Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Latest College Visit

The warning everyone gives new parents is finally coming true in my family: “Before you know it they’ll be heading off to college.” Before that becomes a reality, however, there is the minor matter of figuring out what school my oldest daughter will attend. The process has been far less painful than I anticipated, but that might be partly because my daughter is very independent and has pretty much done all the work herself. She is blessed with having a very accessible and helpful guidance counselor, and at this point I think my daughter just enjoys chatting with the poor woman and hanging out in her office. She has spent so much time with her counselor that the secretary in the guidance center not only knows my daughter’s first and last name but also what class she happens to be missing when she writes her a hall pass back to class. My main involvement in the whole process has been showing up on the designated days for campus visits. Two schools have emerged as frontrunners.

A few weeks ago, my daughter told me she wanted to visit one of the finalists a second time; we initially looked at this particular school over the summer and there weren’t many students there. Without really questioning the logic of driving 3 ½ hours to simply walk around a campus we had already toured, I agreed to the trip. This school is secretly my top pick of the two finalists, but I need to play it cool. My finely tuned parenting instincts have revealed that 17-year olds do not always value the opinions of their parents as much as their parents think they should, so I’m been employing something called reverse psychology. If I push too hard for the school I like, I’ll push her toward the other one. This reverse psychology is a little risky, partly because she’s not a toddler and partly because she’s actually taking psychology in school right now. Not only have we been the recipients of some free (and unsolicited) analysis, but she also seems to have become more adept at identifying such trickery.

Due to my daughter’s schedule, we were pretty much stuck visiting the school on a Sunday. This threw me a little since Sunday is typically my official day to get ready for the following week: I do laundry, plan dinners, head to Jewel, conduct some high level schedule conflict resolution and other equally fun weekend activities. Determined to make this visit happen, however, I did the week’s laundry on Saturday (which created more family confusion than it seemed like it should have) and off we went Sunday morning.

I was excited to drive north on a fall day, anticipating a beautiful drive. I didn’t factor continuous rain into that vision. The deer carcass count reached five before we had even arrived, and the only living wildlife we saw was a flock (???) of wild turkeys along the road. If you don’t know what a wild turkey looks like, I’ll just say that from a distance I thought it was a group of black garbage bags blowing from some sticks. You will definitely not find a rendering of a wild turkey on any of the holiday tableware in the Pottery Barn catalogue because who would want to serve Thanksgiving dinner on plates depicting vultures? However, about 30 minutes before we arrived, the skies cleared, the seas parted and the fall colors were indeed magnificent. My daughter did not appreciate the beauty as she had basically folded herself in half and gone to sleep with her head on a pillow on her lap about halfway through the drive; her ability to fall asleep on command in any awkward position will serve her well in college. It’s almost certainly the result of superior parenting skills!

We had a lovely walk around campus and tried not to dwell on the fact that perhaps we should have come on a weekday when we could meet with someone from the program she’s interested in (a third visit, apparently). The only black mark on the day was the fact that the campus bookstore is not open on Sundays, which threatened to overshadow everything else. We rectified it with a quick online order when we got home, although she still grumbled about not being able to wear her new sweatshirt to school on Monday. Alas…

I once lectured my kids that they were lucky to have a mother who exposed them to good music, to which I was met with some exaggerated eye rolling, so I have since downplayed that particular benefit of their lineage. The drive to visit Sunday’s school got me thinking about what the youngsters are listening to these days. The back page of Rolling Stone has always featured multiple lists, such as top albums, top pop songs, top ten songs from 1982, etc. The number of lists has grown so voluminous that it now takes up two pages in every issue. They always include a list of the top college albums, so in honor of our college visit I took a peek at that list and am sharing it here. I have the Arcade Fire album and have heard of Jenny and Johnny, but that’s about it. I guess the take-away is that college students indeed speak a foreign language. They don’t even listen to our music! Where are Sheryl Crow and Eric Clapton?

Wish me luck- there is no rest for the weary. As soon as we complete this process with my daughter, there is another daughter on her heels and we get to do it all over again. I have to admit, I like the college visits and the one-on-one time. Ask me how much I like my kids going to college in the fall when I’m crying about them leaving the nest and I’ll tell a different tale. My freshman son consoles me by telling me he’s not going college and is going to live at home forever. Isn’t that every parent’s dream? For now, enjoy the music!

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
2. Of Montreal – False Priest
3. No Age – Everything in Between
4. The Walkmen – Lisbon
5. The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream
6. Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
7. Grinderman – Grinderman 2
8. The Thermals – Personal Life
9. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
10. Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now

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