Sunday, September 02, 2012

Summer Ends

I spent the last week soaking up nature with four lovely women, and occasionally worrying about the most important man in my life, who we left to face his first week of college alone. It was one of those weeks that seems long and mundane while it's happening (though in this case interspersed with moments of sublime beauty), but ends with a shock, and the realization that something has profoundly changed.

My daughters, seven years apart in age, seemed closer than ever during this trip. For the first time in my memory, flawed as it is, I could see a friendship emerging between them. Patience and genuine affection made not only fleeting appearances, but sustained visitations. They appeared to delight in each other's company even to the point that the adults were kept at arm's length for extended periods, the privacy of which makes me hesitate to write about it here. It was clear to me that, for this week at least, they were sisters in every sense of the word, and I loved every minute of it.

This wasn't their first trip without their brother, but knowing that he was at a turning point in his life might have brought them a little closer together. Even though he's still living at home, it's possible that they both sense that his life is starting to diverge from theirs. I think we all felt a little in awe of the fact that Cody was breaking new ground while we were tracing footsteps that we had laid down many times before. And for Maddie, there is also perhaps the realization that her sister is only a couple of years away from heading down the same path as her brother.

Despite any misgivings we might have had about leaving him to face this week alone, Cody survived it relatively unscathed. He is now officially a college student, and seeing his excitement is extremely gratifying, especially in contrast to the abject terror he seemed to be feeling before we left. He seems to be settling in just fine, and as parents, we're settling into our role as auditors (a class cancelled in the first week of school??).

So maybe profound is too strong a word to describe the change this week ushered in. This weekend, after all, has been fairly ordinary. Doing yard work with Cody, making dinner, other chores around the house, family movie night, the usual sibling rivalries back in full force ... all seems back to normal. Something is indeed different, though, which makes me wonder if the change is more internal than external. I can sense that something in our family dynamic has shifted ever so slightly. I can't quite put my finger on it, which is a little unnerving, because if there's anything more uncomfortable than change, it's ambiguous change.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Three funerals and a graduation

My life, or at least the periphery of my life, has undergone momentous change in the last few weeks. Three deaths and a high school graduation are a lot to process.

And yet, on the surface at least, little has changed. My parents are both orphans, and my father is short one brother. My son will start college in the fall. The most profound impact will be on my mother, who is no longer the caretaker of two elderly women and one ailing brother-in-law. On a personal level, however, time just keeps marching on at its normal, uninspired pace.

With so much external change, it seems like something should be happening internally. If nothing else, I suppose a creeping sense of my own mortality is lingering there just beneath the surface, nudged into a less dormant state by these events. Even my son's graduation is a not-so-subtle reminder of the fleeting passage of time. His childhood marks the span of my own passing from young and stupid to middle-aged and perplexed, a period of sublime transformation for him, and an unremarkable progression for me.

This awareness might be more pronounced, but the existential angst one might expect is noticeably lacking. No dread, no panic, no spiritual crisis. If anything (and this is the one thing that scares me), there's more of an acceptance of the path I've taken, and a kind of fatalism regarding the future.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Doing what you love, loving what you do

My oldest child is currently in his senior year of high school. During this very strange time, I'm having difficulty remembering what it was like to be in his shoes. Granted, my son and I are quite different, with his aspirations falling squarely in the performing arts, where I ended up pursuing my adolescent fantasies of being a fighter pilot by starting my college career as an aerospace engineering major in a Naval ROTC program. Nevertheless, with application deadlines looming, I'm more than a little perplexed by his apparent lack of resolve to move beyond high school and embrace this next phase of his life.

Given the outcomes of my own aborted first attempt at college life, however, my feelings about how best to approach my son's apparent apathy are conflicted and nebulous at best. Pushing him into a corner and forcing him to make life altering decisions at this juncture could be disastrous. This is one of the most vulnerable times in a young person's life, a time when fear and self-doubt, along with confusion and the expectations of others, can converge to undermine personal goals and self-determination. This is not the breeding ground of well-thought out, intentional decisions or behavior. It can be the catalyst for a series of irreversible decisions that  alter the course of a person's life in profound and sinister ways.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent a link to Steve Jobs's well-known commencement speech at Stanford University to my son. I don't know if he watched it, but my hope was that he would take to heart Jobs's message about the importance of finding what you love to do and then doing it well. My son is in the enviable position for a 17-year-old of knowing exactly what he wants to do, and already being quite good at it. Which makes it all the more frustrating on some level that his ambition isn't translating into a concerted effort to find the right school and do everything in his power to make sure that school is within his reach. Then again, another point Jobs makes with something short of subtlety is that a traditional college education is exactly what he didn't need to find his niche and make his mark on the world. So maybe my son intuitively understands what it took Jobs several semesters at Stanford to discover. I know I'm grabbing at straws, but if there's one thing I have come to realize about my son, it's that I can't presume to be either smarter than him or, in some areas, wiser than him.

So how do you guide your child at such a precarious and potentially costly turning point without the whole scenario blowing up in your face? I'm a firm believer that our children need to be allowed to fail, but I also believe that our children can and should learn from our mistakes (or can they?). I guess the best thing I can do at this point is share my own experiences with my son and then let him draw his own conclusions. The key is I have to have a heart-to-heart with him, and soon ... before it's too late.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Prezi project completed

My final project for the Instructional Systems Technology certificate I received from Indiana University:

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Palm Springs

Palm Springs
Palm Springs,
originally uploaded by mademcod.
One of the highlights of our Palm Springs trip in May.