People have been asking how’s our college search going. Specifically, they ask: What are you doing?
I’m sorry to report, not much.
I am armed with books and websites that I don’t look at because they’re too overwhelming, or because The Teenager has no idea what kind of school he wants to go to. He vacillates between Ivy League and County College, depending on how onerous his workload is that week.
I’ve tried to do the questionnaires on websites like College Board, an activity that’s supposed to narrow your search down to a manageable number of schools that you can then research further. I’ve done this particular questionnaire three times, each time pretending I’m The Teenager and answering questions as I think he would (or should). Each time, when I reach the end of the questionnaire, there are no suggestions. Zero. Apparently, there’s not one single college that fits my criteria.
I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.
In between my bouts of inertia, I’ve been dismantling all our old Lego sets so I can sell the pieces by the bag. There’s a local consignment shop that I give quart-sized Zip-Locks filled with hundreds of dollars worth of colorful plastic and the proprietor says there’s a waiting list for them. I sit in the basement pulling apart Harry Potter sets and Star Wars sets that result in the same back aching stiffness as when I sat for hours with my kids putting them together in the first place.
I have five huge shopping bags of Legos in my trunk right now.
Lately, The Teenager has been broaching the subject of California. As in, Would you consider letting me go to school out there?
I’ve said no to this in the past. It’s a long ways away and, you know, they have earthquakes out there. But in some ways, California would really suit him and I’m now trying to pry open my stubborn mind and at least try to consider his applying.
I’m not a big fan of earthquakes (or most any destructive act of God, really), but the main reason I don’t want him to go to school in California is because I’m afraid he’ll want to stay there forever. Should I live my life in sunny California, or should I move back to New Jersey? Duh.
He says things like, “I like such and such school, but they don’t offer a Latin minor,” and I say, “For God’s Sake, do not pick a school based on whether they offer Latin,” even though I know that if he spends a lot of time studying Latin in school, there’s a really good chance he’ll end up close to home after college; maybe even back in his old bedroom, which would address at least one of my concerns: deep down I don’t really want him to leave.
Many of the Lego sets I’m pulling apart are structures that The Teenager and I worked long and tireless hours on. The instructions have no words and you simply do the best you can to interpret what the diagrams are asking of you. There’s something about the pictograms that level the playing field for parent and child. You teach each other how to build together.
I’ve never been a Sporty Mom or a Video Game Mom or (perish the thought) an Action Figure Mom, so Legos became one of the few things I could spend time doing with my boys where we’re both really engaged – where I wanted to be doing just that.
So, not to get all goopy, but breaking down the Legos feels a little like taking apart a childhood.
There will be mothers at the consignment shop who will happily plunk down five bucks to score a bag of random Lego pieces. Mothers who have never thought about Subject SATs or how they might manage to nag their child effectively across several time zones, and are only trying to find something to occupy their kids for a time – to engage their creativity and delight them with something new.
I try to make each bag unique by distributing the cool Lego accoutrements evenly. One gets a little yellow life boat. Another gets some teeny gold Lego coins. Lego snakes in one. Lego-copter in another.
I want their new pint-sized owner to stick his smooth, perfect hand deep into the bag of plastic parts and pull something out that makes his eyes go wide. Something that he holds out to his mother and says, “Look what I got!” and it becomes another little thing that the two of them have together – that they can cherish and marvel how lucky they were to pick a bag that held such a special little secret, just for them.
I want the mother to treasure the look on his face – the look that says, You got me this…You did this for me! I want her to burn that look into her heart so she always knows where to find it, long after she herself has packed the Legos away.
I don’t think it’s getting me very far, but that's what I've been doing to get ready for college.