Saturday, September 15, 2012
Paying it Forward
That's my sweet boy helping his Grandma get seated in her chair on the verandah in St. Lucia a little over a month ago. From there she could watch the comings and goings as the kids and their dad went back and forth to the beach, and neighbors came by to sit with her and drink tea, and the minister came to read with her and debate the meaning of what they had read, and she was in the place where she had schooled her grandchildren every summer when they were growing up, schooled them in faith and humor and compassion and manners and cookery, schooled them in love and kindness and family loyalty. Her grandchildren are the people they are because they had her. I don't doubt this for a minute. She has been instrumental in their becoming.
Speaking of my children, they seem to be fine. My daughter has a lot of work and is battling, she says, "the impostor syndrome," the feeling that Cornell made a mistake admitting her. It seems many of her fellow freshmen are feeling the same way, so apparently it's normal. The professors, handing back mediocre grades to these children who have been accustomed to getting better, have assured them that this is how it begins, they will figure it out. I know my girl will. For one thing, she has begun reading teacher comments on her papers and projects, something I tried to get her to do in high school. But mostly she would get a paper back and toss it onto her desk, and I would say, "But how will you improve if you don't read what your teachers have to say," and she'd smile at me and do a little shrug. Well, now she's reading the comments. Finally.
In other news I have recently managed to stop texting her obsessively. I find that the less I get in touch, the more often she does. It worked that way with my son, too, when he was a freshman. Funny thing is, he calls all the time now that he is a senior, and I love getting those calls more than anything. He calls to discuss family finances (yes, this boy is very money conscious and patiently explained to me why we can't afford to get him a car this year) or to tell me he's picking up sports psychology as a minor. "It's so great to still be excited about learning something new in my senior year," he said. "And don't get me wrong I still want to be a firefighter, but if that doesn't pan out, who knows, I might get my masters in sports psych."
He's always been a good boy. He has become such a good man, even if he still has to work on managing that impatient streak he and I share. But we get on so well over the phone. I have to keep telling him, though, not to worry about his college bills. That's our job, I tell him. Your job is to work hard and get good grades. One day you will pay it forward to my grandchildren. But he still sends me money from his paycheck. I'm not quite sure where he learned this fiscal vigilance. I do know it wasn't from me. Probably from his dad, or maybe it's just innate.
Meanwhile my love and I are figuring out this empty nest thing. It really is odd, after twenty years of raising children, of being as child centered as we both were, to have the evenings stretch out before us with nothing that we have to do. I'm starting to appreciate it more. Last night, after a tough day at work, my husband decided it was time for pina coladas and tapas. He made plates of olives and onions, dates stuffed with gouda, smoked sausage links, and we ate and drank our frozen cocktails and watched a movie and I thought, This empty nest thing has possibilities.