To My Son On Our College Road Trip: Thank You!

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When my first child was born, a wise friend said, “Our babies choose us. Consider your role as a mother a privilege and treat it with reverence.” She believed the souls of our children rest in heaven waiting to find us. I don’t know if it’s true, but I am in the thick of the college admissions process with my oldest, and lately, there has been very little reverence and much more hand-wringing.

William is a great student, an artist, a runner, an activist. He would make any mother proud. He is also a seventeen year old boy who prefers to hang with his friends than worry about his college applications. No problem; I am doing enough worrying for the both of us. I'm not sure if nagging is the right word, but I do know that most of our conversations these days seem to start with “did you” and end with “you better.”

He wants to go to a top school. Can he get in? Who knows. He hasn’t raised $100,000 for the dying children of Africa, he didn’t win the national cross country meet, and he won’t find a cure for cancer in the next six months before his applications are due.

He’s just a kid trying to figure out who he is in this world. Sure, he’s hard working and dedicated and funny and caring. As far as I am concerned, any school would be lucky to have him, but with the current freshman class at UCLA having had an incoming GPA average of 4.5 (it’s the same at other elite schools), his 4.0 might not measure up in the eyes of the admissions committee.

Dartmouth CollegeWe, like thousands of other hopefuls, spent spring break on a college tour. We left sunny Californian to travel up and down the east coast. We started in Boston where the temperature was a lofty 38 degrees. Drove to New Hampshire where the temperature dropped to 30 degrees (this does not include wind chill) and then headed down through Connecticut, New York, and finally Pennsylvania where the blinding rain convinced him UPenn was not an option.

We visited eight schools in five days. We compared dorm rooms, campus activities, cafeteria food. We meet with professors, admissions officers, and students. We kept notes, took pictures, and talked. He loved Dartmouth, hated Wesleyan, and just couldn’t see himself at Pratt. Through it all, I tried to imagine my son there, not here with me.

As we drove the final lap of our college trip to the airport, I realized this wasn’t the first time I have had to let go and but it might be the last. It left me floating somewhere in between pride, gratitude, and despair.

Like a summer storm that comes as quickly as it goes, I suddenly burst into deep, mournful sobs. William didn’t know what to do. “Mom, are you ok?” His eyes were wide with shock and worry. I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t even see the road in front of me.

Finally, the tears subsided and I was able to say, “Thank you for the gift of making me a mother. It has been the greatest joy of my life. I am so honored you chose me.”

He laughed, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “You’re so weird.”

Author Laura Davis inspired me with her own college road trip story and blogger AlwaysMomof4 moved me with her open letter to her son's college. Don't forget to read Lynn O'Shaugnessy's blog on the 8 things you must do on your college road trip. The most important advice I got was to remember this may be the last time you get to be one-on-one with your child so have fun!

Gloria Steinem once said, "The first problem for all of us, women and men, is not to learn but to unlearn." I am working on unlearning each and every day. How about you? Lisen www.prismwork.com

Photo Credit: Armstrong White.

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