A fair definition of parenting: hardest job to have, easiest job to get.
I’ve written thousands of words about the challenges of raising a kid. But lately, I’ve been thinking about just how challenging it is to BE a kid.
I’m not so sure some of them will remember the bliss, as too many of the pleasures have been replaced with the pressures of performance and accomplishment. Yes, it’s a transition that our society has deemed necessary. Not too many folks find that living above their parents’ garage or finally landing that dream job of becoming a bail bondsman is as fulfilling as once imagined. But sometimes I feel we’re rushing them headlong into that territory.
It’s a sharp wakeup call to hear someone announce you’re too old to bounce on the trampoline any longer.
Truthfully, I don’t want it to be too late for any of us to do a few flips if we’re still feeling nimble enough. And one of these days I plan to be nimble enough again. It may take half a bottle of wine to make it so, but I’ll suffer through it somehow.
Maybe I’m chock a block full of these nagging thoughts because for the last year I’ve been riding the Wicked & Wild College Coaster. It starts off at breakneck speed, flings you through dark and formidable tunnels, leaves your stomach somewhere in the stratosphere as you plummet from an unexpected dive, and flips you over repeatedly as you grapple for a foothold on the horizon.
I’m guessing this will all end somewhere just about a week before my funeral. As that is about how long I will be hemorrhaging money in order to pay for continuing my kids’ education. I will bleed out bit by bit until nothing remains but my hollow purse and a withered puddle of skin and bones. Not terribly attractive, but by then both my children will have learned that true beauty is measured on the inside of people—and chances are, by that time, they’ll have a pretty good look at the outline of my gorgeous gallbladder.
Regardless of my efforts, I will not be able to pay for it all. And they will need to pitch in—a decision I feel they will thank me for later.
But it does put an extraordinary amount of pressure on them to have to start thinking about finances now, and where it will come from.
Yet first, they will have to gain acceptance to a university. And this cannot be achieved without filling out the applications.
All ten billion of them.
Narrowing down the choice of college is a process we went through last year. Harrowing and hilarious, we visited institutions all across the UK and America. During the last few months, the list was refined and polished down to a “T” of ten—no twelve!—No nine!—Ugh, Mother!!
These were my daughter’s typical mutterings, often times thoughtful, more often at fevered-pitch.
But of course, this is a big decision, and required careful consideration along with a lot of soothing chocolate.
So she’d configured her list to ten schools which most college counselors advised should include a good balance of:
1. Safely assume you’ll get in.
2. Most likely you’ll get in if your test scores remain where they are.
3. It’s good to aim high, and of course you can do it.
4. Oh, what the hell, let’s shoot for the moon.
Now it’s time to take all the qualifying exams, write all the essays, gather all your recommendation letters, create your supplemental material, schedule your alumni interviews and win the Powerball Jackpot Lottery so you can afford tuition.
Don’t forget you still have school, your job, your internship, your music lessons, your volunteer hours, student government, research for scholarships, the articles for the newspaper, your senior thesis project, AND AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK THE FREAKIN’ CAT LITTER COULD BE CHANGED!
(Sorry. That last one was more of a personal note to my daughter than a general statement about what all teenagers generally have on their plate.)
Still, that leaves precious little time for boyfriends, girlfriends and that most crucial obligation which usually gets tossed aside like a pair of stinky socks … sleep.
Family time is a laughable concept.
Although I’m pretty proud of myself lately simply because about three times a week on average, I have closed my ears to the insults to my cooking and the complaints about time to insist that butts will be in chairs at the kitchen table for twenty excruciating minutes while we share a meal. Or at least while I eat it.
I am thrilled when we make it past fifteen and no one has left in a fit of tears.
My goals are small, but steady and sure.
The point of this article is simply that I’m aware of just how busy our children are—and oftentimes, that busyness is created only as proof for a college essay, or a university’s common application, that they are really not so common after all.
But I think a solid dose of run-of-the-mill and commonplace is needed every once in a while. A few minutes to doze, to dream, to doodle. To accomplish zilcho.
It is wanted, it is worthy, it is wonderful.
I leave you with a quote from my second favorite sketch artist, and a very important life lesson I’m still trying to squeeze in before my kids have flown the coop:
There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want. ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes
Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.
- The Common Application to College: Great Idea, Disastrous Execution (forbes.com)
- Is It Harder to Apply for Health Care or Harvard? – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Writer accomplishes the impossible, gets interview with legendary recluse Bill Watterson of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ (mentalfloss.com)