My Daughter Doesn’t Care To Go To College — Is That Okay?

iStock_000011763147Small“Mom, I don’t really want to go to college,” my 13-year old daughter mentioned casually over hamburgers one night.

“What?  Why not?” I gasped in horror, then I turned to my equally horrified husband.  We have always had the expectation that both of our kids would go to a university.  In fact, both David and I never expected anything less of ourselves when we were growing up, and David even went on to earn a medical degree post-college.  We are higher education people!

So, where did we go wrong?

“What I really want to do is hair and makeup.  Can’t I just get a license to do that and go on with my career?  Besides, I’m just going to get married and become a mom someday.”

Oh, the humanity…!

To Meg and Josh, I have always been a stay-at-home mom, so maybe they’ve come to believe that as the norm and, perhaps, ideal.  They don’t know my former life as a computer professional for which I earned a degree in Information and Computer Science from University of California at Irvine.  Yes, I used to wear pantyhose and dryclean-only clothes and actually get a salary.  I did the 9-to-5 grind and spent the weekends working on my music, dreaming of one day becoming a full-time musician.

Even after David and I got married and he eventually became a physician, it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t be “earning my keep.”  He was supportive of my desire to ditch the computer work to pursue music full time, and I was in the midst of really trying to make it work when we started to have kids.  I tried to continue touring and working in the biz for a while, but it just became too hard to juggle family and a musician’s life.  It just made more sense for me to stay home as David’s income was much more stable than mine.  So, I became a stay-at-home mom and a part-time musician.

Maybe I complained one too many times that my computer science degree was a complete waste in light of what I do now.  Maybe we stressed the importance of character over grades a little too much.  Or perhaps we lamented too often about the cost of higher education and the burden of student loans.  In any case, somehow our daughter — our beautifully smart, highly intelligent young lady — got the idea that college would not be a necessary part of her life.

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist, I am grateful for the pioneers who opened the way for me to pursue whatever I wanted, never being held back due to my gender.  I wasn’t limited to becoming a stay-at-home mom, although in the ended I chose to become one.

Then I started to think that maybe Meg has a point.  Part of the freedom now afforded to women is the ability to make choices in life.  And if that choice involves doing something she truly enjoys for a number of years before becoming a wife and mom, maybe it’s not such a bad thing…with or without a college diploma.

I do think that this girl would be wasting her high intellect if she doesn’t go to college.  In fact, the academic world would be missing out on a gem of a student if she chooses a trade school instead of a university.  We tried to persuade her into college for its many benefits — speaking and writing more intelligently, being challenged to think outside the box, learning the smarts to run her own business as a makeup artist or stylist, and generally having the respect from society for getting a college degree — but to no avail.  When we brought up the fun she would have in the dorms with other co-eds, however, she became slightly more interested.

Meg is only in 8th grade, so it’s still quite possible that she would change her mind during the next four years.  Although David and I are starting to feel less inclined to push her towards college if that’s not what she wants to do, this is still a bitter pill for us to swallow.

Anyone else facing a similar situation?

Why I Love Having Teenagers

1503975_10152126149174866_332585485_nI don’t know about you, but when our kids were little, we used to look ahead to the teenage years with much fear and trepidation.

“They are so cute,” strangers would compliment our toddlers.  Inevitably, they would then add,

“Just wait till they’re teenagers.”

If that doesn’t fill you with dread, I don’t know what will.

Well, today I am a parent of 13- and 15-year olds, and I can say with confidence that this is a really fun season around our household.  Here are some top reasons why I love my teenagers:

1.  They keep us up to date on pop culture

Honestly, if it weren’t for my kids, I’d still be listening to the BeeGees, wearing my mommy jeans with my permed hair and saying phrases like “Gag me with a spoon.” I’m grateful that they’ve helped me get a little more current in music and fashion.

2.  They are actually helpful

Remember when they were toddlers and they wanted to help, but it took too much time and effort to enlist their help, so you just did it yourself?  Well, now they are actually tall enough, strong enough, and smart enough to be of help.  Meg does wonderful makeovers on me, and Josh updates the OS on my iPhone.  They’re constantly teaching me something new.

3.  I get to relive my high school years all over again

When I walk onto the high school campus to pick Josh up in the late afternoon, the sounds and smells flood me with memories of my own high school years.  Add to the mix high school dances, student government elections, youth groups, and summer camps, and I find myself feeling like a teenager all over again…without the drama of puberty, of course.

4.  I get to have fun embarrassing my teens

It’s so easy to make my kids blush around their friends — and, better yet, strangers — these days.  Here is one example from when I was riding in the front of a trolley in Hawaii while the kids sat in the back, horrified to hear me humming along to the radio from up front:

1497538_10152147946759866_1538532171_nOr, this interaction with Josh:

1546275_10152179372414866_844975560_nMy kids really keep me laughing.  They, however, don’t find the same level of humor in my mommy antics, but that’s half the fun.

5.  We don’t have to plan, participate, and pay for expensive, themed birthday parties anymore

These days, my kids would rather just have a handful of good friends over for pizza and some games or go out to the mall for their birthday instead of a big bash at Chuckie Cheese’s, inviting the entire neighborhood and overpaying for entertainment. Glad that season is over!

6.  Vacations are much more fun with teenagers

When our kids were babies, David and I basically took turns watching the kids in the room while the other stepped out to “enjoy” the vacation.  It was physically exhausting to care for little kids while traveling, and we came home absolutely spent and needing a vacation afterwards.  Today, we can enjoy excursions together or even separately, letting the kids make their own vacation memories.

7.  Eating is much more varied and fun

For nearly a decade, our family went through a whole lot of mac-n-cheeses, pizzas, spaghetti, juice boxes, chicken nuggets, and Cheerios. Because David and I usually cleaned up the leftovers, we participated in a steady diet of kid foods for far too long.  Our teens now eat a lot more sophisticated foods such as filet mignon, haritcot vert, and pesto pasta.  We have good conversations around the table, and they also no longer throw food on the floor nor smear spaghetti all over their hair.  Eating used to be such a messy event; now, they even help with the cooking and cleanup!

8.  Best of all, we’re seeing the seeds of their own faith grow

All the years of taking them to church, reading the Bible together, and teaching them right from wrong are finally bearing fruit.  We are watching them make smart choices and choosing good friends.  Although they are still youths, we hope and pray that we have set them on the right course to a successful adulthood.

And that’s why we love having teenagers!

My Child Is A Big Fish In A Little Pond, And I’m OK With That

1489141_10152074329369866_742898553_oI have been engrossed in a gem of a book entitled “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell.  One of the chapters I just read really made me think: would I rather that my child be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? My inner-tiger mom tends towards the big pond.

My son Josh struggled in 8th grade Algebra and ended up needing to repeat the subject his freshman year in high school.  I was devastated.  I was a computer science major, and David was a math major.  We are a family of mathematicians.  Our child should have passed Algebra with flying colors and moved on to Geometry as a freshman!  I thought I totally failed as a mother and as a human being.

Because Geometry was a concurrent requirement for Honors Biology, Josh was also forced into pedestrian-level science track, thereby tarnishing his college applications for sure.  Josh is a scientist, for goodness’ sake!  He had gotten a perfect score in his 8th grade state testing for science. He loves science.

I thought that his 8th grade Algebra teacher was lousy and was more interested in her pending retirement than in teaching.  I was mad at myself for not intervening sooner, but I felt even worse that Josh began to think of himself as being stupid. Yikes!

Alas, when Josh retook Algebra at his high school, something finally clicked.  He began to do really well in his class.  It helped, of course, that he was taking the class for the second time.  It also was a major plus that his teacher was young and enthusiastic and had an innovative way of teaching to make certain that all students understood a concept before moving on.  Josh began acing all the tests, and he became a star student.

He felt good about being the best in this class, a decidedly smaller pond in comparison to the Honors Geometry class which would have been a big pond for him.  If I had insisted that he move up to Geometry, he may very well have struggled and continued to think of himself as a “dumb math student.” Instead, he got A’s in Algebra last year and is now continuing to do well in his sophomore Geometry class.  He thinks of himself now as a good mathematician.  He got his mojo back.

According to writer Malcolm Gladwell, many Ivy league students in the bottom quarter of the class get so discouraged that they drop out of their majors or, worse still, college altogether.  Every single person who gets accepted at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford is most assuredly brilliant, but somebody still has to be at the bottom quarter of the class, right?  Gladwell also sites studies which show that the top students at many of the “mediocre” schools actually accomplish much more than the bottom-half students at the top schools.  It’s good to be a big fish in a smaller pond!

Pushing Josh to take advanced classes just so that it would look better on his college application — or, truth be told, so it would make me look better as a parent — would have done him much disservice in two ways: One, he would have gotten less-than-stellar grades, and two, he would have lost his self-confidence.  We would have set him up for failure.

Perhaps it was in God’s divine wisdom that Josh ended up in Algebra for the second time in 9th grade.  And because his workload has been relatively light as compared to his comrades in honors classes, Josh has been able to enjoy his high school years to the fullest.  He plays the trumpet in the marching band and is making a lot of friends and memories.

I still hope for Josh that he ends up at a decent college and has a great future.  If we have to scale back the Big Pond dreams we had for him, so be it.  Now, after reading this book, this panda mom is thoroughly convinced that it’s better for him to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.

A Baby’s Head and Jumping to Conclusions

iStock_000000104406XSmallIt was a warm autumn afternoon.  I had dropped Meg off at her dance class, leaving me with about an hour to kill before she was done.  I didn’t quite have long enough time to drive home and come back again, so I decided to go on a walk in the neighborhood around the dance studio to enjoy the warm October sun.

I changed my shoes to the sneakers I had brought along in anticipation for this little jaunt, and I punched up my favorite music on my iPod as I began my walk.

The area around the dance studio, though safe, is not exactly quiet.  Being a mix of businesses, apartment complexes, and detached homes, there are a lot of cars whizzing by constantly.  I decided to walk the few city blocks in a big rectangle on the left side of the road, always facing traffic and, for the most part, on sidewalks.  The big loop usually takes me about 30 minutes to complete.

As I rounded one corner, I noticed some cars coming off of the tollway up ahead and waiting to turn right towards my direction.  I saw a dark blue sedan with a man in the passenger seat.  The car was still about 50 yards away, but I gasped at the sight of something I could clearly see on his lap.

A baby!

It was unmistakable.  A guy was holding a tiny baby on his lap!  I could see a small, delicate, but perfectly shaped back of a baby’s head and its wispy blond hair.  The infant was most certainly not in a car seat!  And in the front seat!

Oh my gosh — what if the air bag goes off?  What if they crash and the baby goes flying out of this guy’s hands and out the window?  This is child abuse!

I thought of calling 911 to report this crime.  My pace quickened as I raced toward the car before it could turn and take off.  I wanted to bang on his window and wag my finger at this terribly irresponsible act.

As I got closer, I could see this passenger laughing and talking with the driver, another male.  They both looked too young to be responsible dads.  In fact, they looked more like college-age surfer dudes.  Babysitting?  Kidnapping?  What could possibly be the situation under which a mother would entrust the life of her newborn to such reckless young men?  I was starting to feel indignant.  The only thought running through my mind was, “I have to rescue this little child!”

I began to run.  Too late — the light turned green, and the car proceeded to turn right. The car began to speed towards my direction.  When it was within a couple of yards, I was starting to flail my arms wildly to try to stop them and was almost ready to lurch onto the path of this car.  That’s when I got a much clearer view of this poor little blond kid. I did a double take.

It turned out not to be a baby at all.

It was the guy’s knee.

A hairy, perfectly round knee propped up against the side window.

As the car sped past me, I kept waving my arms, pretending to be saying hello to a non-existent person a block ahead.  The two guys were having a great time talking and laughing that they never even noticed me.  Good thing.  They wouldn’t understand mama bear instinct.

After my red face turned back to normal, I began to think that there must surely be a life lesson in what had just transpired.  Don’t jump to conclusions?  Wait to get the whole picture before judging someone? Things are often not as they appear? Some Californians still wear shorts in October? I’m not sure.

Meg finished her dance class and met me outside.  On the drive home, I told her about my goofy experience on my walk, and we had a good laugh.  I’m glad she has a sense of humor.

Have you ever jumped to conclusions like this, even with the best of intentions?  Let’s not completely waste a good life lesson, dear reader.  Let me know in the comments below!

Year-Round School Schedule and Why We Love It So Much

Me and Meg by treeOur kids’ neighborhood K-8 public school happens to be on the year-round schedule, which means that though we only get five weeks off for summer break, we are treated with 3-week breaks spaced evenly throughout the year in the fall, winter, and spring.  Although the school year starts at the end of July (yes, that part is cruel), we finish with the other schools in our district the following June.  We have absolutely loved the year-round schedule.

Just when our kids have had enough with classes and homework, we get a few weeks off to refresh our minds.  And just when we parents are starting to go bonkers with our children being home all day, they go back to school.  Teachers say that their students retain more when they return for the new school year.  The teachers all love the year-round schedule as much as we do.

We particularly enjoy our fall breaks.  The weather is milder, the crowds thinner, and airfare cheaper than during the summer.  Many of our school families take their big trips to exotic places during the fall.  We take off to Hawaii every fall to go see their grandparents.  It alleviates the heartache we feel returning to school when other students are still enjoying their summer.  After all, while most families are going to back-to-school night, we are boarding a plane to paradise!

But, alas, no good thing lasts forever.  When Josh finished 8th grade, it was over.  No more year-round schedule in high school.  Due to sports and other inter-scholastic activities, all high schools in our area are on the traditional school calendar — long, hot summers and virtually no breaks all year except for a few days here and there.

Even worse, I would have our kids on two different schedules!  It pretty much meant that we were not going to be going anywhere for two years until Meg graduated middle school. Oh, the sadness!

What was I to do?

That’s when I took my friend Heather’s advice: enjoy spending time with one child at a time.

This August, after Meg already went back to school, I took Josh and his friend Sam to Honolulu for a week.  Yes, it was very hot, crowded, and expensive, but we had a wonderful time.  It was fun getting reacquainted with my teenage son while enjoying activities together such as snorkeling, swimming, and just hanging out.

Then this fall, I went back again to Hawaii for a mother-daughter time with Meg.  Her activity of choice was shopping, of which we did plenty in Waikiki.  The more time I spent with this girl, the more I enjoyed her.  We ate a lot of good foods together and spent much time with my parents and my sisters, her aunties, who also flew into Hawaii to be with us.  Between these two trips, my parents were also able to have individual times with each of their grandkids, which was a blessing.

(The only person in the household who hasn’t been able to go to Hawaii much this year is my husband David!  Don’t worry — he’ll be spending an extra week with Meg in Honolulu during winter break.)

Navigating the rough seas of various school calendars and breaks have taught me that, once again, parenting has a lot of unexpected surprises that could turn out better than even before.  Don’t get me wrong — we have absolutely loved year-round schedule and wish high schools had them, too, but we somehow figured out how to work with two overlapping schedules.  We are going to be entering uncharted waters once again when both of them are in high school next year, but I have a feeling that it is all going to be okay.  After all, in only a few more years, they are both going to be out of the house.  That is going to be so sad…but maybe unexpectedly good, too!

Does anyone else like the year-round schedule?  Tell me what to expect when our family enters traditional schedule.  What do you do with your long summers?

The Politics of Bringing a Friend Along to Family Vacations

2013-08-16 07.51.05-2We had heard about people bringing along their kids’ friends on their family vacations, but I never thought we would actually be doing it ourselves one day.

Then this summer, I took my son Joshua’s best friend Sam with us to Hawaii.

Lest you think that that is over-the-top decadent and that I should have stuck to low-cost options such as going camping at the nearby campground, let me explain.

I had some work to do in Hawaii mid-August, just before Josh started his sophomore year in high school but after Meg had already started her year-round middle school.  I could’ve either left both kids at home with David or taken Josh with me.

I let that thought sink in for a moment — just me and Josh in paradise.

As much as I have a pretty good relationship with my teenage son, I just didn’t think he would be overjoyed with the prospect of hanging out with Mother for five days in Hawaii.  In fact, I knew he would be spending an inordinate amount of time indoors playing online games with Sam in Texas, which he could very well do back home in Southern California…sans the airfare.

So, I got a great idea: Why not bring Sam along with us to Hawaii?

We told Sam’s parents that if they could fly him out from Texas to California, then we would take care of the rest.

“The rest” meant using my airline miles for his flight from LAX to Honolulu.  It also meant him staying with us in our two-bedroom timeshare unit which we were going to rent anyhow and is plenty big for the three of us.  Sam’s overjoyed parents gave us some cash for his meals and spending money, but we happily paid for some of the fun activities such as the fabulous luau in Waikiki and snorkeling in Hanauma Bay.

We had an unforgettable time!

I didn’t feel badly about leaving the boys alone at the resort while I took care of business, because they are pretty independent at 15.  They walked to the nearby IHOP for their breakfasts, and they hung out at the pool or the beach.  I gave them permission and access to room-charge foods and activities, although they showed much restraint in exercising this privilege.  I was quite impressed.  Sam must be a good influence on Josh.

When our kids were very young, we brought along baby sitters or hired them at the destination on our vacations.  We paid all of their expenses and then some for watching our kids.  I figured Sam was Josh’s “sitter” on this vacation — we probably should have paid him for taking care of our son!

Our friends Marty and Doris let their son Kyle join a family on camping trips each year, and our other friends Mary and Kenny always bring along their godchild (or godgrandchild) Tayler to summer camp without her parents.  People make it work for them in many different ways, but I have some suggestions to make such vacations go as smoothly as possible:

1.  Discuss the expenses involved with the other parents before embarking on such a trip.  Some parents want to make sure they pay for all of the expenses, while others are only able to chip in some spending money.  Be prepared to pay for 100% unless otherwise mutually decided upon.

2.  Make sure your child is mature enough and responsible enough to accept this invitation.  Spending five days on vacation with someone is different from an afternoon play date.  The more you can train your child for independence ahead of time, the more fun the excursion is going to be for all.  Sam was responsible, thoughtful, fun, and just assertive enough for all of us to enjoy our vacation together. We would take him again in a heartbeat.

3. Keep communicating with their parents throughout the trip.  With facebook, Instagram, email, and texts, it was easy for us to keep updating  Sam’s parents from Hawai with fun photos.  I’m sure that his parents were pleased to see their son having fun in paradise!

Have you ever taken a friend along on vacation?  How did it work out for you? Share with us here!

Teaching My Asian Kids The Power of “No”

IMG_0949I come from a culture where the word no is a bit of a taboo.

It’s not that we don’t have the word no in Japanese. It is iie (pronounced ee-ee-yeh).  The trouble is, we don’t often come right out and say it.  Our culture is really big on saving face, both our own and that of the other party, so to just say no without much padding around it is not very cool.

So, we Japanese have perfected the art of beating around the bush.

Thank you so much for inviting me.  I really don’t deserve such kindness. (i.e., I really don’t care to go to your party)

That certainly is a colorful dress! (It’s actually quite dreadful)

I have never tasted such an interesting dish. (Ewwww)

I’ve seen some beautiful ladies with that same haircut. (Bad style on you)

Both parties are adept at reading between the lines, so they dance in unison around the truth until they both get the clue.  Yeah, it’s like speaking code half the time.  For the people within the Japanese society, however, this is normal and everyone totally gets each other. Often, one caves and ends up saying yes out of obligation, but at least no one loses face.

Imagine our shock, then, when my family emigrated here when I was a child.  Americans are so direct!  From our perspective, our new neighbors seemed completely rude and cruel for being so straightforward.  It took quite a while to stop feeling personally wounded by every direct answer.

In time, though, I began to appreciate the honesty of this culture.  It was rather freeing not having to read between the lines and guessing what people were truly saying.  We actually saw the value in coming right out and saying yes or no, thereby extinguishing false hopes and expectations.

I realize I am generalizing here, as I have since met indirect speakers in the US as well as blunt people in Japan.  But in any culture, I see a keen need to balance honesty with kindness — “Speaking the truth in love,” as it says in Ephesians 4:15.

Having grown up in both cultures, I now prefer hearing straight answers over indirect ones, and I certainly prefer it over lies.  More often than not, though, I still have trouble speaking directly, which drives my husband up the wall. “You’re being cryptic again.  Just tell me what you want,” he tells me in frustration. I also still end up doing something out of obligation occasionally because I just could not say no, but I’m making progress.  It’s still important to be considerate of others, but not at the expense of my own sanity.

For my own kids, therefore, I am trying to raise them up in the best of both cultures.  I want them to be honest with their feelings while being gentle. The word tactfulness comes to mind here.  More importantly, however, I want them to be able to say “no” when they need to, especially to bad people:

“No, I don’t want to try drugs.”

“No, I don’t want to go out with you.”

“No, that is not a nice way to speak to me.  Please stop.”

The best way for them to learn to do this is at home.  In order to accomplish this, therefore, I have to resist busting through their no‘s.   I can allow them to not like my new recipe, return outfits I bought for them on my own if they don’t like it, and, someday when they’re grown adults, to let them choose to go on a trip with their friends instead or coming home for the Holidays.  Of course, we wouldn’t allow “No, I don’t want to go to bed!” when they’re 5 years old, but you get the idea — incremental no‘s at age appropriate steps.

I have learned a great deal on this topic through an insightful book called Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  I highly recommend it for everyone but especially for parents.  After all, we have to be healthy to raise healthy kids.

I don’t know about you, but becoming a parent has forced me to grow up.  Hasn’t it, for you?

Yes or no?

What We Did At Summer Camp

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We exercised together...

We exercised together…

I hung out with some of my biggest fans.

I hung out with some of my biggest fans.

I gathered a few other moms for some late night workouts!

I gathered a few other moms for some late night workouts!

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We spent quality time with some friends.

...And learned great lessons about God from wonderful speakers like Pastor Rene Schlaepfer of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, CA.

…And learned great lessons about God from wonderful speakers like Pastor Rene Schlaepfer of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, CA.

After the week, we had our traditional dinner out at Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino, CA.

After the week, we had our traditional dinner out at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, CA.

Here's one of the best parts -- we FLEW home instead of driving 8 hours this year!

Here’s one of the best parts — we FLEW home instead of driving 8 hours this year!

Summer Camp and How We Parents Grow

20130710-224513.jpgOur family just returned from a week-long camp at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center in Northern California.  This is our 11th year of what has become our family tradition.

When we arrived at Mt. Hermon for the very first time, our kids were only ages 4 and almost 2.  We were all at Main Camp together in one cabin, sharing two beds amongst the four of us.  We ate every meal together and played ping pong until late at night.  We swam at the pool and hung out at the Fountain for ice cream and snacks with new friends.  Except for the times when the kids went off to their own camp programs, we were constantly together and built memories as a family.

As the years went by and our kids grew, it became increasingly uncomfortable to share beds, even if they were queen-size.  They became a little more independent, roaming the camp ground with their friends like pack animals and hanging out at the Fountain until the wee hours.  They found other friends to sit with at meals and even had a sleepover or two at friends’ cabins, all within the safe confines of Mt. Hermon.

Then, a few years ago, the day finally came when Josh had to go to a separate campground for junior high campers.  Though it was only a few miles away, he was going to be on his own for an entire week for the first time.  Like it or not, he had to adjust to sleeping in his own bunk in a cabin with seven other boys and a counselor. He was not looking forward to it.

Josh doing just fine now with his friends at senior high camp

Josh doing just fine now with his friends at senior high camp

On the appointed visitation day, we arrived to find our junior higher standing at the end of the parking lot craning his neck, eagerly awaiting the arrival of his parents who were 30 minutes late. After a long hug, he showed us his cabin, introduced us to his counselor, and gave us a tour of his camp, dusty and small compared to Main Camp.  He said he was having fun but we could tell he was holding back tears. If it wasn’t for the counselor who invited him to go play a game, Josh would probably have hopped in our trunk to escape back to our cabin.

Fortunately, he sounded much more upbeat when we picked him up on Saturday.  “Meg, you are going to love junior high camp,” he declared to his sister who was enjoying being an only child that week at Main Camp, a luxury afforded only to our firstborn for the first two years of his life.

Meg having a great time at inter-high camp.

Meg having a great time at inter-high camp.

We weren’t quite so concerned about Meg going off to her own camp the next year, partly because her brother had already paved the way and also because she is a natural social butterfly.  Sure enough, she enjoyed her independence immensely.  Last week was her second time away at her own camp, and she remarked that it was “the best week of my life!” All 12 years…

What caught us off guard, however, was how lost David and I were going to feel when we first became kid-less.  We wondered around Main Camp the first couple of days in a daze.  Before long, however, we got quite used to being just the two of us again and was almost sad that the week was ending.

And we will continue repeating this tradition for at least a few more years.  Both kids love their youth camps so much that visitations are now very brief.  “Hi mom and dad!  Thanks for coming.  Well, bye!” is about the extent of it.  We’re glad.

We learn a lot about God while we are at Mt. Hermon, but most of all it has been a great lesson in parenting.  We hold them close, then we gradually let go with each passing year and watch our own children build faiths of their own.  Within the safe haven of Mt. Hermon, surrounded by other parents leading the way or walking alongside us, David and I have learned to grow as parents.

What are your summer family traditions?  Tell me here or I’ll see you at the Fountain!

How Much Would You Pay For Your Child’s Yearbook?

Joshua's very first yearbook

Joshua’s very first yearbook

My freshman son came home the other day with his first high school yearbook.  It’s beautifully bound and is as thick as an encyclopedia (not that he would know what that is because he’s grown up always looking things up on the internet).  It has glossy pages filled with color photographs of smiling teenagers.  The price tag for this year’s edition was nearly $100.

Is it worth it?

When I was in middle school, the school asked those of us on the yearbook staff to vote on our choice for yearbooks — printed on-campus and stapled together for about $12 or professionally bound for a whopping $25 at the time.  At the meeting, the principal shared with us some words of wisdom: “We know the school year memories are really important to you now, but in a few more years they won’t matter so much.  You probably shouldn’t spend too much money on something like this.”  We didn’t really agree with him but our parents sure did.  Given the choice between getting a slim, cheap yearbook for which our parents would pay versus an expensive one for which they would not, the decision was easy.  A majority of my classmates were in the same predicament, so the vote was cast in favor of the in-house, stapler-bound middle school yearbook.  I just remember this fiasco, because my artwork happened to end up on the front cover of this very yearbook.

We hated to admit it at the time, but our middle school principal was right.  The precious 8th grade year book lost its luster only 12 months later when I got my first high school yearbook.  I think I paid (or, more accurately, my parents did) nearly $60 for this memory book, thick with glossy pages and professional binding.  The photos were great, but the autographs were more important.  “You’re really cool.  Have a bitchin’ summer and see you next fall,” signed almost every single one of my friends.  I guess we weren’t all that creative back then.  I still have my high school yearbooks for all four years somewhere in my closet, but I no longer possess the middle school yearbook in spite of the fact that I was the cover artist.

School year is ending in just a couple of days, and my son is upstairs poring over the pages, already reminiscing the various activities he was involved in last fall and looking forward to his sophomore year starting next fall.  He will probably continue to look at this yearbook with fond memories in the years and maybe decades to come.  I took a peek at some of the autographs he’s gotten from his friends, and they all seem to appreciate Joshua’s humor, his prodigious trumpet playing, and his kindness.  He is a good friend to a variety of students, and I would imagine that reading notes from these friends will encourage him to continue pursuing his musical and social skills.  I suppose that’s just as important as keeping memories of high school activities alive in these pages.

So maybe, just maybe, it is worth paying upwards of $100 (or more, I’m sure, for some schools) for my kids’ yearbooks.

But does it have to be so expensive?  And what happens two years from now when both of my kids are at the same high school?  Should I buy one and have them share or get a separate one for each?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Meanwhile, have a bitchin’ summer and see you next fall…