Contemplating College for Kiki
Kiki filled out her first college application while I was away at the writer’s retreat. The first I knew about it was when the college emailed me saying that she’d applied and that all they needed were her ACT scores and a transcript. She took the ACT a month ago and her scores arrived last week. The transcript only required a five minute phone call to the school. Without any fanfare at all, we’ve shifted into the applying for colleges phase of Kiki’s high school year.
I can’t help thinking that it ought to be more stressful than this. There certainly is paperwork involved. There are dozens of little tasks to track and complete. But then tracking and completing dozens of small tasks is something we do around here daily. The fact that the tasks are related to college applications is only a tiny shift. Applying for scholarships is a similar deluge of paperwork tasks. Half the challenge is figuring out what is available so that the paperwork can be submitted. When I mentioned to a friend that I ought to be more stressed about paying for college, she pointed out that the dollar amount for a year of college is approximately equivalent to the dollar amount of paying for a book printing. Most people encounter sticker shock when looking at those numbers. I don’t because I’ve dealt with them every year for quite awhile. Covering the cost is a challenge, not something to fear.
Absent the deadline panics and financial terror which beset most families when contemplating college, we’re still left with the emotional ride of launching a child into adulthood. Kiki is taking all this in stride, as evidenced by her just filling out an online application when the link was mailed to her. We’ve scheduled some campus tours and she is very much focused on the possibilities rather than the possible roadblocks and troubles. My state is more complicated. I want to manage this all calmly, this is where we’ve always been aimed, but my emotions are unruly. When we arrived at the first day of school this fall, I cried for two days–grieving for the end of the era when all my kids live at home. It seemed silly to grieve then, we still had a year ahead, but that was when the grief arrived and I had to deal with it. Then it passed and we moved onward into the school year. Over the summer I watched my brother and sister as they planned big trips and fun events, trying to cram into a single summer all those things they meant to do earlier but somehow didn’t. My reactions spring from the same knowledge–that things are going to change–but my impulse is different. I want to hoard normality. I want to eschew all big events and disruptions so that we can have as many calm days as possible with all of us here.
Despite my desire for normal, change is in the air. Kiki is beginning to face outward from home, to plan and picture her future. We are beginning to set things up so that she can fly free. Each step is small, an application, a checking account, a college tour, but they accumulate. By next spring all these tiny steps will have changed us. Perhaps I was right to grieve a bit on that first day of school, my subconscious knew that the moments of change had already begun to arrive. Perhaps I grieved then so that I would be able to feel the joy inherent in this process. I watch Kiki, strong and so very obviously ready for all of this. She calmly fills out forms and writes paragraphs about the things she has done in her life. She is surprised to discover so many accumulated accomplishments. Some time in winter or spring she is going to look around and notice how far she has come in the past six months. She will be either happy or frighted by it. When she is, I will hug her tight and refrain from telling her how I saw it coming. Or perhaps I will tell her if hearing it is what she needs to regain some balance.
I know it will not be a launch and gone forever. We’ll always be part of each other’s lives even if we don’t live in the same house, but the change has begun. It is beautiful, joyous, and fascinating to watch.
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