When my three sons were all still in car seats and drinking out of sippy cups, I had always heard from parents of older kids, just you wait. Even as those words were spoken to me time and time again, it never really registered. After all, what could possibly be more difficult or challenging than the physicalities of bathing young children and constantly keeping up with clothes that had permanent spit-up stains on them? Years passed, and those Pre-K boys signed up for YMCA sports and began regular schools. The dirty clothes turned into smelly and dirt soaked. Needless, to say, the unspoken competition began regarding whose parents were going to go that extra step and file for that tax write-off and also ensure that their second grader would be awarded the X-box because his overall tally was so high. The craziness had officially begun.
Between first grade and senior year, countless student council elections, A- and B-team rosters, and Homecoming courts, all of the kids go through plenty of highs and lows. Despite all of us having been there and lived through it, our children feel that we have zero idea as to what they are actually going through. Truthfully, they are both right and wrong. Undoubtedly, we can relate to similar heartbreaks and disappointments, and remember the excitement of hearing our names called out over the loudspeaker after being selected for something. We can also still recall a tinge of sadness when thinking about the Valentines candies that were delivered to the classrooms and our crush didn’t spend the money on us. Growing up is hard, and the fierce competition between our children has only intensified. How difficult it has become to encourage one another when our best friends are our competitors.
My senior has spent years hitting the books while pursuing outside interests. Perhaps being the first-born child he always experienced the cliché of overachieving. I am a single parent, living in a medium-sized community and have children attending public schools. Don’t get me wrong, these boys have never lacked for anything and have been blessed with opportunities that most kids don’t have. However, despite all of his successes, the finality of this last year of high school had set in. He had been invited to numerous meetings, interviews, and camps to the cream of the crop of higher education. He had officially set his sights on a top-tier university. As proud as I was of him, I was scared. I knew how difficult this path was going to be. We don’t have a storied last name or an Ivy League legacy. Truth be told, he was now being thrown into the real world, both the anonymity, the statistics, and the realization that life will not always be fair. It is so difficult to have to release your child into what we have been living in for years.
A SCANDAL BREAKS OUT AS COLLEGE DECISIONS ARRIVE
After an amazing Spring Break and Pre-Graduation trip, and a week away from all internet and news, we arrived home to hear the headlines of the recent college admissions scandal. The timing could not have been worse. The downcast look on my son’s face and his initial thoughts after hearing about the accusations made for a very long couple of weeks. On one hand, no parent wants to give their child false expectations, but there still must be something to be said for faith and sheer hard work over having the right connections and deep pockets. Nice guys often don’t finish last — they’re the ones who don’t give up on their dreams — and more times than not, it works out in the end.
A few weeks ago, several big named schools were announcing their decisions at 6:00 p.m. As much as I tried to block it out of my head, I thought about it all day long. I began to feel a bit selfish because I wasn’t sure if the final email would be more of a relief for me or for my son who had put in endless nights of studying. I had mentally prepared a few different speeches for various outcomes and did believe that my 18-year-old would be alright, no matter what.
Those next couple of minutes as we waited to hear the school’s decision were more surreal than of the scrimmages, school projects, first dances, and finally getting a drivers permit end up with what the next chapter of what his life might be. He had eight schools respond to him, some with a solid “No,” a couple of waitlists, but tears came as he was accepted to a school he has always dreamed about since he was four years old: Harvard. Next time you have to have a real conversation with your child about their self-doubts or fears, be confident in saying that life is not always fair. However, being true to yourself and working hard will pay off. It happens more often than not.