A Community for People Who's Children Have Outgrown Them

This is a blog for people who are reflecting on life after their children have flown the coop.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Communicating in College

Yesterday I talked about the morning, today I reflect on my quieter Sundays.  We manage to fill most of the day with news shows, some sports, gardening and a couple of hours of work.  I do my best thinking away from the office and daily decision making.  Since I enjoy what I do, the time behind the computer is not a burden, just the opposite, my opportunity to make a break through on a problem that could get sufficient attention during the week.

Mid-afternoon the phone rings and it is Michael calling to share his weekend activities and to catch-up.  I immediately hear the tension in his voice. I know he is disappointed about how he is entering the finals period, so he is determined to raise his average.  The pressure is on and he is not sure whether he can rise to the occasion.  We catch-up on Philadelphia sports, family and friends, but there is no carefree chatter.  After 15 minutes when the phone call ends, he is back on his own.  In the old days, when he living here, I could do a fly-by and offer some encouragement or perhaps a little levity to break the stress.  Now, I just wonder, though confident in his abilities, how is coping with the pressure of achieving his goals.

At 5:15, while I was in the middle of making real progress on a project, the phone beeps with a text.  Wanna skype?  It was Jodi, looking to check in.  I was really on a roll and didn't want to lose momentum, but also didn't want to miss a touch point.  How about 6?  On the dot, the laptop starts to ring and a minute later we are staring at each other.  Technology is amazing.  She moves the laptop around to show how neat her room is and where she was studying.  Susan join us and the 3 of us are almost reunited in person.  We talk about each of our recent days.  Lots of laugh and teasing back and forth.  It is very light and carefree.  By 6:30, we, the adults, were ready for dinner and anxious to return to our respective projects.  I was conflicted about ending the relaxing family time and getting stuff done.  Who knows when we would be able to "hang out" without there being stresses of finals or competition with social time or just not being in the mood.  After several, two more minute warnings, just like when they were 8 years old, we disconnected.

Communicating with them while in they are in college, or now that they don't live at home, presents several issues.  If everything isn't covered in the conversation it is more difficult to pick it up.  When everyone is around, you just wander back, test the mood and raise the topic on not.  If you call back too soon after the conversation then the other person knows  you have a specific agenda and you are obligated to jump in, even if the timing isn't right. Often when you speak to them at school, one person isn't in the mood to converse.  Usually the parent wants to hear what is happening, explore their emotional state and provide guidance.  If the child isn't in the mood the parent gets disappointed.  Then there is the uncertainty of the next call.  College kids are busy.  When will we be able to grab quality time again.  So, I pretty much drop everything when one of them calls.  I am at peace accepting communication on their schedule.  Similarly, if we go too long without speaking, then I don't hesitate to dial them up.  If they don't want to speak they recognize the number and don't answer.  Gone is the casualness of easy communication.  We try to catch-up regularly by phone, text or skype, but it's not as easy a plopping of one of the beds and hanging out.  We're learning and adjusting.

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