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Ready for College: My Son Has One Foot Out the Door, But I’m Not Ready!

Being Ready for College

One day they just started coming. Mixed in with all the normal bills and advertisements and catalogs from glittery tween fashion stores was a stack of letters addressed to my teen from colleges all over the country. On the first day, there were eight. The stationery was vibrant, and the college logos were impressive enough to fill me with parent pride. I even lined up all of those pretty envelopes and posted a picture of them on Instagram.

And now every time we open the mailbox, we pull out another pile. Each piece of correspondence calls out to my 10th grade son with a new verse in that old college siren song: Open me! Come visit me! Let me teach you how to write your essay! Enroll in a summer course! Encourage your parents to take out a second mortgage!

Just like that, pride has turned to panic.

I’m Not Ready For College

Don’t get me wrong—I knew this day was coming. I just didn’t expect it so soon. We still haven’t had a chance to remove the truck wallpaper from our teen son’s bedroom walls. How can he be ready for college? He’s never even made his own ramen.

Granted, the letters are coming pretty early. Blame it on a respectable score on the pre-Pre SAT. And an errant but well-meaning checkmark in that little box that we adults have learned never, never to let our No. 2 pencils even hover near. Would you like more information? No thank you. I have Google for that.

Having kids does something funny to a parent in the whole time-space continuum. You find yourself wanting to speed things up and slow them down all at once. I remember when my second child was about six months away from celebrating her first double-digit birthday. “I can’t wait until I’m 10,” she announced to our grandmotherly neighbor. “Oh, honey—don’t wish your life away,” came back the knowing reply.

With three kids born in the span of four years, I spent many, many hours of my life wading through a sea of toys and toddler detritus in my living room and longing for the days when they’d be old enough to clean up after themselves. Well, they’re old enough now. And somehow in all those years I never managed to teach them how to put their stuff away. The toys these days are smaller and more of the electronic variety, but they’re still strewn all over my living room. And pretty soon the teens they’re attached to will be heading off to college. I wonder if any of those gadgets can turn back time.

I know that everything is unfolding as it is intended; all that stuff about roots and wings and so forth. I know I still have time to get everything in order before he is leaving for college. I know that we impart more life’s lessons before we take our son somewhere far, far away and drop him off for his freshman orientation. I know that he is a smart, industrious, interesting, friendly, all-around great teen who has a big exciting future in front of him. And I know that one day he’ll find himself feeling nostalgic for mom’s ramen and our messy living room and that truck bedroom wallpaper.

That means I don’t have to take it down, right?

Kathleen Osborne is a mom of two teenagers and a soon-to-be teenager. She’s head of communications for Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland, Ohio. And she’s a writer whose work has appeared in The Plain DealerCleveland Magazine, and now Your Teen.

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