All parents with adult children say it: Enjoy your kids, because they’ll be gone before you know it.
All parents in the throes of diapers, tantrums, school choices, and the craziness of early teens think it: This will never end.
And then it does.
My older child is 17, and I can assure you that it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. At the same time, it seemed to pass very, very slowly. But there’s been an unexpected beauty as we move into our last school year with two kids at home: College applications.
Now you’re thinking: She’s really lost it. College applications? Beauty? All that stress of having teenagers has gotten to her.
Actually, I’ve found this beauty in just one aspect of college applications: reading my son’s essays. He’s applying to a healthy number of colleges (nowhere near the 30-40 that some students are doing these days), and each one wants essays on slightly different topics. Most of them are predictable—what makes you different? what makes you like other people? what makes you right for our college? But the best essays, my son knows, are the ones that contain very specific and memorable answers.
The process has made someone who is not usually your most reflective kid sit back and look at his experiences. Reading his essays has been illuminating for his parents. For him, writing them has challenged him to think about his education, his interests, his community, and more.
It’s given him a chance to write about the weirdness of Santa Cruz—how many applicants get to write about Chongo, the stuffed gorilla who is the Revivalution Party’s candidate for president?
It’s given him the chance to consider his own shortcomings—why did I resist learning math all that time? When I finally got around to committing myself to it, I found out I liked it.
And it’s given his parents a chance to see the childhood we guided him through from his perspective. I’ve learned what he remembers best from the schools he went to. I learned what he appreciates most about our agreeing to homeschool him starting in sixth grade. I learned how he sees himself as a person, and how he hopes that others will see him.
I know a lot of parents with younger children who cause themselves undue stress worrying about college. Today, I’m here to give you a little taste of how you can also enjoy it. Yes, we’re worrying about whether he’ll get into his top choice. Yes, we’re wondering whether we encouraged him to do enough to prepare. And certainly, we’re worried about how much we’re going to have to pay.
But it’s important to remember: When you’re looking at a rose, you don’t have to spend all the time focusing on the thorns.