Of the many milestones over the past year, I think the most difficult was watching Marina take her very first class. It was a decision we fell into (all our homeschooling friends were putting their teens in college classes) and as with any fall, it took our breath away and left us smarting from the sudden impact.
The first thing I noticed is that many people are not sympathetic when you tell them your daughter is having difficulty with her one college class. Most kids have gone to school for at least thirteen years. They have clocked thousands of hours behind a desk in class and at home with homework. High school students have handed in dozens of papers and essays by the time they graduate. The idea of my daughter being anxious about her one class must seem pretty silly to them. And yet I can assure you, she shed many tears about whether she was ready for this. In fact, the anxiety was made worse by the lack of empathy she received. Add to this her need to prove that she could do it because she was homeschooled. All this pressure she put on herself while I stood by her and told her I would rather she withdrew from the class than feel she had to be the best of the best.
Marina takes her work seriously. She reminds me of myself as a college freshman. She does not measure herself against others. She felt the pressure of proving herself to herself, and in a completely new situation. She worried over every word of every essay. I read through many of them and offered advice whenever possible. I was concerned about the hours she spent in front of her laptop, alternating between online class discussions and homework assignments. This wasn't any college course. She had English 101 with one of the toughest professors at the school. When she showed me the instructions for her term project, I panicked. There were three pages of directions! When she eventually went to the college writing center for help, her tutor was surprised at the amount of work required! I pat myself on the back for restraining myself from invading her class and yelling at the professor for stressing my baby.
In the end, she got through it. Occasionally, she had glimpses of her fellow classmates' anxiety. She learned that she wasn't alone in her worries, even if this didn't help allay those concerns. By the time she went in for her final, the class was half its original size and she was one of the few with a completed portfolio and perfect attendance.
Throughout the long months of panic and tears, I repeatedly told her that this would end. I pointed out her periods of enjoying the class. Just as she loves her library job but has her less than stellar days, I knew she loved taking this class even though it wasn't easy. The only difference was that she received her reward at work every two weeks in the form of a paycheck. She hadn't yet received her reward for her class work, because no matter how many papers were returned to her, she worried about the next one. I knew that when that first grade was officially entered, she would be aglow with happiness. The final grade would come without future concerns. It would mean she was finished with this one class.
And yes, she got an "A". That's my girl!