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10 April 2006

I'm sad... [More:]I thought parenting would get better once you sent the kids off to college, but it gets tougher because you can't advocate for you kid to the same extent. About all you can do is be there for them when they hit the rough patches.

My son had a good scholarship at a private school, but it looks like he won't be able to keep the grades necessary to hang on to it. But what really kills me is that he is discouraged. I don't know how to lift him up, other than to offer support.

My heart breaks. He's a good kid, but he just isn't sure about anything anymore. And I don't know how to make it better.
You can't make it better. Once they get to that "almost grown up" stage, all you can do is be there when they need you. Doing anything more than providing a soft landing if they fall tends to lead to continued dependance and the inability to look after themselves that seems to be endemic in young people today.

Unfortunately, tough love is often tougher on the ones doing the loving than on the loved.
posted by dg 10 April | 22:10
Amen, brother.
posted by Doohickie 10 April | 22:11
Gawd... It just struck me that my dad would have been 76 today. To top it all off....
posted by Doohickie 10 April | 22:12
I am going through something similar but different right now. "other than to offer support" is all I can tell you. Now matter how much you want it to be otherwise you just can't take care of everything. It sucks.
posted by arse_hat 10 April | 22:14
All you can do is love him unconditionally--and make sure he knows that you do. Lots of bright young adults have trouble making the transition to independence--boys especially. A few years of work and supporting himself will do wonders. Or he could transfer to an easier, cheaper school. Let it be his call, but let him feel the consequences too.

I know a guy who blew a great scholarship at a good school when he was 19, out of a love for beer and a generalized existential angst. In his mid 20s he got his shit together. Today he is a college professor. Have faith in your boy, in the long run of his life this may NOT be a turning point, it may be no more than a skinned knee.
posted by LarryC 10 April | 22:16
I'm sorry to hear this. Will he be able to go to the school without the scholarship? College can be really hard. Is he communicating with professors as much as he could? Teaching quality at most all colleges is actually really low. It's not like high school where the instructors actually have advanced degrees in instruction. That is for sure. And if professors are not being fair with him, is there a school ombudsman he can go to? Also, maybe he could take advantage of any school tutoring and any student counseling therapy that there may be.

I had honor student status in college for three years until my grades dropped too low and I lost the privilege. It happens... sometimes we can't help it. This can be really hard to take if he's very driven, and if high school was comparatively easy for him. I'd really recommend the therapy; hopefully the school has known well enough to make sure their therapists are trained to talk to people with these issues.

If you have access to a therapist where you are, perhaps you could go to him or her also, and get some support for you while you are going through this. If you have the funds, maybe your son could use a visit.

Good luck. I've seen people drop out of college; it is not the end of life. Ask Bill Gates! :) If there's anything I can help with, please feel free to email me. My email's in my profile.
posted by halonine 10 April | 22:26
I'm one of two college students my parents are dealing with right now, and I can certainly understand your sadness.

The only thing I can tell you is that if it were me, I'd just want to be supported and encouraged.

Make regular contact with him, send encouraging e-mails, things of that nature. Make sure he knows we all have 'road bumps' we run into on our way. Tell him you love him, you're there for him, and if he needs anything, to call. It's likely he'll want to 'grieve' about this on his own, and that's good, too. He needs to have some time to think about this. Just make sure he's not unnecessarily beating himself up about it.

Best of luck.
posted by viachicago 10 April | 22:42
i'm with the tutoring and help suggestions, and maybe go up for a weekend and hang out with him? just hang out and don't pressure him and maybe you guys can talk about it?

It could be too, that the school's not the best place for him to be. I worked at Columbia so i could go to school there, and i hated it, and stopped after a year. i was all impressed by the reputation but it wasn't at all the right place for me.
posted by amberglow 10 April | 22:53
Yep... we're doing all that stuff (except for the therapy, but at this point that won't help him between now and the end of the semester). He's been in contact with the profs, and it's really only one class, music theory, that's beating him down at this point. From what he says, the prof is generally apathetic and just says things like "try harder". He was going to tutoring and doing well enough (A's & B's) that he didn't feel the tutoring was doing much good and the tutor wasn't much help anyway. Now that his grades have dipped, he's getting informal tutoring from classmates and upperclassmen who seem to help him understand better.

If he loses the scholarship, can we afford to keep him there? Depends on financial aid. We told him don't worry about all that, we would figure out a way to make it all good. I told him to figure out what *he* wanted and we would help him as we could.
posted by Doohickie 10 April | 22:55
You're doing everything right, Doohickie.
posted by jrossi4r 10 April | 23:04
totally you are.

and he's taking the right steps too--you brought him up good. : >
posted by amberglow 10 April | 23:10
Doohickie, how far along is he?
posted by trondant 10 April | 23:27
2nd semester, freshman year, although with AP credits he's already considered a sophomore.
posted by Doohickie 10 April | 23:36
Re. his music theory class: he may have to end up teaching himself enough music theory to pass the final. What that professor said makes me mad, though.

I agree, it sounds like he is mostly doing everything right. It's not necessarily too late in the semester to see a therapist. It may be useful for him to have an adult on campus that he can talk to. It doesn't have to be a deep discussion, just what's going wrong, how he feels about it, and what are the steps he can take to fix it. Classmates can offer some support, but they are still young, not adults, and don't have the perspective adults do. Therapy doesn't have to be long-term and about deep issues. It can be just for a month or two, in order to acquire new coping skills for something that is going on.
posted by halonine 10 April | 23:43
He's a lucky kid, Doohickie, to have a parent like you.
posted by essexjan 11 April | 01:14 It might help.

I'm in music theory right now myself. I have a lot of musical experience and such and it still ain't easy.

My son's first year of school in Colorado was rough for him. Whether or not there are grade problems, it's a touch time and a tough transition. The fact that he is motivated and working to try to keep up say loads about the kind of person he is.

posted by bunnyfire 11 April | 06:23
that won't help him between now and the end of the semester

You know, it might -- even just one or two sessions. And I'd spring for a private practice therapist; the college health center people are overloaded and, sometimes, under-helpful, in my experience. It can be a tremendous relief just to talk to an impartial third party who's on your side, but not entangled with you emotionally in the same way as a parent, or in an authority relationship like a prof.

Avoiding depression at this stage is important, and a therapist may have helpful suggestions. One of the lesser-known truths about college is that it's not at all uncommon for the transition to be extremely bumpy, especially in the first year. Depression is a possibility, and once it begins, it can impact even the more positive areas of life. Just try to keep in touch with the situation. If he chose to take a year off to travel, work, or volunteer, or to transfer to another school, it might be the very best thing in the long run.

Personally, I had trouble with the college transition. Went to a very large state university and didn't do well in the giant classes and anonymous environment. My grades were pathetic and I did become depressed. I left that school, returned home, and wrote for a newspaper for a year while taking classes at a community college. This gave me the time I needed to think about life and work, and following that, I transferred into a very good private liberal-arts college and graduated cum laude. It's perfectly OK to get off the merry-go-round for a while - for many of us, it's the best thing to do. Sometimes the plans and choices you make at age seventeen aren't the ones you want to stay committed to once you've amassed a bit more life experience.

There are some excellent music-theory links on MeFi, which Eideteker posted yesterday. It's one of those disciplines that relies on rote memorization and visual/mathematical intelligence. As a right-brainer, it isn't easy for me either, though I'm a musical person in general. A lot of people find theory to be a bear.

Anyway, it sounds as though you're communicating well. He's lucky to have caring parents, and I agree that you're doing everything right. He might have to make some mistakes, and that will be fine, too.
posted by Miko 11 April | 08:41
It may be useful for him to have an adult on campus that he can talk to.
He's meeting with his viola professor to go over things and see what he can do. I'll pass on the link.

He's doing better now. Part of the problem is that he's in Iowa and we're in Texas, so unless he really indicates he needs it, we're not going to try to do anything about therapy.

Personally, I think today's world is too therapy-happy. And I think my son wouldn't be very receptive to it, especially if mom and dad suggest it.
posted by Doohickie 12 April | 09:44
OMG Bunny || has anyone else seen that "secret love" commercial for LOTR?