Back to school: Reflections on lessons still to learn as son heads into senior year

We have hit the home stretch — that final year of grade school. Senior year of high school.

How did this happen?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that my husband and I dropped 5-year-old Benjamin off at his kindergarten classroom and stood outside the doorway trying to see what was going on while hoping he didn’t see us?

We’ve done it all: parent-teacher conferences, trips to the principal’s office, field trips, clubs, science fairs, impossibly challenging projects that had us cursing teachers’ names, tests failed, tests aced, school performances that had us beaming with pride.

Now, in this senior year, I can’t help thinking about all the things we still need to teach him. We thought we had more time.

RELATED: Taking a kid to college this month, read this

Luckily, this year Benjamin is actually taking a class called “How to Be an Adult,” because in between physics and calculus, sometimes real life skills take a back seat.

RELATED: Why college kids are coming back home sick

So, for Ben, here’s my list of things to learn this year:

Benjamin Villalpando holds up his learners permit after getting it earlier this year. Nicole Villalpando/Austin-American-Statesman

1. How to drive. Yes, you have a permit, and, yes, we practice, but in this world where Uber is at the touch of your fingertips, you’re not really seeing the point. And you’re not alone. A lot of your classmates aren’t licensed drivers either. Dude, it’s a life skill. Let me help you get it.

2. How to manage money. Debit cards, credit cards, checking accounts, that’s all something that happens in theory. This year we’re moving beyond the savings account to having a checking account with a debit card to practice working within a budget before college next year.

3. How to advocate for your own medical care. It’s time to practice how to make a doctor’s appointment, refill medication and use the insurance card. Mom needs to ease out of being the medical manager.

Ben Villalpando couldn’t wait to start kindergarten in 2006. Now he’s looking at colleges. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

4. How to feed yourself. Yes, you’re a wiz at making cookies, sandwiches and frozen pizza. Let’s try to expand those chef skills.

5. How to clothe yourself. Hooray, you finally mastered the washer and dryer, but shockingly, we haven’t really had you go shopping for clothes. Why? Because you hate it. But it’s time to head to the store, pick out your size and try things on, and then buy them with your debit card. Maybe if you knew how much those jeans cost, they wouldn’t be on the floor all the time.

6. How to read a map and navigate public transportation. If Mom or Dad have always driven you everywhere, can you find your way? Next year at college will you be able to get from your dorm to class, to the grocery store or anywhere else you might want to go?

7. How to have a conversation. In this world of texting, let’s make sure you can talk to people, make eye contact and be comfortable talking to a stranger. (Yes, I know we told you never to talk to strangers, but now you’re going to have to.)

8. How to advocate for yourself to get something fixed. If you have an issue with a store, a professor, a service provider, your dorm room, will you know how to effectively state your case and ask for what you need? Mom or Dad won’t be there to do it for you next year.

9. How to manage your time. That nice alarm that wakes you up every morning with a kiss? That won’t be coming to your dorm room. Nor will the reminder service that tells you to get off your phone and do your homework. You’ll have to do it yourself. Senior year is a great year to build up these skills.

10. How to access resources. If you had a problem, would you know where to turn? If Mom or Dad are the only ones with the power to Google or ask a school administrator what is available to you, what will happen next year? Will you be able to find academic counseling services, tutoring, or even know what the weather is going to be like that day and what clothing is appropriate?

I’m sure there is more to consider, more to teach and more to learn. This time next year, you’ll be off on a new adventure. And that will be wonderfully exciting  —and a little bit scary, too. Good luck, sweet Ben.


View Comments 0