Another responsibility left to mom

November 27, 2001|By Susan Reimer

YOU MAY HAVE noticed (though I pray my supervisors have not) that I have not done a lick of work in several months.

It is my responsibility to comment on the issues of the day that affect women and their families, and I must confess that since late August I have been so preoccupied that I would not have noticed if men were suddenly giving birth to babies and deciding to stay at home to raise them.

It was then that school started, and I realized my son had not completed all his college applications over the summer, as I had so sensibly advised. After completing one application, he declared his work done. After all, he reasoned, what school would not want him?

With the onset of homework and sports practices, the process, barely under way, came to a halt.

A very modern and reasonable case can be made that, despite the increased demands on his time, applying to college is his responsibility, not mine, since I have already attended college. Quite successfully, I might add.

My husband says the boy will never learn the consequences of his decisions (or his failure to make one) as long as we keep pulling his bacon out of the fire, as it were. "This is the result of delivering too many forgotten lunches to the school office," he has declared.

Indeed. But I could never bear to think of my children hungry, even for a couple of hours. And now that he is older, I cannot bear to think of my son not attending college as a consequence of his own procrastination.

This is the child-rearing theory of "logical consequences." The children are supposed to suffer the consequences of their actions and decisions, however unpleasant. But I have always found that, in fact, I suffer the consequences that result: either my inconvenience or their distemper.

In this case, his failure to complete college applications will mean that I will be stepping gingerly around a growling adolescent male for another year while he plays video games in the basement and eats me out of house and home. Again, the chief consequences are mine.

So, under the pretense of writing this column, I began searching the Web for colleges and universities to which he might apply using criteria provided by him: "Warm. Not in a city. Not too many kids."

That narrowed the field to about 2,000 institutions.

I undertook the college search on his behalf by using the advice most often given to high school seniors who are too busy to listen: Choose two schools certain to admit you; two likely to admit you, and a couple of long-shots.

However, I found that the result of my college search for him was a list of colleges I would very much like to have attended.

When filling in the blanks on the applications for him, I found myself specifying major areas of study that would have intrigued me.

The result is, my son will be applying to a series of small and prestigious liberal arts colleges where he will take up the study of English literature, with a minor in French and the possibility of a junior year in Paris.

This is the college-search version of clothes shopping with an adolescent male. They are disinterested, if not downright irritable, and they refuse to comment on any article of clothing presented for their approval. The result is, a mother ends up dressing her son like a boy she would like to have dated in high school.

Of course, there are still the college application essays to be written. Since I am paid for my opinions (although a four-month refund is no doubt in order here), I should have no trouble describing a book that made a great impression on me, a person who greatly influenced my life or under what circumstances I would approve the use of nuclear weapons.

At the conclusion of this process, I am sure my son will have received a superior education.

If nothing else, he will learn what happens when you leave the college selection process up to your mother.

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