Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

College Road Trip 1.0

We started early. She’s only a sophomore in high school. But with college boy, we started late. And because being a mom is all about over-compensating, it’s what we did. Plus, the girl teen and the hubby were up for it. So it was off to the Twin Cities for us to visit 4 colleges.

I have to say, this was a rather entertaining and revealing trip. Here are just a few of the things I learned:

Holiday Inns still suck. I held out hope that they upgraded. Apparently not.

There is a sameness about all college students. It’s sort of an unkempt-meets-don’t-try-too-hard look. At least with the girls. And some of the boys, but very few. Oh and the girls are WAY better looking than when I was in school. The guys look the same.

It’s possible to make grand assumptions about a school in a moment or two. It’s not possible to make correct assumptions. But still, you try. It’s why you do these trips.

College costs a buttload of money. Serious cash. I’ve heard that the economy isn’t doing well. If that’s the case, how is it that 5,000+ kids and/or their families are paying private tuition that exceeds $25,000 a year? (That’s not even mentioning the schools that cost $48,000+!) There just aren’t enough scholarships to cover that kind of debt.

If you have infants or toddlers, START SAVING NOW. See above.

There is nothing quite as entertaining as making fun of people/students/tour guides as when you are on a college tour. Making up names adds to the enjoyment. Angry Girl, meet Stoner Boy. Yeah, we’re like that.

It is possible to oversell the school. If you use “quirky” multiple times during a tour, then perhaps your school isn’t as quirky as you think it is.

Every single school boasts a small student to teacher ratio. When I was in school, I didn’t want to know the teacher. They might find out I wasn’t smart.

Explain the point of walking in an empty classroom. College classrooms look exactly the same as high school classrooms, just more worn out.

College students still leave their laundry in the dryer, only to be tossed on top of the dryer, never to be claimed. Who has that many clothes that they’re not missing? Oh, right. The kids paying today’s astronomical tuition.

Here’s my old person rant: Today’s college kids have it TOO easy. They have giant libraries with lots of books but who cares when you have the internet?! They have way too many choices in cafeterias and they don’t have to wait for letters from home or friends to hear a familiar voice. Hell, they don’t even need dorm phones! They have more security than the President of the United States. These kids are coddled, I tell you. Coddled!

Apparently the next great frontier to conquer is to make your school “gender blind.” That’s right. When you sign up for housing, you may get a guy or a girl for a roommate…or perhaps a third option? I have no clue why that’s important, but it was a big selling point on the campus filled with angry young women. Maybe that’s why they’re angry.

There is no such thing as a “freshman” anymore. Now they are called “first years.” Where are we, Hogwarts? Was it because the phrase “freshman” wasn’t gender blind enough? Ugh.

Apparently college students are actually concerned about studying, interning, doing service and doing things that you are supposed to do in college. Wow. At least some things have improved over the years.

They still talk about good food on college campuses. Every college says their food is good. Is there someone out there, other than a culinary arts major, who chooses their college based upon the food? Really?

All colleges should be required to have a photo in their brochures of their school in terrible weather. Not fall. Seriously, the lovely fall photo of the campus is getting stale. There are leaves everywhere in the Midwest. Perhaps this impresses the kids from the west coast.

There is an unspoken law in which colleges must choose students who are from 1000+ miles away to appear in their promotional brochures and videos. Resist the urge to be impressed by this. Every Midwest campus will have a handful of kids from far away. Big deal.

If you are going to be a college tour guide, you must cultivate the ability to walk backwards and talk at the same time. Done well, it’s rather impressive. Especially if you manage to get through an entire tour without tripping.

“First years” should not be college tour guides. Once they tell you that they are a freshman (ha! I said it!), everything after that loses credibility. They know nothing about college. Nothing.

I know I’m not the one going back to college, but I can’t help creating this bizarre scenario in my head where I redo everything wrong that I did in college. I’m smarter, more savvy, actually study and GET INVOLVED. I wonder what middle-aged-me would be like if I actually did that.

Despite all of the “resources” available, I think choosing a college today is much more difficult. There is such a thing as too many choices. We’re still two years away from making that fateful decision, and I’m already overwhelmed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Homeland Security

A truth revealed itself to me this morning. We mothers spend a fair amount of time wishing our kids would be home and get home safely. We spend roughly the same amount of time secretly wishing they would go away…just for a little while.

The truth is, we love our children. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we like spending time with them. Given that my nest is sometimes empty, I’m cherishing every family meal as if it were the Last Supper. As surprisingly educated verbal lobs bounce across the table (who knew they were actually learning something in school?!), I listen in amazement as they spout opinions and ideas that have merit and thought behind them.

But it definitely goes without saying, in fact, we parents are afraid to say it, that teen and young adult children make our lives kinda complicated. As parents, we’re not really sure what we’re supposed to do. (Shhh, don’t tell them this. They think we’ve actually thought this through.)

If you ask the kids, they’d say that we have no business being in their business. Sometimes they’re right. We should leave them alone to make their own mistakes, dress badly, wake up late and find their own jobs. But seriously. When have you met a mother who has minded her own business? I’ve never studied Greek or Latin, but I’m pretty sure that “Mother” means “I care too much” in both of those languages.

The high school child has told us, in no uncertain terms, that our opinions have no value, our comments are unwelcome and the information dissemination will be on a need-to-know basis. (Need-to-know can be interchanged with need money.) Frankly, the Geneva Convention should have a section on “Humane Conversations with a Smart-Ass High School Kid Who Knows Everything.”

Once the college child, a.k.a. Human Cyclone, has arrived in one piece on terra familia firma, they spread their crap and circumstance all over our formerly well-ordered households. They are Peanuts’ Pig Pen to our Martha Stewart. Suffice it to say, you know they’ve arrived.

But that’s not the tricky part. What throws our yin and yang into cosmic imbalance is that while they were away, despite our best efforts, they started doing things their way. God, that’s infuriating! How dare they fold clothes differently than dear old Mom! The nerve of them to hang their jacket on a dining room chair!

When my kids were little, I remember feeling bamboozled when I would pick them up from child care and they would fall apart in front of me. The ever-competent teachers would assure me that the kids had a marvelous time that day and were smiling and laughing mere seconds before I walked in the door. So why wasn’t I greeted with a flurry of hugs and kisses instead of tears and whining? It’s because they waited for me to fall apart – an odd concept that continues to prove itself over time.

You see, our kids go out into the cold, impersonal world and put on their best faces. They act brave and funny and interesting and social and perhaps even polite. And then they walk in the door of our home, take off their wall of defense and spew back all of the low self-esteem, inadequacies, anger and injustice they’ve been holding in all day or all semester.

That’s the hard, cold truth. They save it for us, because right now, we’re their most important people. The ones they trust to keep loving them despite their attempts to make us feel otherwise.

I guess that’s OK. I’ll take what little I can get, while I can still get it.

But dammit, washing a dish once a week won’t kill them, will it?! Oh, who am I kidding?