by Hilary Mahan, MBEF Board Member
As more than 7,000 students begin their school year here in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, recent grads of Mira Costa High School are spreading their wings across the country and around the world. The class of 2014 is attending over 162 colleges and universities in over 43 states and 3 countries. MCHS grads were welcomed as freshmen at every University of California, the majority of Ivy League schools, Stanford, Duke, and USC to name just a few. But as these new members of our society leave the nest, who do they leave behind?
Judi Walley just recently returned from helping her eldest daughter, Sydney, move into her dormitory at the George Washington University. “It took less than 44 hours before I realized it was time for me to go”, she says. Sydney was more than ready to branch out, to experience the college life she had spent so many years preparing for while at school in Manhattan Beach. Judi credits Costa’s Model United Nations program for giving her daughter the confidence to choose a university over 2,300 miles from home. She gained invaluable social skills, became proficient in navigating a city and gained confidence beyond her years while participating in the renowned debate program that requires substantial research, public speaking and teamwork skills.
With Sydney’s Prius still parked in the driveway, Judi is getting used to the fact that her daughter isn’t going to walk thru the front door at any moment. It seems that while Judi is adjusting to her daughter being gone, Sydney is learning how to live in the moment and truly experience her new surroundings. Instead of frequent Facebook and Instagram posts, Judi receives actual phone calls more often than expected and even an occasional texted photo. This week it was the view from a classroom window, a direct look at the prestigious Washington Monument.
Now Judi intends to “dip her toe” back into the water, to explore her own interests that may have been on hold while she and her husband focused on raising two young daughters. With one daughter just starting high school, she knows that she will be helping to set up another dorm room all too soon.
One of the biggest challenges for Kathy Sena, whose only son Matt is now at the University of Michigan, is the nagging feeling that she “forgot some important piece of practical advice that every mother should share with her children,” she says. Kathy reminds herself that it is important for Matt to figure things out for himself – but she appreciates that she’s just a text or phone call away. During the last few weeks of summer, the Sena family made time for meaningful conversations among the multiple trips to Bed, Bath & Beyond for extra-long twin sheets and while checking off items on a long to-do list. Then there was the three-week family road trip to and from Michigan to attend orientation, “which was more than enough time together!” she laughs.
Kathy and her husband, Randy, plan to give Matt some breathing room while staying connected via Facetime, which makes them feel like they’re together “minus the big hug.” Matt is excited to be at Michigan, and that does make it a lot easier, she says. And sometimes helping with the little things can mean a lot. Most recently, Matt and his new dorm mates all benefitted from the Sena solution to holding a box fan in place in front of an open window in the sweltering dorm rooms. Their bulk purchase of bungee cords went a long way!
Newly minted empty nester, Amy Teitelbaum, found the goodbyes bittersweet. Amy sees her youngest son’s departure to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland as “the end of an era.” She believes Zachary is ready for this next stage in his life – she feels that “between his family and MBUSD we have taught him to make good decisions, choose to surround himself with worthy people, and balance work with play.” But that doesn’t make the goodbye any easier. When parents were told it was time to go at Zack’s orientation, Amy felt the shock and noticed parents clinging to their children. They speak and text frequently, but she recognizes that the communication may drop off as time progresses. She is thankful that she and her husband Larry are both working, have a large network of friends and an abundance of activities to keep them busy, but it is still difficult to not feel needed.
Amy’s advice to parents resonates for those of all ages – to be available for your children at all times. And when he or she does call, “really listen – not only to their words but also to the way they sound, their mood, their language.” What you hear may be reason enough to step in, whether it is calling the school or hopping on a plane.
Oh, and care packages with their favorite things never hurt either.