I have encouraged both of my children to make friends, form connections, create a home away from home when they are in college. This way they will not feel homesick.
I must say they all did what I told them to, which is a good thing. I bet they miss their college-friend-home when they return to their first home or when they have to say goodbye to them.
It’s always like this — they move on in life, forming new connections or relationship or even homes and naturally their tie to their first home will not be as close as before. Meanwhile we, being left behind, still cling to the old connections with them. Shouldn’t we be happy for them?
Last Thursday or rather Friday morning, 9/27, I dreamed I was in my daughter’s school. I relived the days before I left for home in my dream. I actually re-play what happened during those dreadful days, leaving for Kansas without her and coming back to an empty house, no more joy and laughing as before, just as I had been so afraid of. I was so sad that I couldn’t stop crying.
I don’t know why I had this dream. But it certainly threw me into a bad mood. Perhaps because of what I heard during the day. I had tried to focus on the future whenever I could during the day, but the past crept in during the night when I was off my guard. It’s not an easy task to stay upbeat.
P.S. it’s been exactly one month since we left my daughter’s college on 8/29/2013. One month seems a long time, yet that bye-bye moment seems like yesterday, surfacing right before my eyes once again today.
I read this article last month, Study Shows Millennials Are More Forgetful Than Seniors by Shelley Emling, posted 08/02/2013. The article is short and disturbing.
“Historically, studies have equated forgetfulness with old age. Indeed, when someone misplaces something like their car keys, people generally refer to it as a “senior moment.” But a new survey tells a different story.
A Trending Machine national poll finds that millennials aged 18 to 34 are, in fact, much more likely than those 55 or older to forget what day it is (15 percent vs. seven percent), where they put their keys (14 percent vs. eight percent), forget to bring their lunch (nine percent vs. three percent) or even to take a bath or shower (six percent vs. two percent).
Generally speaking, two-fifths — or 39 percent — of Americans have forgotten or misplaced at least one everyday item in the past week. The
only thing those 55 and older are significantly more likely to forget? Names (23 percent vs. 16 percent).
So what’s behind the phenomenon?
Patricia Gutentag, a family and occupational therapist, pointed the finger at stress in a statement released by The Trending Machine.
“Stress often leads to forgetfulness, depression and poor judgment,” she said. “We find higher rates of ADHD diagnoses in young adults. This is a population that has grown up multitasking using technology, often compounded by lack of sleep, all of which results in high levels of forgetfulness.”
When it comes to gender, The Trending Machine found that women are more likely to forget or misplace everyday items compared with men, (43 percent vs. 31 percent). The reason? The stress of work-life balance issues coupled with increased financial responsibilities have taken a toll.
In addition, regional stress differences can be inferred from the higher level of forgetfulness found in the Northeast compared to those reported in the more relaxed West (51 percent vs. 39 percent).
Despite these findings, memory loss remains a common complaint among the elderly. And ageist stereotypes don’t seem to help. One recent study found that simply telling older people they are forgetful makes their memory worse.”
Once again, below is the note that I wrote while I was in China in 2008.
One evening, my sisters and I talked about life’s journey with the parents. We all start our life’s journey with our parents. As we grow bigger and strong, we gradually move away from them and continue the journey on our own.
Parents’ loving care is very crucial in preparing us to get on our own journey, independent of them. Because parents cannot be with us throughout our lives, unless we tragically terminate our journey ahead of them.
At that time I didn’t think it wise to continue companying children in their life’s journey as long as we live, even after they become adults. I thought a successful parenting meant bringing up independent individuals, that is, children eventually stands on their own without the crutch of the parents. Now, I think it would be nice if parents and children can be together, even after they become independent.
Below is the note that I jotted down on a notepad for my 2008 trip home. I keyed it into computer before the note was discarded.
11/13/2008, left for airport around 6 AM, although the flight departed a little after 9 AM. The first transfer was made in Detroit. From there I got on the plane for Tyokyo Narita airport. Three Chinese youngsters were sitting by my side. They must be students at some college, yet they looked so young and I couldn’t believe they were heading for school at this time of the semester. So I couldn’t help asking them. It turned out that they were seniors at Qing Hua University, having been to MIT for a biology-information technology competition. Now they were heading back home.
I learned from them that the Qing Hua team won bronze while MIT got the gold. They were young, intelligent and eager to learn, which reminded me of something in the past. At first, they thought I was a visiting parent, going back home.
On the long flight home, I watched some movies, which reminded me of my children. I told myself after I got back home I must find some time to watch movie with my children. It’s been a long time since we did that.
11/17/2008, I went to a local hospital to have a physical checkup
11/18, I went to Tong Ren hospital with my mother
11/19, I went to have lunch with the Dong sisters at Xi Dan
11/19-20, my mother went to Guang An Men
11/21, I went to Hao Yu’s apartment
11/22, I went to Xi Dan Bookstore to buy some simplified French novels
11/23, I learned from the Skype that there was a fight between my daughter and another youngster at my house in the U.S.
11/27, I left for the U.S.
I heard some parents complain that children take up too much of their time, that they don’t have the time for themselves, that they demand their right for their own entertainment.
I would not condemn this as being selfish. I would only have this much to say to these parents —
When the children are off for college or out of your home, when your nest is empty, you will have all the time for yourself. Nobody will fight for your time. Happy!
For your own happiness and for that of your children, we parents should always keep in mind that children are with us for only 18 years. And these 18 years flash past very fast. Value the moment when the children are with you. Enrich both your life and your children’s by spending as much time with them as you possibly can.
I am glad I have done that. And because of this, my life has been tremendously enriched by them. This much I cherish dearly.
My sister once told me this, and I totally agree with her.
On the way to Boston when we sent my son in 2007, I had painfully realized that once the children left home, they would no longer view their parents’ house as their permanent home like before.
Any time they come back, it’s always a short visit. That long term stay, month after month, with their parents is gone forever. This is just a sad unavoidable reality. It hurts me to think about this. The thought came back when we sent my daughter away, even though I have tried to avoid the thought.
I figure the only way to stay upbeat and healthy is to forget the past and focus on the future. Otherwise, there is no end of misery. And physically and emotionally, the aging parents cannot afford such misery.
One upbeat event that I need to remind myself is: ever since my daughter left for college, my son often calls home, more frequently than before and my daughter Skypes with us at least once a week. A huge comfort to me. I should be content now.
In the past I earnestly looked forward to weekend. Not so any more.
I seldom go out on weekend now. Going out to stores often reminds me of the time when I went out with my daughter. That will surely trigger the sad feeling.
So I prefer staying home, reading and preparing for the test that I intend to take. Do some cleaning around the house when I am tired of reading. Good thing I am seldom tired of reading.
Last Saturday afternoon, I drove a Chinese neighbor of ours to stores. She is going back to China this coming Thursday, first time in 16 years. She wanted me to take her to places where she would do some shopping for the trip. A whole afternoon was thus passed.
“It’s never going to be the same again.”
A friend of mine whose daughter left for college wrote this to me. Very much true. It is so for both sides: the children and the parents.
I told my daughter on the way to the east coast that she was leaving behind her childhood, childhood friends, and the first home with her aging parents that has provided her secure growing environment, and symbolically on the way to be independent. This is her first step to be out on her own without our protection and supervision. We cannot be there for her all the time, so she needs to learn to make her own judgment and decisions.
It’s not going to be easy initially for both sides. It is more like we lose something while they lose and gain something. Very sad process to the parents, indeed.
But in the long run, what is good for the children is also good for the parents. That is, in the end, both parents and children should gain in this forward moving process. It is so easy to figure this out on the paper. The key is parents got to live through the process without losing sight of the large picture.
I read this piece on 8/22, right after we got off from our monthly meeting. 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert The Huffington Post, by Carolyn Gregoire Posted: 08/20/2013. Surprisingly, most of them describe me perfectly, with few exceptions.
1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.
2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.
3. You often feel alone in a crowd. [not me]
4. Networking makes you feel like a phony. [not me]
5. You’ve been called “too intense.”
6. You’re easily distracted. [not me]
7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.
9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.
10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert. [not me]
12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.
13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
14. You screen all your calls — even from friends. [not me]
15. You notice details that others don’t. [not me]
16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.
17. You have low blood pressure.
18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.
19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings.
20. You look at the big picture.
21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”
22. You’re a writer.
23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.
When I cleaned the house recently, I dug out many Time magazines. I read one article from July 29, 2013 issue, “The Power of the Bilingual Brain: Learning a second language can produce a nimble mind” by Jeffrey Kluger. Here are some quotes from the article.
“Research is increasingly showing that the brains of people who know two or more languages are different from those who know just one–and those differences are all for the better. Multi-lingual people, studies shows, are better at reasoning, at multitasking, at grasping and reconciling conflicting ideas.”
“They work faster and expend less energy doing so, and as they age, they retain their cognitive faculties longer, delaying the onset of dementia and even full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.”
“A bilingual brain is not necessarily a smarter brain, but it is proving to be a more flexible, more resourceful one.”
‘Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21th century.’
“That exceedingly early start on language only accelerate as it goes along. …the amount of time they spent looking before they got bored and looked away—that indicated their interest and recognition. From 4 to 6 months of age, babies from both monolingual English homes and bilingual French-English homes could tell the difference. But by 8 months, the monolinguals drop out of the race, and only the bilinguals could manage the task.”
For better result, read the article in its entirety.
On Monday, 9/16, a colleague of mine was talking about downsizing her house, selling her big house and moving into a smaller one. It would be easy to maintain, as she explained. I told her I was thinking of the same thing, that is, selling the house.
If both of my children choose east coastal cities, it makes no sense for us to stay here. If we live close by, it will make it easy for them to visit us, too. As it is now, the only time my son and his girlfriend come over is during Christmas holiday. I start looking forward to this day since the beginning of the year!
This is not just a thought. I do plan to move out of this area by the time my daughter graduates from college.
So much needs to be done before that.
When I was in New York in late August, my son told me an unfortunate event of a friend of his.
The boy was also from MIT. A very smart and successful one, he made 6-digit annual salary for a finance company. He quit his job to start his own company. Prior to that, he emailed to himself the file with complicated algorithm codes. To be sure, these codes are company’s property. He knew it was not a proper thing to do, so he changed the name of the file before emailing.
Now, he is facing charges of theft and could face a few years’ jail sentence.
While my son was feeling sad for his friend, I thought of these words from The Dream of Red Chamber.
Do the right thing, as this is the only way to be happy, even though you might not be that rich.
My daughter likes this Tzatziki yogurt dip very much. We got a cup like this from costco. Right after we got back, the sight of this reminds me of my daughter. I found it hard to finish what is left in the cup.
After a week and after it was all comsumed, I washed the cup and have decided to keep it, even though the sight of it still makes me sad. For some reason, I am not ready for throwing it out yet.
On 9/3, I went to the post office directly from work to send graphic calculator to my daughter. She forgot to take it with her and now she needs it for her class there.
On 9/9, I went to the post office again after work to ship out “Microsoft Office 2011 for student for mac” to someone who bought it from me on eBay. I bought this for my daughter. She doesn’t seem to need it. Since it has not been used, I sold it on ebay to recoup some cost.
On both day, I drove past my daughter’s school on the way back from post office. The road looks so familiar as I have been there for so many times throughout the past decade since 2003, painfully reminding me of the time when I picked up my children from this school.
On Monday 9/9, we had pizza from Ciao Down Pizzeria for lunch at our office, kindly provided by two doctors there. The office always gets something like this for us. In the past, I always brought home some to share with my daughter. I remember how she delighted herself over the goodies I brought back.
Yesterday, 9/15, Saturday afternoon, I went to Natural Grocers store on Metcalf and 91st street. I wasn’t able to get the kind of chia seeds when I went to Whole Foods store last Thursday. I remember my daughter got chia seeds here.
My mind was instantly flooded with memories of the past when I was approaching Natural Grocers store. That location used to be Border’s bookstore. After the bookstore closed over two years ago, this grocery store moved in.
Border’s bookstore used to be our family’s favorite place on weekend or in the evening ever since we moved into the area in 1998. I remember vividly when I took both of my children to Border’s, one was 9 years old, the other 3. They could spend hours reading there.
After Border’s closed, I started taking my daughter to Barnes and Noble’s bookstore. No matter where we live, local bookstores are always the place we visit most and spend most time in.
Now that both of my children are not home, I think of those moments but dare not going there again, even on weekend.
The things that I try to avoid at home is going through old stuffs. But this is something I cannot avoid.
First of all, I have promised my daughter that I would clean the house, not her room though, so that she will see a clean house when she gets back. I would like to keep this promise.
Secondly, I cannot read all the time when I am home. Like last weekend, it was rather hot, which forced me to stay inside as much as I could. I read about materials for the certification exam. After an hour or so, I felt tired and decided to take a break.
Naturally, I would use the break to clean the house. But going through old stuffs once again put me in a bad mood. So, I decided to wait till my daughter comes back and we will deal with it together.
For the first time in 24 years, I celebrate my birthday without my children around. Still, to keep up the spirit, I say to myself in front of the mirror,
As a gift to myself, yesterday I went to Whole Foods store to pamper myself with a bag of chia seeds and flax seeds to continue the healthy eating practice that my daughter started this past summer.
My best birthday gift came when son called right after he got up this morning, wishing me happy birthday. And my daughter called shortly after that, another birthday wish. This set me in a bright festive mood in a huge way.
It still seems like a dream. Two weeks ago, on the Thursday morning of 8/29, that we said goodbye to my daughter. For some reason, I still think it so unreal and unbelievable that she is so far away.
I always try to think of some errand to run on my way home as I find it difficult to step into an empty house all by myself.
On Monday I went to post office and then to Walmart to get a giftcard for a neighbor. On Tuesday I went to dentist for dental cleaning. Yesterday, I went to Bank of America ATM to try my daughter’s debit card. But still, like yesterday, I felt overwhelmed with sadness when I got back home. The sadness continued till after dinner.
It will take time to get better but time seems standing still…
This Labor Day saw the celebration of my son’s 4th anniversary of their relationship. As always, I sent them good wishes and blessing. The following is what I sent to my son.
Both of you are rather capable and independent financially. There must be many factors that draw you two together. I want to tell you to always remember that, in the long run, the ultimate factor that keeps the two of you together is you make each other feel good when you are together.
There are something that will surely upset your partner and you should avoid:
When your partner says blue is a good color, don’t say “That’s not necessarily good. Red is a good one.”
When your partner shares something with you, don’t say “I’ve known it already.” Simply say “Thank you.”
Don’t continue your competitive spirit at home. At home, give-in is winning.
Don’t let out steam at home. If you are a coward outside, be the same way at home.
Never let a word of disrespect escape your mouth, no matter how upset you are.
If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.
A friend of mine called me last weekend. She has three children, the first one being the same age as my daughter. She also went to a small east coastal liberal arts college. Because this is the first one going away, she didn’t sound like enduring a huge pain of separation. I might be wrong, though.
After chatting with her on issues related to college life and beyond, like college courses, majors and activities, I began to focus more on what my daughter has to go through, which is equally scary, and which is too important to ignore.
She has a long way to go in her career development. This is just a beginning. Yet, this four-year beginning can pass faster than we expect. Both parents and the children have a lot more important things to focus on than dwelling on the pain of separation. I should know better than this.
8/29 Thur left my daughter’s school
8/30 Fri arrived at KS
8/31-9/2, long weekend with the Labor Day Monday off
9/3 is the first day that I went back to work. The day passed peacefully as I was too busy to think of anything else, having a lot of work piled up for me while I was out.
9/9, today, is the second week that I go back to week after that trip.
So far, the hardest part of the day is getting back home, especially as I entered an empty, quiet, clean house, all by myself. I don’t want this quietness. I don’t want this clean house. I want the messy one, full of life, where I can hear talks and laughing. I want to hear my baby calling me. I want my baby back.
In the past, I looked forward to going back, to seeing my daughter either at home or at school, thinking about her. Now, I’d rather stay in the office.
My daughter walked with me a lot this summer. She insisted on getting up at 5:30am. We normally walked for a little over 30 minutes, about 2 miles. This was normally a good occasion for walk and chat.
It was not hot when we went out so early, almost before sunrise. In fact, most of the time, it was comfortably cool. Each time, on our way back, we were so glad that we got up early and had our outdoor exercise before it was too hot to go out.
I miss these walks with her.
During my recent frenzy cleaning drive, I dug up many hand-written index cards that I once wrote when my son was small. One of them has this.
It goes like this.
We all have two treasures: hands and brain.
With our hands, we can make things.
With our brain, we can think.
On the ond hand, we cannot do a good job of making stuffs if we only use our hands without using our brain; on the other hand, we cannot accomplish everything if we only use our brain without our hands.
Only by using both hands and brain can we achieve whatever we want to.
With the leaving of my daughter, I see myself no longer play the parenting role. And looking ahead, what’s the use of keeping parenting books and reading materials. It especially hurts when I see materials like this one that I used when my son was a little boy. I have chosen to throw away anything of this type so that I can focus on the future.
Last weekend, someone called about collection for donated clothes and other stuffs in the morning of the coming Saturday. Immediately I thought of many clothes that my daughter left behind. I know she would have nothing to do with them when she gets back as she already stopped wearing most of them even when she was home.
Going through old stuffs has never been a pleasant experience for me ever since I was in primary school. I remember clearly how sad and dreadful I felt when I opened school notes of last semester or last school year’s. I always put them away and avoid ever touching them.
The old stuff always leaves me with a sad sentiment because I have long been aware of the fact that the past will never get back. At that time I couldn’t explain why I felt sad about things long gone, but that sentiment has never left me.
I don’t even want to go through my own old stuffs as they always remind me of the past, let alone those of my daughter’s. That’s why I kept delaying digging through hers.
I used to tell myself and some of my friends that I would follow my children to wherever they are. But things are not as easy as I wish. First went my son, now and finally, my daughter. I can’t confront the fact that for the first time in 24 years, I will have to live out days and days without my children around.
When I talked to my sister over Skype, I told her to come with her son if she planned to send her son over. “You don’t want to go through this separation.”
I wish I had this freedom. I wish I could go wherever I want.
The ancient Chinese poem does not help, even though modern technologies have vastly shortened the distance. We can skype, but I don’t want my daughter to see how sad I am now. I don’t trust myself to sound like a normal person over the phone. I would rather text her. I would rather live through this period alone.
When I was cleaning the house, I found a pocket calendar of 2011, with hand-written events. As I went through each month, I remember vividly how I drove her to these lessons. It was only two years ago. My life was happily centered around her.
2/4/2011, skating one hour, payment $120.
2/12, art class
2/17, piano lesson, payment $80
2/18, skating 30 minutes
3/3, piano lesson
3/4, skating lesson one hour
3/5, art lesson
3/12, art lesson
3/17, piano lesson
3/18, skating one hour
3/19, art lesson
3/25, skating 30 minutes
3/26, art lesson, paid $90
4/7, piano lesson
4/14, piano lesson
4/29, skating one hour
5/13, skating one hour
5/14, art lesson
5/28, art lesson
6/2, go to Boston for my son’s graduation
6/4, leave Boston
6/9, piano lesson
6/11, art lesson, paid $60
9/11, art lesson This is the last event on the calendar.
I know my daughter went to a summer camp on 6/25/2011. This was the first time she left home.
How I wish I could go back to these events with my daughter!
On 9/1/2013, I spent nearly the whole morning cleaning the two desks of my daughter’s, both on and under the desks.
Drawing pencils, color pencils, water-color pencils, mechanical pencils, other special pencils, special pens that she particularly likes, drawing brushes, and other drawing tools, … all mixed up and scattered everywhere… Plus, she doesn’t like throwing away stuffs, so all things that are still useful and not useful are piled up on the desks.
I grouped them according to their kind, placing them in their separate pen boxes or pen holders or mooncake boxes or bags. I threw away pieces of paper and notes here and there.
It was rather painful going through her stuffs. I would like to stop this torturing process, but it’s still my job, no matter when I do it. I might get it over as early as possible. It was nearly 1 pm when the desks look decently clean, though my sense of accomplishment has come with its price.
I took a picture to mark the experience.
After we got back from my daughter’s college, I was beside myself with sadness.
I knew I had things to do, tasks to fulfil, promises to keep, errands to run, books I once told myself I would read when I have the time. But I wasn’t able to focus on any of them. With stuffs lying around the house, I went berserk cleaning up the room, throwing away magazines and books that I normally keep.
Since my daughter is not around, I feel it useless to keep many things that I used to keep for her or for parenting or some of the pursuits that I was interested before but have lost interest now, like coupons for art and crafts at Jo-Ann’s, American Eagle Outfitters coupons, high school test preparation books, parenting books, printouts and books on topics that both my daughter and I are interested, cookbooks and health tips that I would use for my daughter, etc.
When I opened my handbag, I saw small bag of kleenex tissues and small mirror that I knew my daughter would use and always save for her. What’s the use of keeping them now?
I picked up a book that I planned to read, Helping Your College Student Succeed: The Parent’s Crash Course in Career Planning. Not in the mood to read right now. I didn’t throw it away, because, sad as I am now, I still care about my daughter’s college success.
No stop now…
Life seems upside down right after I got back from last month’s trip to my daughter’s college. Nothing makes sense now. Day and night, I keep asking why and knows no answer.
I miss my daughter everywhere I go at home as everything reminds me of her.
I miss her when I open the door and see her books and pens laying on the stairs.
I miss her more when she used to call mom as soon as she heard me entering the door.
I miss her when I open refrigerator and see the foods that she likes and I bought just for her.
I miss her when I see her table where she used to sit and now the table is still there but not her.
I miss her when I go to bathroom and see her stuffs there and think of the time when we had endless laughing.
I miss her when I go to laundry room and see her clothes left there.
I miss her when I get her Time magazine from the mail. Now it’s dreadful taking up her magazine.
I miss her when I take her clothes to her room and I can still vividly see her lying in bed or sitting among her stuffs, like before.
I miss her when I sit by dinner table and remember how she prepared her food. Now food tastes tasteless and hard to swallow when she is not sitting in her chair.
I miss her when I think of checking library on-hold books, as if it makes no sense for me to go to library now that she is not around. I am sure I will not go to bookstore any more.
Everything, everywhere, no matter where I turn, there is no escape, the teacup she used, apples and apple cakes that she made, the fish oil that she took, the nuts she ate, the flowers she loved, the stones we carried together in our backyard…
I miss her when I drive the car and think of the numerous times when we drove out together.
I miss her and even dare not go out walking because I cannot bear the thought when, only last week, we went out early in the morning and now she is 1,400 miles away.
I wish her doing well in her new environment. I hope she is not homesick.
For me, I hope time will heal me, just as it did when my son first left home 6 years ago.