March 9, 2016

Good Students and Bad Mothers

Wow. It really is sad how little I write these days, given how much I actually enjoy it. I guess you could say I’ve been a little busy lately. (Like the husband and the three kids don’t make me busy, right?) I actually started something last summer that I wasn’t sure I’d actually have the balls to do…

I went back to school.

     That’s right, folks! You are reading the words of a forty-year-old college freshman! I am attending classes with people who went to school with my oldest daughter. It does get a little less awkward over time. A little.

     I am what I consider myself to be a former terrible student. I’m trying really hard to amend for the sins of my past and it took a bit of humility to start this process again, basically from scratch. You see, when I was 18 and 19 years old, I should not have been allowed to make my own decisions in life. Really, I seriously needed someone to tell me what to do! I went to my local community college because it’s what a few of my friends were doing. And what else was I supposed to do, right? I didn’t even apply as a high school senior like most of my peers. I just sort of filled out an application and showed up to a few classes, hoping to add them. I did manage to successfully add the classes of my choosing that first semester, but what was I supposed to do after that? It might be surprising for you to learn that actually going to class and completing assignments wouldn’t have been the next step, right? I mean, wasn’t enrolling in the class, paying for it, and buying the books enough? In my terribly stupid young mind, it certainly should have been all it took.

     But, the problem with being a barely legal adult is you have a whole new set of rights in this world but you don’t have the brains or life experience to back them up. I never ditched class in high school because I knew they would know and there would be consequences. What consequences? I’m not really sure because I never went there. But in college….in college NO ONE CARES IF YOU SHOW UP. I mean, of course they care and they will drop you if you miss too many classes, but no one ever seems to notice or say anything about that. No one will call your parents or want to schedule a conference. No one can give you detention or intervene in any way. You call your own shots and make your own decisions, no matter how awful or ill-informed they may be!

     Eventually, school just sort of became something that just got in the way of my social life and ability to earn minimum wage at my local pet store. I mean, who wants to go to school when it got in the way of all that magnificence? I signed up for classes and only showed up the first few times. I stuck a couple out to the end of the semester without ever doing any of the work outside of class that was asked of me. One semester, I managed to get a B and two Ds. The only way I could possibly explain that is the B was in Art Appreciation and I must have been a visual learner. Other than those three grades (if you can even really call them that!), I received nothing but Ws and Fs in all my other classes. Every. Single. One.

     I didn’t pay much attention to those pesky details back then. We definitely didn’t have the resources that we do now to gather that information, either. After two years of complete idiocy, I decided to stop ‘going to school’ (and I use that term loosely!) and just work. Almost a year later, I had my oldest daughter and my future was sort of mapped out for me after that. I got married, became a SAHM, and had a couple more kids. Who needs school when you just want to raise children, right?

WRONG. So. Very Wrong.

     20+ years later, I decided to try to go back to school. I had to meet with a counselor to get my pesky Academic Dismissal status taken care of. Apparently, the community college system is not very forgiving and they still remember the idiot I was a lifetime ago. My cumulative GPA was 0.833, so on paper it must have looked like I lacked the mental capacity to tie my own shoes. I was limited to the number of classes I could take at a time and I had to have each one signed off by a counselor before I could enroll in them. I even had to submit progress reports. I called it my ‘Academic Ankle Monitor.’ I recently had my ankle monitor removed and am, once again, free to make my own terrible choices as I see fit when it comes to my education.

     So far, school is already significantly easier and more interesting when you actually care about your own success. In most of my classes, I’m amazed by how different it feels to look around the class and see all the younger people throw these opportunities away by barely showing up to class and looking for outfits on Pinterest when they should be taking notes. I can almost tell you which students are only there to keep their parents off their backs and which students will be gone before the end of the semester. After managing a household and raising three kids, it’s so much easier to sit in the classroom and listen to one person talk. (That’s really all I have to do for the next two hours? Just one thing?) It’s taking a lot of effort and some sacrifice to get to my classes each day and I’ll be damned if I waste that class time texting or playing on Facebook. I am there because I want to be and I won’t waste this chance again.

     Do you know what’s funny? I’m actually sort of a little smart. I mean, I’m no Sheldon Cooper or anything, but my brain is good for more than just making grocery lists and sorting laundry! I can go to class, do my homework, study, and do well on tests. To me, a good grade almost feels like the paycheck that I haven’t received in more than a decade. Seeing those results on paper (or on my computer as I view my unofficial transcripts online) is like seeing the fruit of my efforts and proof of my success. It’s hard to feel successful when you’re raising kids or taking care of your home because you’re NEVER DONE. I have finished a few classes now and it feels good to know I started something and completed it.

     I’m now on the lookout for study methods because I’m taking a short-term biology class that JUST MIGHT KILL ME. Seriously! This will definitely be my most challenging course so far and I really need to know how to take the information off those PowerPoints, out of the book, and get them into my head. I also need to know how to convince that particular teacher that lecturing on two more chapters BEFORE she lets us take the test on the SIX CHAPTERS WE ALREADY LEARNED might be getting in the way of my success. Who are we kidding? She’s just a meanie and wants us to fail. That HAS to be it.

     Not being as focused on things at home definitely has its own challenges. 10YO just came home from school wearing a ripped up shirt and a messy pony tail and announced that TODAY WAS SPRING PICTURE DAY. Fan-freaking-tastic! At least I won’t have to worry about whether or not to buy them! I was definitely more nervous and stressed out with my oldest, but I was THERE. My youngest is definitely getting the shaft when it comes to details like these. I was in a rush to leave this morning and didn’t even see what she was wearing to school, nor did I remember it was picture day.


     I guess it’s a good thing that this kid takes a mean selfie! Who needs a stuffy old, overdressed photo with a hairdo that never happens in real life, anyway? (MEEE, dammit!  ME!) If nothing else, at least she’ll have a few more good stories for her future therapist. So, there’s always that…