Here he is, Joe College. Cute, right? See that neck, I wanted to wrap my hands around it and squeeze several times in the last few months (NOT THAT I WOULD, but a mom can dream).
God, I love my son. He is smart, and funny and adorable. And we’re alike in lots of the ways that make us super compatible. Plus we rarely ever fight. That is, until NOW. Until an event so awful, so painful, SO HORRIFIC, it can only be compared to having to run a marathon while you are deep in the middle of the flu, and have just had your four wisdom teeth yanked out by an ironworker, or being forced not to dye your gray hair, or sitting next to someone on a plane, who is on their way to being a contestant on THE BIGGEST LOSER. What, you might wonder, is this incredibly hellacious and viciously horrible thing? For those of you who currently have seniors in high school, or have at one time, had seniors in high school, you may have already guessed what this apocalyptic misery is. If you guessed COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS, you win a free roundtrip ticket to someplace where words like “Describe a specific moment in your life and how it affected you,” or “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.” are never said. Jake really is kind of awesome. He’s always been very honest with us, and a very even-keeled, warm and open guy. He’s always done his school work, and never missed a sports practice. He and I have really never had a bad time together, until several months ago, when this ridiculous college thing reared it’s time- consuming and ugly head, and I went from being referred to as the “best mom,” to “the mom, formerly known as the best.” I began back in the summer, telling Jake that he should start thinking about his essay. We talked about it walking the beach one day, and I was impressed with his idea. It was fluid and smart. This will be a snap, I thought. Check that box. But as the summer progressed, his essay did not. Despite that I continually, IN MY NICEST VOICE, MIND YOU, told him it would probably be a good idea to begin the essay, since he would have school work AND college stuff to do at the same time when school began, but all I ever got back from him was a nasty stare and an, “I will.” We hired a coach. This would be good. He would throw down the sledgehammer, and we would be the cheering, supportive parents patting him on the back, later starring as the perfect mom and dad, when he reminisced about getting into college with his new college friends, who all said some version of, “YOU’RE SO LUCKY, MY PARENTS SUCK.” But, NO the college coach I ‘d thought had the right personality for Jake, did not. On Monday of the week his first application was due, (one application that took care of five of the University of California’s in one click of a button, oh, and five months of nagging) he was trying out for varsity basketball. This was the culmination of three knee surgeries, and three years of being co-captain on both his freshman team and his JV team. He handed me his computer and showed me a first paragraph of an essay he had hoped he could tailor around the main essay the college coach and he had been working on (which, by the way, still wasn’t finished, and which by the way, had nothing to do with the prompt for the application due in FOUR DAYS ). I felt heartburn down to my toes, nausea so fierce, I thought I might projectile vomit. Total and utter panic. Gimme a paper bag, someone. And then the worst thing in the world happened, (not really, but just listen and don’t question my hyperbole here, ok) he was cut from the varsity team. It was Wednesday.The application was due on Friday. IT WAS NOT PRETTY, PEOPLE. Major depression struck. The kid just wanted to sleep. Needless to say, it was not prime time to get his first college application done. I was so preposterously angry, I could barely talk to him. Why had he waited until the week it was due? WHAT WAS HE THINKING? WHERE WAS THE COLLEGE COACH (this was our first inkling that he was not the right man for the job) And by the way, where did that basketball coach LIVE, I had a few choice things TO SAY (and do) TO HIM. But my husband, THE SAINT OF PATIENCE, literally sat with Jake every step of the way, and gave him moral support, and he made the deadline with like four minutes to spare. BUT that was just the beginning of some of the most unpleasant moments I’ve spent with my boy in his 18 years. There was yelling, screaming so loud, I thought the police would come and we would be featured in that section of The Tab called “Brookline Incident Reports,” editing, crying (that was me), stress eating, and watching virtually any kind of tv to avoid working on the dreaded applications. And there were many, many more wonderful and exciting moments in this super fun, I-Can’t-Wait-To-Do-It-Again process. But, nothing lasts forever (THANK GOD), and this morning the last application went into cyberworld. We celebrated like you’d think we won the freaking powerball. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH GRATITUDE IN THE WORLD to express how grateful I am that this thing is OVER. The lesson: MAKE YOUR CHILDREN START THEIR COLLEGE ESSAYS BEFORE THEY ARE WEANED FROM THE BOTTLE. I’m telling you, this is good advice. It will save you one day. I know you don’t think so, but you just wait.