This whole parent thing is a wild ride and nobody tells you exactly what you are in for when you get that first “When are you gonna have kids” question. Why is this like the biggest secret—the fact that nobody knows what the hell you are doing when you become a parent—or how you learn as you go along. Or maybe you don’t learn—you just fly by the seat of your pants.
After years of being a stay-at-home mom, I’ve progressed to becoming a helping-your-kids-get-out-of-the-home Mom. And I tell you, in comparison to today’s trials, those first 17 years were the easy ones. Changing diapers, midnight feedings, getting your 2 year old to sleep in her own bed, and dealing with tantrums in a crowded grocery store is nothing compared to this navigating colleges crap.
You have never felt like throwing up more than sitting in the financial aid information presentation at the college of your liking. I’m suggesting that they tape air-sickness bags to the back of every seat just in case the pit in your stomach decides to move up towards your throat. There is no mention of this part in those insipid baby-raising books—and I don’t care who you are—you can never save enough money to feel like you are home free in the signing that college application.
And there is so much work before you even get to the campus visits: you gotta encourage/threaten your teen to decide on some course of study, figure out big or small school, public or private, in state or out, university or community college. It’s a freaking maze of questions and answers that all depend on your child/young adult and whether or not they even know the answers. And don’t ask them—it just leads to deep sighs, eye rolling, and disgusted under-their-breath words for you and Dad.
It’s a no-win situation getting them to take the ACT/SAT more than once or twice, researching colleges online and actually getting them to make some sort of move towards their college years. Okay, so yes, there are those over-achievers who make the rest of us feel like losers—those kids who know exactly what they want to do, where they want to go, and how many freaking scholarships they have to pay for every minute of their education. But, my kid isn’t one of them. Nope. He has no freaking idea on any of this. And it is making my life hell.
So, we visited our first college this weekend. It was a convenient stop on the way of picking up Em at band camp at another college in another part of the state—so we made a weekend out of it. I will reiterate my thoughts of last weekend and how freakingly flat and boring our lovely State of Illinois is. But we survived and I napped…..a lot.
It was a lovely day of happy college kids and personnel all greeting us and smiling at us to show how happy and nice this college is. It was tree-lined and lovely. Its dorms were functional and…..well….dorm-a-rific. The union was updated and loaded with hip junk food places and smoothie shops. The campus seemed safe and easily navigated on foot. It was so…..so…..collegey. And it brought me back to my days of visiting campuses all those years ago.
I will have to say, that as much fun we had, it was difficult to be the parent on such a visit. We treaded carefully, chose our words even more so, and were so freaking positive you would have sworn we were aliens in our typically cynical bods. We pointed out the plus side of everything, making sure that our words wouldn’t somehow discourage Col from his choice—if it is even his choice. Who the hell knows through that grumpy you-are-embarrassing-me smirk he wears on his face daily.
We survived. We collected more paperwork than a government office, and added that school to the list of possibilities. And then we will go to a few more schools to repeat the process. You know—just to get thoroughly confused on where to go.
So, when you are sitting there awaiting the birth of your child, cleaning up barf for the third time in an hour, or trying to figure out how to get your 3 year old not to cuss in pre-school—just know it gets worse.
And no, I still haven’t figured out how the hell we are going to pay for it either.