Monday, December 1, 2008

College Visit

You know by now that we went to Palm Desert a week and a half ago, as is usual for us at this time of year. It was David's birthday, my mother's birthday and Thanksgiving, all rolled into one week.

We added an extra day to offer David the opportunity to look at colleges in the L.A. area. He's 16, and is a junior in high school (he skipped kindergarten), which means that this is the year to select a group of schools, take the SAT and other pre-college tests, write, write, write, and send in applications. So we offered him the choice of any school visits he might like to make in the L.A. area, on the way to the Desert. He was not very excited about this (read: in a hurry to get to Palm Desert and start his vacation), but at least he wanted to visit one school, which happens to be one of my alma maters (Pomona College), in Claremont.

When we planned this trip, I had arranged (with David's prior knowledge) for him to take a small group tour of the campus, led by students, with an optional meal. Gregg and I were prepared to accompany him, or not, as he wished. He didn't wish. He didn't wish to go on the tour at all, I found out, after we arrived on campus.

Mothers: I learned that we can prevent ourselves from making this error. We can allow our student to make his own arrangements. I am going to let him do this for himself, in the future.

Instead of joining the student-led tour, he wanted to walk around with us. I showed Gregg and David as much as I could, though the campus has changed in the last 30 years. I got nostalgic as I led them around, and found myself wishing that I had stayed all four years there, instead of transferring after my sophomore year. It made me reflect upon how little I knew about myself, and trusted myself, when I was in college. Being brought up in a cerebral religion had taught me to think, instead of trusting my feelings/intuition. It taught me to fear and avoid things that were considered "forbidden." I missed out on a great deal of what would have been natural & beneficial to me because of that paradigm, and I was keenly aware of it as we revisited a place of real growth, for me.

Many emotions were flooding through me as I walked around this beautiful campus, in the sunshine, with two men I love dearly. David was rude and balky the entire time. Finally, I turned to him and said, "Would you like to leave? I don't need to do this; I already went to college here. Let's go, if you want to. I've done my part in getting you here; if you don't want to take advantage of this opportunity, let's leave." Not punitive, but DONE. There is sometimes a fine line between what is about me and what is about you. I sensed that we were getting into a gray area, and I did not want to force him at all.

David decided at that point that he wanted to see the library. He loves the Seattle Public Library,and enjoyed doing research at the U of W libraries when he was in middle school. So we went to Honnold/Mudd Library, which serves the 5 Claremont colleges and two graduate schools. It has somewhere around 2 million books, plus other media in the hundreds of thousands.

We had a great time inspecting the stacks, walking up to the 7th floor, looking into various areas and cozy places to study. We spoke to a librarian, who suggested that we visit the rare books collection, so we did that next. Once inside, we were met by a wonderful curator who gave us a personal tour of some volumes dating back to the 1700s. She explained that she had arranged them on a table for a botany class, and told us what many of the books were used for, originally. Some were in written in Latin; some were made on hand-operated presses. The librarian allowed us to handle them and look through them. It was exciting and inspiring to see what was available for anyone to use in research. David was interested and polite. At the end of our visit, he thanked us for bringing him to see the campus.

I learned that what I thought would help him is not necessarily what he needs or wants. My motivation in planning this day for visiting colleges was love for him; my intention was to provide what was needed, and useful, in order for him to make a good decision for himself, but perhaps my efforts were misplaced.

Maybe the old-fashioned notion of the college tour is outdated.
Perhaps he wasn't ready, yet.
Maybe kids can find out all they want to know online, nowadays.

It's humbling to be a parent.


Smileygirl said...

I would bet 95% of parents experience this exact same thing on these tours. 100% Natural.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Yes, parenting can be humbling. You did what you thought you should do...I would have thought it to be good too, but what do we know??? we only have life lessons to go by. ;)
I love the pictures. It is scary to think of collge isn't it?????

Tara said...

As parents we try so hard to do the right thing. He will realize one day you were just doing it out of the kindness of your heart!