Monday, February 24, 2014

College Chronicles I

It has been some time since  the Matron blogged about her eldest, and she will do so here with caution and restraint; in sum, she will try to tell her story, not his.    It is an installment-sort of story that begins sometime last year . . . .

When He Who Cannot Be Named (HWCBN) was a high school junior, preparing for all those college tests.   This college junior entered said college exam era in an exceedingly advantageous position:   fourth in his graduating class (@ 500 strong); national honors and recognition in debate; a dizzying number of AP classes in process; slew of other good stuff.

The Matron-- college instructor that she is -- was nonetheless a Brand New Parent in this regard.   She did her homework.   She knew that her guy had a lot of good stuff going but needed those strong test scores to seal the deal.  So she offered to buy him study guides:   ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests.

And she did!

The study guides arrived!    And stagnated on a bookshelf.

The Matron suggested to HWCBN that perhaps he take an ACT prep class.   Here!  Wait!  Surprise!   Why, she had a small roster of local offerings -- look how many types of ACT and SAT classes were available.   One could go to the biggies like Sylvan or Mathnaseum, or hook up with any of the many private tutors doing the same thing for less.

HWCBN:   "Thanks, Mom.   But I have the books. I'll figure it out on my own."

Next, the Matron suggested an online course?  Again - what a surprise!  So many options, from the College Board to private companies and tutors, it would be entirely possible to immerse oneself in preparation online -- as in, from the safety of your bedroom!

HWCBN:   "Thanks, Mom.   I'll take care of this on my own."

So popped the pattern:  the Matron peddled study guides and her son said no thanks, I've got this.   But the Matron could not possibly in one million years understand what "I've gotf this" meant while the ACT study guide atrophied on the book shelf.

One week before the ACT, the Matron asked her son-- one more time, just in case -- if he might consider an online four hour class, starting tomorrow?

HWCBN put down a book he was reading and leveled his gaze, clearly exasperated:  "Mom!  After I've told you like a million times that I'll take care of this, why are you still asking me to take classes?"

This gave the Matron actual bona fide pause.   Indeed.   Her son had clearly rejected her plans for his own, yet she persisted.   Why?   Then she knew and she told him.

Matron:   "Do you remember when you were 11 and decided you want to become an expert at yo-yo?    Not only did I find you yo-yo lessons, I found Dazzling Dave, THE NATIONAL YO-YO CHAMPION, who just so happened to live forty minutes from here.   I drove you through rush hour traffic, forty minutes each way, to yo-yo lessons for a year -- sitting in Dazzling Dave's basement waiting for you with whatever assortment of pets and toddlers happened to be there.   You won a national championship in your age group that year- remember?  Well, that's the kind of mother I am.  My kid wants to learn the yo-yo?  Let's get him the National Champ for lessons!  If I  did that for an 11 year old interested in a toy -- what do you think I'm going to do for a high school junior preparing for college exams?   Considering those stakes and this personality?  I can't help myself.    I need to do whatever it takes to get you there -- wherever there is."

What did that child say?

"Thank you for the Dazzling Dave thing, Mom.  I totally get it.  But you can stop now.  You really need to.   I'll take it from here."

And the Matron realized that this is exactly what he had been saying for weeks:  I can take it from here.  She just hadn't heard.    Until that moment.

You know how the nice part of this story would be where she let it all go?   Just had that 'click' moment and walked away, not concerned one more whit about whether or not her son studied?    The moment where she understood - on a visceral level - that her young man had to be trusted with his own destiny (like it or not)?

That nice part actually happened.   She walked away and let it go.  HWCBN did indeed have his own plan and that was to study for a couple of hours the night before.      She realized this is not the way she her own fine self would have prepared . . . but she actually honestly didn't care!

It was oddly liberating to realize you cannot control another person and that perhaps some of us will not be National Yo-Yo Champions and perhaps her son will (of his own volition) get a poor test score because he didn't study.   And that would be that.

You know  how this ends with the lesson?   Where the test score comes and it's good but not great.   It's a disappointing but not dismal score - -the number the Matron expected for her very smart son who also did not study.    Yet even in the face of this disappointment - his disappointment -- she was sanguine and detached, appreciating that this series of events was running its full course, for her and her son, who would learn the value, perhaps, of study and preparation.

This, however, did not happen.

Because HWCBN aced that damn test with a near (not quite) perfect score - the kind of score that makes people jump a little with joy (okay she did that ) and puts your child into that top tiny percent.    So HWCBN's dubious lesson was that the independent path of the ill-prepared pays off, big-time.  And the Matron - limp with relief - learned that even though it is impossible to control someone, you can still get exactly what you want anyway!  Yippee!

Such was the psychological terrain marking the start of this journey . . . .


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Congrats to him!
Enjoy--please enjoy--the stepping back and letting him. It's hard to do but twice as rewarding, isn't it?

KL Crab said...

Ah Matron, I too trod down that path, the final year in high school. Praying that the actions were being completed. Now my amazing boy is graduating with a BA in 3 years with honors, returning in the fall for an accelerated MBA. Keep the faith Sister, you have prepared him as well as you could, now he must fly.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Hooray for HWCBN!
These smart kids, how do they do it? When my now-hs-senior was in 8th and 9th grades, he enjoyed working on the daily SAT questions that came in the e-mail for his older brothers. When it came time for him to take his own SAT? Shades of what you have written here in your post.
Amazingly, they DO have this, don't they?

(Still, my husband and I had to keep pestering about deadlines for college apps -- this is our 3rd kid to head off to college and we actually do know a few things by now, as I'm sure you also know!)

Cassi Renee said...

It seems to me that HWCBN's real lesson was learned long ago --if you really learn stuff the first time, you don't have to cram. I'm not surprised that he picked that up from you along the way :-)

Catherine said...

You are back just in time and I want to thank you for your post. I feel you were writing TO me, and I hear what you are saying. I am still in the process of learning the lesson to step back and let Oldest make his decisions for university applications and meeting deadlines, keeping his grades up, managing his sports schedule etc. I realize that I have to let him do this on his own. I never thought it would be so hard (and I have the joy of going through all of this next year with Youngest. oh, the anticipation...)

Minnesota Matron said...

Catherine -- honey, I am holding your hand. It's awful, isn't it? In the end, although we hold so much sway and influence (and sometimes knowledge) we are SO powerless. It's hard to watch some of these under-developed decisions unfold! Holding your hand.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Wonderful! I'm happy for you, proud Mama.

Catherine said...

Yesterday, Oldest was accepted to his first choice university program at his 3rd choice university! So now we just have to wait for first and second choice universities to answer. First choice only answers in April, so the wait seems really long. At least the lines of communication have opened up again with my son. All is brighter now and I hope to keep the faith longer the next time I am tested. It seems as though the relief came just after I gave up. Mary- thanks for the hand.

Deb said...

There are no classes to teach us how to step back, but they'd probably be very profitable if they did run! Learning to let go and trust they will be alright is a tough job. So glad to hear it went well.