Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Everyday Grace: Apply the lens of faith to the college application process
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Jan. 15, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
“College Acceptance Arrives, All is Calm” The headline grabbed my attention as quick as an SAT score landing in the mailbox. I raced through the article. News of another parent suffering anxiety over his son’s college application process helped me stop hyperventilating for a few minutes.
I remember my senior year in high school as an exciting adventure. I recall X-ing the days off the calendar until I would leave for college. I don’t remember a single anxious moment.
Would the stress of university studies prove to be overwhelming? Naw. Could the “everybody’s doing it” culture of sex, drugs and alcohol get me into trouble? Nope. What if the school I chose was so far away I couldn’t fly home for the holidays? And who would care? Once on my own, would I eat nothing but junk food? So that would be a problem? What if I forgot all about the morals, ethics and faith my parents had taught me? Huh?
How very different it appears from a parent’s point of view. The stress blind-sided me. I had watched a couple of friends send their teens off to college and joked a bit that I would probably be coming to them for advice when my turn came. But my son had been dressing himself, feeding himself and even doing chores without being nagged for several years now. I had been lulled into a false sense of security.
I started second-guessing 18 years of parenting. If my son didn’t say “hello” to his uncle who stopped by, I had failed to teach him manners. When he didn’t get a job, I told myself I had not taught him the value of work. When he declined to prepare and lead the Christmas dinner blessing, I had obviously fallen short in passing on the Christian faith, teaching him to pray … and so on. Once again a child illuminates my need for God. There’s nowhere else to turn.
What does our faith offer parents at this crucial juncture as they prepare to send a child out on his or her own? Here’s a short list of things I’ve clutched hold of in my troubled moments.
Company: We need not face tough times alone. Others in our Christian community can encourage and support us. They can lend us an ear if we need to vent about missed scholarship deadlines, or remind us of our child’s good qualities when we see only shortcomings.
Forgiveness and healing: Our faith tells us that it is never too late to begin again. If we have made mistakes, we can ask forgiveness and seek healing. Professional help in this area is more widely available than ever before. We can work through relationship issues with our teenagers. It may take time, but even our errors can be transformed. God’s offer of new life is not “for a limited time only.”
Confidence to let go: As Christians we know that we are ultimately dependent on God. We do our best to raise our children and then we let them go, trusting God to make up where we have lacked. Whether the stress is fearing our son or daughter won’t get into their choice of college or that they’ll do nothing but party once they do get there, we are not in control. Parents take what steps they can to help their teenagers, but at some point the youngsters become responsible for their own lives. Of course, we never stop praying!
Hope: God loves our children even more than we do. They will not get through life, or even their first year away from home, without pain, without mistakes, without disappointment. Here’s one of the best lines of parenting advice I’ve heard: There’s no problem so big it can’t be solved.
Recently several parents traded stories about their teenagers. One worried that her daughter was too social and focused only on having fun with her friends. Another bemoaned that her son spent all his time studying and didn’t have a social life. We chuckled at the contrast.
It’s normal for parents to worry. If we can laugh about it, maybe we can keep our sanity.
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. She is a contributing author to the book Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, from Skylight Paths Publishing.)