Can I Stop Yet?

If Josh gets into an ace university, it's only because A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian didn't catch my interest. I'd avoided reading a friend's borrowed Admission Matters for two months, passing over the intimating tome for novels, memoirs and the occasional People magazine. It sat on my coffee table week after week, brushed aside by not only me but also my upper education-bound son and his impressively educated father. Me? Why should I read it? I did my job as a parent, I reasoned. I'm done. Josh is a good kid with a good future. If he wants to get into the Ivy League, let him figure out the finer details.

Oh, the nasty looks I've gotten for saying that! Oh, the curt little lectures I've heard! "You've got to read the books!" parents of former teens admonished. "Take him on the road! Force him to see the campuses!" And, unspoken, "Gather the paperwork! Fill it out! Run it by an expert! Buy the recruiters diamonds! Sleep with them if you have to!"


Apparently getting into college is no longer just the high school senior's job. Now the effort is a family affair.


Granted, the whole process is tougher than it was when we were kids. Competition is stiffer for the best schools, and seemingly every other A student in America has been privately tutored since two years before they took the PSAT and now have new tutors to see them through the application process. Josh has earned his way up the academic ladder on his own -- by studying -- and I'll support him in any way he wants. But only the obvious stuff. Want me to drive you to community college so you have a solid shot at valedictorian? Want me to pay for an online SAT course? Heck, I'll even cook you a nice breakfast the morning of the exam and I'll sharpen your pencils. But until my stack of to-reads ran short, I refused to do more.


Here's how I see it: I put in the efforts up front. I refrained from drinking while I pregnant. Wine and coffee -- both taboo. I breast fed for 10 months even though I suffered excruciating pain for more weeks than I care to recall. I stocked the house with kiddie books and read them all he wanted -- and he sometimes wanted 40 in one sitting. "You can watch TV the rest of your life," I reasoned. "Be there for him now."Jigsaw puzzles, Candy Land, Trouble ... I may have taught him games too well, because I can't even once keep up in Scrabble Scoring Anagrams. I sat through years of school meetings and basketball games. We baked and we swam and we talked.


And then he was gone, pretty much. Josh is responsible, he gets good grades, he volunteers, he holds a job. I'm done, right? Now it's time to enjoy each other's company, occasionally wrestle over the remote control, and hope for happy Sunday dinners when he can pull himself away from his friends.


So why does everyone think I'm the one who has to get this kid into college? If he can pull off grades better than I ever had in classes harder than any I ever took, shouldn't he be reading Admission Matters? Apparently even the authors don't think so. While they pretend to write for kids, they frequently address parents directly, such as when they suggest that we old-timers leave certain documents out where our teens might happen to come across them.


I succumbed out of boredom and now find myself intrigued. The book has excellent insider tips. I'm making mental notes of what to tell Josh and plotting when to ante up the information so he'll be most likely to absorb it. I even Xeroxed three pages last night -- twice, one set for him, another for his best friend.


I guess I'm not done after all. If you catch me ordering his textbooks in Fall 2011, hurl the "helicopter" word at me and admonish me to spend all my excess parenting energy on my other son. I still have an excuse -- and the desire -- to run his life! Although I am so very tired.