The not so common app

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Much 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.

And lastly,

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!

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(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.

30 thoughts on “The not so common app

  1. So very true. I’d hate to be a kid today. When hubby worked for a school, he was amazed at the pressure kids were under, yet the media scoffed at the A level results (excellent by the way), saying they had it easy.
    The time of being an adult far exceeds the years of childhood, and I’m in favour of zilch periods for all. My hubby says if he wants to act his shoe size, why not? Oh, and you are NEVER too old to bounce on a trampoline, just don’t expect to be able to do the double somersaults anymore. Many of the firms that hire out these bouncy castle things allow a 20 minute session for adults only!

  2. As an adult (of which my bride would most likely say I qualify for only due to my age)… I find with three beautiful children, my fiefdom has shrunk to a small portal on the inside of my truck; and that is only we are in cooperari.

    I do miss the freedoms of youth. Not the bulling by some former classmates (who are now either in prison, divorced and in prison, or heavily medicated due to state mandates placed upon them). I digress. As an adult, the mass of many joyful, some torrid responsibilities are, as you know powerfully overwhelming. Yet, I do miss the age of life when the question was, “Where’s Stosh, it’s dark outside?” “Don’t worry, he’ll be home when he’s hungry.”

    Freedom. I concur with Bill Watterson and often live, spiritually as Calvin does. At times it seems the best way to stay sane in today’s world.

    Another wonderful article Shelley… Rob, LOVE the “Beauty on the inside” sketch. Freak’n hilarious!


    Stoshu 🙂

  3. An excellent post, as always, Shelley! I think of what kids have to endure nowadays and am so glad those days are behind me. The pressure to succeed seems more intense than ever. I’m also thankful that I went to community college for the first two years of my higher education; at seventeen, I was in no position to make a decision as to what I wanted to do with my life. And keep insisting on those family dinners–the kids will look back one day and appreciate the time you spent together.

    • Many thanks, Miranda. If only we could transfer what tiny bit of knowledge we possess to our youthful selves – or at least to our kids to spare them some of the angst of school and career decisions. As much as both my kids have been so certain for most of their lives with the direction they want to pursue in their adulthood, I keep finding myself shouting after the bus, “You can still be a ballerina or a fireman if you change your mind!” It’s caught by the wind. Maybe the sheep heard it. 😉

  4. What a hoot! I’ve been slotting you into temperament zones within my own family that I grew up in. You’re certainly a shmoosh of some of my sisters…but if I had to be rigid, you’re more like the type A personality of a sister I call, “The Exotic”.

    As well, between bursts of laughter — like any blogger mom (who presently has teenagers) — I’m already crafting inspirational blog lines, triggered by your own.

    Those pics give wings to your words — what a great post! (I want MORE.)

    • I love it! Writers helping writers. I say we take inspiration wherever we can grab it–and your blog posts are always full of terrific bits and pieces too. As far as being “type A” or remotely exotic, I think most folk who know me would find that within the typical 16 personality types, there is no classification for “not quite ready for a vacation at the laughing academy, but nuts nonetheless.” The psychological evaluation is ongoing. 🙂

    • Oh, Susannah, hang in there. Keep embracing your brainy, geeky weirdness and never, ever let that go. It’s the one thing I absolutely adore most about my own newly minted eighteen year-old. I’ve always told my kids, “try absolutely everything you want to, but just don’t do it regular.” I think you are exactly that kind of girl as well, and it’s what I like most about your blog and posts. Keep it up, girlie! I’m rooting for you!

  5. From youth to adult to elder, we truly need pause and think of life through the eyes of Wilily Wonka. “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.” – Willy Wonka

    Every stage of life has its battles, it is however; how we choose to deal with them be it with, or without help.

    Carpe Diem – Quintus Horatius Flaccus

    Much respect,

    Stoshu 🙂

  6. Well said! College was also very hectic for me with several part-time jobs, student teaching, etc. I was under the impression, for god knows why, that once I got through my first few years of teaching, it would all pan out and life would settle into something manageable; however, it only got crazier. I almost wish I could go back to college just to get a break. 🙂

    • It’s funny sometimes when you think back on how we were so desperate to hurry on with life and grow up, and then somewhere you reach a hidden crest, like the apex of a roller coaster, and can’t stop it all flashing past as you zoom toward the end of the ride. As they say, youth is wasted on the young.
      Regardless, many thanks for taking the time to share some words!

  7. Great read…does remind me of the time I was still in college, thinking life would begin sometime after graduation. Well, it’s been about 7 years since I graduated… …

    • Don’t forget, you’ve got two other lives you’re busy leading while trying to manage this one as well. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Personally, I don’t know how you how you do it with such effortless aplomb.

  8. As life moves on it gets crazier and crazier. When I pause to look back a little bit things were always in a rush rush for me. Never time to even breathe properly. It is moving on at the same speed. I love the photo of being beautiful from inside, love the concept and I am afraid to face that time in future. Another lovely post Shelley. Take care and God bless.

    • Beautiful from the inside is my favorite sketch too!
      I think you bring up some good points about the “rush rush” syndrome many of us have made routine. I’m trying to think more about being present in the moment. And being a good mirror for those I’m trying to teach.
      Thanks for reading, Samina!

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