1/14/2012

"The Great College Adventure" - Pt I

I've been so busy the past year and a half, I haven't written anything about the most absorbing aspect of all our lives : Son Number One's "The Great College Adventure". Last year, son #1 was a senior in high school. As a family, we experienced what seems typical for many parents of seniors I know these days: the parental nagging to get college applications done on time, the parental nagging for him to keep his grades up, the parental nagging for him to go to class, turn in his homework/papers/projects, go to bed, eat, bathe, take vitamins, clean his room, stop torturing his brother, come in by curfew, stop spending money he doesn't have, do his laundry, do his chores, bathe, shave, cut his hair, don't wreck the car, don't get a MIP, etc etc etc.
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Son #1 fought us every step of the way, with his typical approach: passivity. ( Now, Son #2, entirely different. Wait till that story gets rolling....it's a pip.) He put off everything till the last minute. Refused to apply to any college except his #1 choice. (We secretly applied to a few back-ups for him , just in case.) He managed to get his electronic application in with one minute to spare before the midnight deadline, then we all panicked thinking the registrar had not sent the transcript in, on time. (She did.) All of this was exacerbated by the fact that hubster has ADHD and travels all the time, and I was in grad school and this all went down during finals week for me. I simply could not pay attention to the details or help him write /proofread his essays (as I know many moms have). It was a classic example of what not to do.
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Son #1 didn't get into his first choice college- he got wait-listed. He needed to be in the top 8 % of his graduating class to make that cut , and his class rank was 8.2 %. (He did get into some of the back-ups we applied to, and was offered serious money in scholarships to attend them, but refused to go.) So we sat him down and figured out the plan...... his first choice college offered him this option: attend one of our satellite campuses for a year, make a B average, and then you can come on over, no need to re-apply. After much discussion, we nudged him into choosing what we thought was the best satellite campus for him, and off he went.
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I remember when I went off to college: I loaded up the trunk of my 1971 Duster with a case of Heineken (a gift from an admirer), about 50 pairs of expensive high-heeled shoes, my record collection, and a stack of frilly dresses in lollipop colors. Drove off into the sunset sans parents - they were embroiled in a nasty divorce, and it was truly better to leave them behind, trust me- with only my best gf in attendance. She stayed during orientation week and we went to all the parties together, then she flew home and took herself off to her college (probably with her parents, who were fairly normal. I was jealous.) My home life was so wretched that I didn't go back at Thanksgiving, but stayed away, in the cold dorms (they turned the heat off at holidays), and ate dinner at a kindly professor's house along with the other misfits who were orphans or from Malaysia and could not afford to fly back for only 4 days. I liked it that way.
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When we all came home at Christmas, there were the usual parties, with everyone posturing about how much they had changed, how sophisticated we had all become. My friends who had gone Ivy League showed up in monstrous black coats that went down to their ankles, wearing old Ray Bans, like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business". Ex high-school bf who had gone to Duke got into a snit with ex high school bf who had gone to Brown, and the drama was all very exciting. (Who knew they were both gay, but just hadn't figured it out yet?) We all acted as cool as we knew how, secretly hiding the fact that our first semester grades probably weren't that great. I had a job, worked as many hours as possible, and saved up all my money to buy realistic clothes for college- jeans, walking shoes, an umbrella bc it rained all the time - I never wore any of the high heeled shoes or lollipop colored dresses once I got there. They just took up pointless space in the tiny dorm room closet.
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Son #1 went off to college and promptly wrecked his car. I don't think he'd been there a week. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt. Oh well, now my dear, you get to learn what it is like to be carless. (We are refusing to replace the car.) His life is complicated by the fact that he has a serious gf in the next town over, about an hour away. Bummer. Now gf drives all the time to see him, and is starting to resent it (the time, the gas money.) He's about to learn some real life lessons here, such as : you can't just take , in a relationship. you have to give, too. Get a job. Don't trash, ignore, or take for granted the stuff/people you have, take care of them.
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On a positive note, son #1 seems happy in his college experiences. His dorm is a 4 bedroom style apt, and he gets along with his roommates just fine. (No terrible roommate problems that come from sharing a tiny room with a total stranger.) The cafeteria he eats at looks like Luby's and has an "all you care to eat 24/7" policy, unlike my college dining hall that served mystery meat and only 7 portions for 8 young ladies ( cheaping out, on the theory that "someone is always on a diet".) Son #1 has joined an intramural football league and seems to be making friends. He came home at Thanksgiving and seemed normal. He come home after finals in December and looked tired and thin but ok. His grades were better than mine or hubster's that first semester of college, but not good enough to get him where he wants to go. He's going to have to work really hard this spring semester, or else come up with "plan B" for his life - whatever that is going to be.
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Am I stressing about all this? I don't know if it's the fact that I am too old, too tired, heavily medicated, or just an expert at zen meditation, but I seem to be reacting to all this with a "que sera, sera" sort of attitude. I do feel as if a weight has been lifted, as if I am no longer responsible for Son #1's life any more. Like I am watching all this, through a window, or on tv. During several of my little pep talks with him through these travails, I have maintained that the path of my life has forked, and he is now headed down the path of his own life. He will reap the benefits and hardships of his own actions and choices, good or bad. I am here to offer advice, a sounding board, money if I can spare it, now and then, unconditional love always, but it is his life to live. Carpe Diem!

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What does Son #1 think about all this ? You can read his blog:
http://strecklife.blogspot.com/

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