Course correcting

Hello! Greetings from the land of Never What You Planned, But Somehow It More Or Less Works Out Eventually. I feel like I’ve spent the last 19 years exhorting my kids to be flexible! Go with the flow! But don’t be afraid to change course! There are no wrong choices, only “right for right now” choices, and if/when they stop being the right choices, you’ll make another choice! It’s all part of the journey to where you’re supposed to be!

A lifetime of trying to convince them that life throws us curveballs and that’s okay, and they can handle it, and yet… they struggle with this. I do, too. Sometimes people who live in this house cling to a plan like it’s life or death, and when the plan goes awry or stops being the right plan, the death-grip-holder-on-er in a question has a very hard time letting go because THAT WAS THE PLAN, world without end, amen.

Anyway. Learning! Growing! Changing! And—sometimes—hurting. I don’t like that part quite so much, but no one asked me.

So that’s preamble to two things I have to share today. First, I have a new post up at Alpha Mom with yet more advice for your new college student. And second, remember how we started this summer with Chickadee being deathly ill? Well, why not just make this The Summer Of Pestilence, bookended with sick children? Sure, WHY NOT. We headed out last week to pick up Monkey from his summer program and attend his college orientation and, um, it did not go entirely as planned. See, somewhere along the line my son decided that “work hard” was synonymous with “just keep going even if you’re so sick you can no longer keep food down and you have lost the will to live.” I’m telling you it was like a bad Monty Python sketch, with him assuring us over and over that he was fine, except instead of severed limbs laying around it was slightly (only slightly) less obvious how sick he was, at first. Without going into details I will just say that he made the very difficult (but wise because OMFG) decision to take a medical withdrawal/deferment for the fall semester. We have several months to 1) get him healthy again, 2) teach him about this whole BALANCE thing where you DON’T jeopardize your health, and 3) make absolutely sure that this is what he wants and he’s in a place for college to be a great experience rather than, say, the self-imposed death march he was apparently on for a month without telling any of us.

We are learning ALL OVER THE PLACE, yes we are. Onward.


  1. Mary K

    While adulting is HARRRRD, learning to be one is even HARRRDER. Hoping Monkey and Chickadee are on the mend and you all can get some rest and sanity.

  2. Heather

    This is terrifying me. I mean I was going to have a hard enough time sending my kids to school, and now you’re telling me that they can get deathly ill and… I mean I’m a paramedic I should know this…. but that’s now how it’s supposed to work!!

  3. Em

    Hold on. Can you explain this changing course thing? And where does perseverance fit in? Not that I’m at a crossroads or anything. I’m glad you got to monkey before the pestilence won. And I’m glad he’s got someone who knows when enough is enough. I hope he feels better soon and this set back is just the universe setting him up for some enormous opportunity.

    • Mir

      If my kids are any indication, then no, I cannot explain it. (Har har!) Right now we’re working on the finer points of differences between getting back up when you’ve been knocked down and just being a single-minded dumbass. I’ll have to get back to you on how that goes….

  4. Jwgmom

    Don’t dorms have advisors or RA types whose job it is to prevent this sort of thing from happening? I realize and think it is wonderful that there are no more curfews or rules about signing in and out but these are still buildings full of kids with incomplete brains and more smarts than common sense. You would think somebody would have noticed.

    • Mir

      Don’t get me started on “you would think someone would have noticed.” I am still appalled.

      • Ani

        Between HIPAA and FERPA, there’s a minefield of lines no one wants to end up crossing. As a student we had to navigate a floormate having a schizophrenic episode and we had zero knowledge of what was going on (newsflash, the campus police we called was more interested in who WE were than in why there was a student running around naked handing out pills to people, so yeah that was fun.)

        All to say I’m sorry this happened, and I fervently send him healthy good wishes, and perhaps this is something you can try to write into a support plan with the office od disability services on campus (a regular check-in).

        • Mir

          I get this, but there were… problems that could’ve easily been avoided. We have had a good dialogue with the folks who ran the program and I feel confident they will be making some changes moving forward.

          • Genevieve

            Especially with it being an intense summer program for pre-freshmen, someone should have noticed. They’ve got to know that this is their first college experience and they’ll need a little checking up on at first.

    • MamaChristy

      Oh, so many moons ago when I was in college, my RA knew precisely NOTHING about me. I was homesick, talking on the phone in the hallway, bawling and she had no idea. There was never a check-in to see how the freshmen were adjusting. My professors noticed stuff, though, so I survived.

    • Vickie

      One of my daughters was an RA. And it has is hard to know when one kid is not doing well, unless they or someone else on floor comes forward. X needs help plain alert. If they come forward, there are procedures. Really all an RA can do is start process (med center, psych center, 911). So it is important for every kid to know to take action, report a problem.

      So if one of my college kids calls home to say that a friend is not doing well, I say go tell the RA right now. If the friend is at another college, which we have had happen, we say go tell your RA. Or we have said you need to go to your RA, and the med center or psych center (or we are calling the school or 911). We have had that happen too, at 2am.

      Can set freshman up in advance so someone is checking on them regularly. I know one (autism) where he had a daily (college staff professional) phone check in and they talked about school/studies and also food/health and also socialization/roommate. If the phone calls seened off, then he was checked in person. And that was seen as very helpful by the kid.

      I know of others where it has been a face to face meeting once a week. Psych issues, eating disorder issues, anxiety issues. So someone eyeballed them regularly all year. And that was seen as helpful support by the kids and it was totally discreet.

      And two of my (no diagnosis) own kids had a therapist on campus, from day one freshman year. Met regularly with therapist, all year. Hard majors, slight introverts where close living was going to be hard, etc. We did not wait for trouble, we were proactive and set the help up in advance. Free thru the university.

      My oldest kept his undergrad therapist for all four years and says it was the smartest thing we ever did. It helped a lot.

      My youngest is sophomore this fall. She had on campus therapist all last year and also belonged to a support group run by a grad student, all women, and just somewhere to talk and get perspective and support. She will do both these things again this year. And she finds all that super helpful.

      My opinion is college years are tough. And there are kids where they have a past history where there might be indicators that extra, regular support might make a big difference. My opinion is cannot just throw those kids into school and assume someone will notice if something is wrong. Have to put some type of system in place.

      There are also kids who just need a general mentor figure. More than what an RA or advisor can do. Path issues, common sense issues, general life issues. My husband has a brother who very clearly could have been helped by a mentor his whole life. So that is something to consider too.

  5. Summer

    Hasn’t he always been terrible at recognizing and communicating that he is really sick?

    • Mir

      Indeed. I thought that had gotten better. Not so much.

  6. kimmie

    Sending my oldest angsty anxiety ridden child off to Freshman year in a couple weeks. plz. Do not send these sorts of vibes. 😀

  7. Genevieve

    Oh jeez, Mir. Who would’ve thought? Really glad you saw him and got him home to recover. Sounds like you’re talking about lots of good strategies to keep thia from happening again.
    I’m taking all your lessons and tips to heart for a year from now.

  8. Chuck

    Ugh. So sorry to hear about Monkey! Here’s to a smooth convalescence. Very glad he didn’t start college while ill! I had a couple of medical adventures during college myself, one involving a toenail that got really badly infected – but was fortunately treated successfully by an off-campus doctor they referred me to at the university clinic.

  9. Jeanie

    Best wishes for Monkey healing quickly. I hope he’s up and at ’em again soon. Listen to your mom, Monkey.

  10. Chris

    I just read your piece on @alphamom and everything you said resonates but your last piece of advice about hugging them and making sure they know whatever you will get through it together was my motto for raising two sons on my own….they call me for happy things now ….I bought my girl an engagement ring here is a pic…what do you think…I’m having all these feelings…and the other one has a big exam the series 7 financial exam coming up for his license and he just said he will call or text me during his break to let me know how he is doing…we both think he is prepared but I think he may want to sound some things out with me. I think its sweet I will be present for him nothing will get in front of that…we both know if he doesn’t pass its not the end of the world but I will listen to him vent and just be there. They both say that is the most important part the listening I do and letting them be heard…..I really miss reading your posts usually on a Wednesday but this one will get me through my 12 hour shift at the hospital tonight….keep writing….please

  11. Sheila

    I’ll say some prayers for a quick return to full health for Monkey. Thanks for sharing his story- it is brave and generous of you both, and I am certain you are helping people by doing so.

  12. Beth

    Oh, the poor little lizard! I’m picturing snakes biting him and injecting venom (from that scary video you played before).

    I hope he heals up well and is ready for the spring. Good luck with that flexibility thing.

    And yes, someone should have noticed.

  13. Jenny

    Hope Monkey is back to health soon!

  14. Meagan

    Since Monkey does tend to get anxious, and a lot of college sequences count on students starting in the fall, perhaps he might want to consider taking a few classes in the Spring semester at the other college he attended during high school. He could then start at his new college a year from now with everyone else. I know this is the least of your worries right now, but as someone who gets anxious about the details, I thought it was worth mentioning in case it hadn’t already been considered.

    Sending healing and soothing thoughts your way!

  15. Mary K. in Rockport

    We’ve discussed before how my second daughter’s college self-righteously took a hands-off approach because “18 year olds are adults.” Yeah, right. I have not forgiven that place more than a decade later.

  16. Meri

    Oh man! I hope he gets well soon.

    Back in ye olden days, I had shoulder surgery one week before I started college because that’s when the insurance kicked in. I don’t recommend it.

  17. Jan in Norman OK

    After 20 years as a staff member/adjunct instructor at a good-sized state university, I’m fully convinced that the vast majority of kids should take off a year between high school and college.

  18. Chris

    Oh dear. This is not what I expected but rarely does life go that way. I will say much better now than mid semester so good for you guys in making the hard call. He will start when he is ready to start but so sorry the summer program wasn’t all you hoped (but perversely it sounds like a huge learning experience – not all good learnings – but never the less)

    Sending healing thoughts…

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