Teen Beachball Effect

A mom reflects on leaving her daughter at college and the joys of Skype and cell phones.

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We survived our first week of college life!



If you did not already know this, kids are remarkably resilient. (I was reminded of this fact during the college moving experience.) Even as early adults they still maintain that imaginary expansive and pliable substance that makes them respond to bumps in the road with remarkable rebound.



Cue the imagery — I see my daughter as a colorful plastic KU beach ball bouncing along the curb, on and off as she proceeds through each day of campus discovery.

 You probably noticed this in its early form, protecting your child as they were growing up. That invisible coating that surrounded her and that made you remark, "Geez, how did she miss cracking her head open on that fall!" Besides the invisible physical coating, our kids were graced with coping mechanisms.

That mechanism was deployed this past week. It’s the physical one we hope is still intact as we can no longer precede our kids, removing obstacles like boulders, flames, bodies of water, and things with points.

 Our kids are also good at being subconscious emotional manipulators. Yikes, to paraphrase my daughter. In this sense, I'm not pointing out a negativity here. Merely a fact that when you lose your heart to your child, you are susceptible to the expressions of the emotions they are slinging with dual meaning. (We already know they are masters at the “conscious’ manipulators, but the subconscious ones they have not yet mastered, I am learning, require armor and an owners manual).
 
Fear can manifest as indignation toward anything within a one-mile radius prior to departure toward a major change. Fear can also manifest as crying over all kinds of spilled milk, or worse crying that you don't know how to get on the bus to find some milk.

Surprise can manifest as exasperated defiance in suggesting the smallest things like not hanging your towel on the only remaining lowest rack in the water closet next to the toilet — well, you all already know why, having clocked many years of bathroom cleaning behind your child.
 

However, thankfully by the second day in fact, the beach ball gracefully deployed this week and calmed everything. She has found the diet coke and coffee she needs to sustain her along her campus treks. She diligently rides the bus, opposing the time and energy she could burn walking (manually) to and from class.

But I don't disparage over the choice of convenience as I am proud she has found ways to replace the comforts of home.



 One of her suitemates was bequeathed her sister's “alumni beach ball” upon move in. She embraced the ball immediately and was excited at how high it bounced. I think my child found some comforting example in the use of that ball in the first few days. So I believe the two are bouncing along the sidewalks of KU in tandem on many occasions and conquering the newness together. Or at least until one borrows a personal item without asking or takes the last cold diet coke out of the fridge. I hope the resilience of those balls can withstand kicking by others and hitting a few walls. Beach balls can easily deflate. I hope they bounce with eyes open- safely.




I cried less in the past week. I am enjoying the calls after each class from her first two days. It’s like the old days when I would pick her up from school, and she would report on her day. God bless cell phones and Skype. So even though I am missing her physical presence every day, it’s comforting I am still needed, even if it is not for laundry and sustenance. It’s better. She is keeping our school day habit of sharing alive and keeping me in her day. It’s comforting she is still thinking of me.

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