"Mother and Child from Birth to College"When most mothers join this special club of women, they do it under the glare of hospital lights, a doctor, nurse, beeping monitors and if lucky, an upright husband who has not fainted during the process of childbirth.  I became a mother in a totally different way:  in a barren room, deep in the heart of  Russia.  My husband at the time was there, pushed to the side by the orphanage caregivers who handed me the baby first with the declaration, “do you want him?”

Across the room while my journey to motherhood had just begun was a couple from Connecticut.  In the chaos of getting to the orphanage prior to sunrise we sat squished shoulder to shoulder in the back of a Lada with these strangers who were probably as scared as we were.  Few words were spoken that  first night as we all waited for our impending deaths after handing over large sums of unmarked bills to people we couldn’t see in the dark as our Lada skidded into a ditch for privacy.  With an introduction like that, needless to say, the bonds we formed were not only unspoken but unbreakable.

Cheryl and Shel , our friends from Connecticut, had to wait for their baby, a 5 month old girl whom they named Samantha while Joshua was placed into my arms.  This couple watched me become a mother first but when their baby was presented to them a few moments later, I stopped oohing and aahing to watch my new sister-mom enter the club.  Indescribably intimate is the only way to capture that moment of becoming a mother at the same time with someone else.  Within minutes we stood side by side in the orphanage comparing our babies.

Eight days later, Cheryl and I left Russia with infants in hand.  We never had the opportunity to really say good-bye as the process moved too quickly.  But Connecticut and Pennsylvania are only a few hours apart and technology kept us in touch.   Our connections have ebbed and flowed over the past 17 years but I have always felt that had proximity not been our enemy, Cheryl and I would be fast and devoted friends.  I will also admit that Cheryl has definitely been the better one at sending photos and cards.  I have saved every picture of Sammi from birthdays, to family trips to graduation.

So just like me, Cheryl’s baby has just turned the tassel and is now heading off to Boston for college.  Our children are both intelligent, hard-working and fascinating young adults.  While Josh has been busy learning the ins and outs of the music industry, Sammi has been presenting projects on global problem solving.

Both of our kids have completed Freshman Orientation.   Their official journey into college has begun.

For our part, orientation occurred online through a series of class which I was required to complete prior to Josh arriving on campus.  Nuts and bolts information such as health insurance, medical services, financial aid and food service plans.   He had to complete pre-work as well on course scheduling and service learning.

Sammi’s experience was totally different.  Her parents joined her on campus for “family orientation” where the reality of debit cards, do-it-yourself laundry and apartment living anchored conversations.   They had the opportunity to meet other parents and observe Sammi from afar transitioning into a dorm dweller.

Josh pulled his first all-nighter while trying to figure out his schedule, code in the myriad of forms and be ready to duel to the death for the remaining seats in his required courses when the registration system opened at 7:00AM. He scored 5 out of 6 plumb seats but earned a goose egg with 8:00AM Freshman Writing Seminar three days a week.   Sammi also has to take a writing course but going in with an undeclared major opens more options for fun courses and experiences in the classroom.

After 3 days of nonstop classes, orientation meetings, campus events, sleepless nights, a barrage of new people whose names and job duties he was required to remember and what I feared was the death of his cell phone due to no returned text messages, Josh called.  Exhausted but happy, Josh has now completed the first phase of orientation, has classes scheduled for the fall and a summer assignment which must be completed by August.   Josh is a college freshman.   So is Sammi.  For real.

So where does my sister-mom fit into this story?  She’s walking down the same path as I am.  As before, Josh went first but now both of our babies are ready for college.  We text more often and email these days.  We both are in a state of disbelief and wonder at how did these babies grow up so quickly?   I wish she lived closer so we could have tea and talk in hushed voices about dreams and fears for next year.  Our kids are going to soar and fail at some point and we won’t be there with them.  Cheryl and I now sit on the sidelines watching our good parenting pay off (fingers crossed)."After the Tassel Turns:  Freshies!"

Both of our families made wise choices for college.  Our children will be surrounded by caring adults who will nudge them into the next steps towards independence.  We are now just the safety net leaving other wiser and more experienced adults in charge of further molding our baby birds.


Practical Tips for the Last Few Months Before Move In


A special than you to my sister-mom Cheryl Myers for sharing her stories about orientation.  Her daughter truly is lovely and has been raised by an equally amazing mom.