over dumplings and noodle salad we worked our way through surface matters as well as closer-to-the-heart issues. In San Francisco, I’m in a foursome friendship, and we each take turns giving the table an update. I leave feeling like they know me and I know them again.
My marriage enjoys a long catch-up evening. We both travel for work and sometimes communicate only the basics while we are apart. Quick texts making sure everyone is okay, but not much else. Once we are sleeping in the same bed and eating at the same table again, the stories flow from each of us. “My business partner did this, the dogs and I did that, our children report this, oh and I am thinking of booking us a trip to here, you’d never believe what happened to me when I went here… “ After a night or two like this, we feel caught up. On the same page. Aligned. Tracking with each other. Ready for follow-up questions.
But here is what it’s like to have a daughter away at college. I never feel caught up. This is what I knew during her senior year in high school: what she felt toward each teacher and when each friendship was on a high or a low. What she ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner and with whom she sat to eat and how each game or presentation went. She’s a verbal processor like her Mom, so I knew most everything.
Now, I mostly know nothing. And I can’t quite calibrate what catching up should feel like. I’m following all the sound parenting advice of my generation and I don’t initiate, so I wait and I wonder. And I hang on every texted word and picture she sends. And I think, What is she eating? How is she sleeping? How are her classes? What projects and papers is she working on? And I usually I never get to know the answers to those questions. I’m dialing back and attempting to redefine what are the important things for me to know, and here’s the answer I’ve come up with so far: she needs to tell me…. whatever she wants to tell me and nothing more.
I’d never take my girlfriends to lunch and say, “OK, start with Monday and tell me what you had for breakfast and what you did in your morning and each of the emotions you experienced and keep going ‘til we reach today.” And I know I am not supposed to do that with her, but if I am honest, nothing would make me happier than if that’s how we talked every week. Blow by blow, tell me it all – your Mamma is listening.
Recently she had a long weekend and her dorm room to herself. She called and we talked on the phone for over two hours. I have no idea what we discussed. It felt like a throw-back to when phone calls and letter writing were the things we had to use to catch up with someone. We went deep and theological for part of it and at some points we were laughing so hard we couldn’t even get out what we were trying to say. It was the closest thing to a catch-up I can ever hope for from now on. A regular two-hour window to talk to her Mom? Not likely.
More likely is what happened last week. On Saturday, I got a snapchat: “I can’t wait to tell you about my very interesting and awesome day!” On Sunday morning she called for a few minutes. She was upset and teary and feeling overwhelmed by dorm life because the sweet little introvert is constantly around people. So, I mostly listened and tried not to give advice. And then on Monday I got a text telling me her Thanksgiving plans. No words for a few days and then a snapchat of her in bed, ”So happy to go to bed early tonight! Exhausted!”
And then nothing since. I’ve no idea what made her so exhausted, what led up to her decision about Thanksgiving, how she rebounded from our last call and what was so interesting and awesome about that day so long ago! Time moved on and I didn’t catch up to her.
She’s doing a great job learning to be an adult. She lost her debit card and figured out how to order a new one and how to live without cash until it arrived – all without telling me. She interviewed for and got a job, filled out a W-9 and set her shift schedule without asking for help. She thought she broke a rib playing powderpuff football and she figured out how to make a doctor’s appointment and sit out a few practices until it healed. She has babysitting jobs and an exercise routine and even knows how to take a bus to the grocery store. It’ll be a long year for her, like it is for most freshmen in college, but she is learning how to be good on her own.
So I need to do the same. And I am trying, which means I am learning too. Here are some of the rules I follow in communicating with her:
- Don’t initiate conversations; allow her to decide when and how to reach out.
- Don’t follow up on previous conversations unless she brings it up. None of this, “so did you ever go talk to that professor about that issue?”
(I have broken both of the rules, but I am getting better.)
Here are some of the questionable techniques I’ve developed to help me during this separation/shifting phase:
- Use snapchat freely – those don’t count as initiations
- Spend ludicrous amounts of money on postage to mail her frequent care packages full of nothing special, just to reminder her that she is loved
- Make Amazon Prime my best friend for anything I sense she needs. Ear plugs? Eye mask? Decorative pillows? Be there the next day, darling.
- Spend hours on-line looking at “Things to do in Houston” in case she ever asks for help planning a fun day out for her friends (note, #14 is Visit Rice University)
- Research “Hire puppy parties for exam week for stressed out students” for a few hours and then tell husband how hard I worked that day
- Feel a magnetic pull toward anything yellow or gray in any shop and try to decide if she needs it in her room. Because, duh, those are the colors of her bedding
- Buy silly small gifts for all her suite-mates. Maybe they will think I live there too. Fifth wheel, no problem
- Take pictures and videos of our dogs – they miss her too and it’s totally OK to snapchat that to her
Clearly I’m a work in progress. I’ll catch up to reality soon enough.
P.S. As soon as I finished writing this, I texted my Mom. “You and Dad sitting around with nothing to do? Wanna catch up?” Then ensued a 90-minute FaceTime call. Because, perspective.
OMG – your prose hit me in the heart. Your way of expressing EXACTLY what I go through with my three kids is amazing. Keep calm and catch up – perfect. Thanks for the validation, comfort and of course advice. Xoxo
Sent from my iPad
I channel Jane as often as I can. thanks for being in my village. xo
OMG, I loved this and could totally relate. You nailed it for freshman moms!!
Sent from Mona’s iPad
I am finding – with my one and only graduated college and living/working/loving abroad-that they never really forget their love for you, but their own life actually requires almost all of their time and energy. Just as raising them required almost all of ours. Know in your heart that you “reap what you sow,” and be proud of that. xod
Absolutely beautiful Joy….my fourth is now a sophomore and it seems you came to grips with the freshman year very quickly. It has taken me a year to do what you have mastered in a couple of months. It is a pleasure to see them solve problems and become the young men and women that we could only hope and pray for…..Sally
My wonderful sister …. your writing captivates me, your life amazes me, and your family is loved by me. Thank you for putting into words what we all feel.
Your Big Brother
Soooooo happy to see you finding the time/motivation to write again Joy. The mixed sadness and joy of launching a child into their next phase of life is a strong impetus to capture your feelings. And when you document your feelings, many of us find ourselves in your words.
Thanks and it’s fun to go through this journey at the same time, though your #1 is my #2 so slightly different experience.
Joy, thank you for sharing your insights. It reminded me that we all go through similar challenges and thought processes, as our children grow to be independent, just as we have hoped and prayed they would be. And yet….The bittersweet struggle of supporting that independence and yet the gaping hole of missing them in the minutia of life. Thanks for putting in eloquent words the feelings of this time of life. Pam