The Parent Imperfect doesn’t particularly like personal decisions, so what’s this about Early Decision? This is, of course, one more moment of decision that comes in the college choice process, and Early Decision happens this week for Ms. Connie. Earlier this fall, I promised to open windows on this college choice process as it transpired. I have failed. In truth, the process has been too fraught and too stress-laden to lend itself to the kind of public airing implied by a blog. Connie has been clear that she doesn’t want her process to be the subject of my reflections, so what follows is a pallid reflection of how one parent has experienced a process that is very far from ideal for anyone.
If you’ve been following this saga at all, you know that the “beautiful game” was very much a part of this college search in the early stages. My role was that of secretary, driver and observer as we visited schools that offered strong academics and the possibility that Connie might be able to continue to play the game that had come to dominate her life. She visited 15 such places and I was there for 10 of them. They were mostly in this part of the country, and the search became focused on the so-called NESCAC schools, elite private schools banded together for purposes of Division 3 sports.
I graduated from a public high school and then, after a strange detour to Northeastern University (the prototype private school), got a university diploma from UMass/Amherst. Along the way, I became a booster of public education, and continue spend a fair amount of time as part of a scrappy little group that advocates for quality and equity in the Boston Public Schools. However, in the last college search, I came to peace with the idea that public universities might not always be the best option for every student, including some in my own family. Now, in Round Two, it has been easier for me to accept that conclusion and all that it implies.
Seeing all of these schools, including the elite private ones, was actually fun, in a masochistic kind of way. Seeing Connie develop an excitement about attending some of these schools and continuing to play soccer was much more fun, without the masochism. And then, it happened. One ACL tear put the project in serious doubt and the second one, a year later, required a complete change of identity, a re-thinking of this whole process, most of all for Connie, but also for her support staff. That this change was required in the already-stressful last year of high school has not made it easier.
The parental role has shifted to trying to support Connie, first through surgery #2 and rehab #2, but also through the complete reshaping of her thinking about what she wanted to do after leaving the nation’s oldest public school. My first tendency was to say, “Let’s just forget about the college process for this year and make it through the injury and the rehab,” but with everyone around Connie immersed in this process, such a pause was a silly idea. College applications and the ups and downs of ACL rehab were going to go hand-in-hand, for us all.
I have not chosen to be unemployed (essentially) during this entire year, but we may one day look back on that being not the worst thing that could have happened. Since May 2018, we have made only one additional college visit, but there have been a few other things to do. Oscar Wilde is rumored to have said that, “the problem with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.” The college search process and ACL rehab belong in the same category.
I have been in awe of my daughter since she came flying out of her mother, almost without warning (Liz knew, but no one was listening), in a pre-birth waiting room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. There was peril in that flight, and the nurse who had been taking Dear Liz’s blood only just caught the emerging leaper in a hastily-deployed piece of plastic. The father could only gape helplessly, holding onto the “works” of the blood draw. It’s been like that with Connie, ever since, and this has been no exception.
This is still happening, as I scribble, and no one knows how it will come out. Many days, I feel as though I’m still in that waiting room, clutching the blood tubes, breathless with mouth ajar. What I do know is that at no point in my life could I have done what this young lady had done over the last six months. Amidst it all (which includes an unforgiving set of senior year courses at BLS), she came to the decision that she wanted to play the Early Decision game with a school that had not really been in the mix when the beautiful game was part of the equation. Incredibly, she connected with a Boston-born student at the school ( a former gymnastics coach of Connie’s) who had, herself, also endured two ACL tears and an end to dreams of athletic ecstasy. What are the odds of that? In the midst of her own travails, this extraordinary young woman encouraged Connie, commented on her application and welcomed our daughter into her life at the school. Forget heaven. I hope there is a special place in this life for people like this woman. I feel certain that there will be.
In many ways, seeking this Early Decision was not a good bet. It feels, at times, as if the odds would be better buying some of the Powerball tickets that are getting so much publicity these days. But in many other ways, it was exactly the thing to do. This is one more of many reaches for the stars by Connie, and while it is not the way I have lived my life, it is so great to see her do it this way. She will never wonder what might have been, if only she had dared to try. Connie didn’t just apply to the Early Decision school. She also applied Early Action to three other schools, two of them distinguished public institutions. But the focus of her mental energy has clearly been on the Early Decision.
Somehow, in the middle of all of this, she has found the time and energy to participate in a youth program sponsored by Southern Jamaica Plain Community Health Center. Among many other things, this program has forced Connie to look at (and see) the privilege behind her place in this process, despite all of its challenges. Again, in my role as motorista , I have wondered why she needs to be doing this wonderful program at exactly this moment. To her credit, Connie has had no time for my concern and has missed no session of the program, despite then endless academic deadlines and other demands she faces. Whatever her next steps may be, they will be more thoughtful steps because of this experience.
And now, this week, by all accounts, the Early Decision will “come out” (an interesting way to describe this). Some piece of mail will arrive at this house, emotions will be deeply felt and expressed, as they have been for what seems like forever. And then life will go on. Either we, the parents, will be sharing Connie’s joy and figuring out how the hell we are going to pay the amount dictated by the Early Decision, or we’ll be moving onto the next stage in this process. This, too, shall pass.