Friday, February 10, 2012

The epic college odyssey, part I. Gaaa.

It would be hard to argue, I think, that one of life’s greatest pleasures is serendipity. The serendipitous discovery of, well,  pretty much anything. Food, music, people, authors, even words; it really doesn’t matter. Well that’s not true, I’ll try any kind of food. And lots of it. I’m just easy that way. I’m much pickier about my authors.

In any case, a bit of serendipity dropped on me today when I came across the word Decidophobia. I suppose you could make the case that as a word it’s a little bit obvious or literal minded, but I still think it’s perfectly descriptive in a lean, efficient way.  Mostly because I have the perfect use for it: Decidophobia – “a condition that may afflict parents with a teen looking at colleges.”

 Yes, we’re in the midst of the labyrinthine and baffling rite of passage that is looking at and sorting schools.

And I’ll be damned if these parental rites of passage aren’t getting harder each time.  The early ones are easy: Hand-wringing over whether or not he’s walking and talking on “schedule.” Potty training. Dealing with the first school bully. First trip to the ER for stitches. Braces. Learning to drive and watching the first broken heart.

Piffle, I say. All those rites of passage were mere child’s play (ha ha!) when compared to staring at a list generated by Naviance that includes 15 colleges. Which is a list that started with 160. Sure, we’ve already been in consultation with an awesome counselor and teacher which is why we’re pretty sure which schools have strong programs… but that was the easy part. We’re told that admissions departments DO care if your kid has requested information, visited with a rep and taken a tour, so how do we schedule visits to schools that are more distant than Kate Gosselin’s 1000-yard stare?

And then we need to schedule SAT prep, sitting for the SAT, and trips for NYSSMA since we’re looking at music programs. Which also means there will be an audition process for each school which is a whole separate thing.  Breathe slowly.

And none of this has even addressed what is, unfortunately, perhaps the biggest issue. Yeah, you know the one. Tuition + room + board = Gaaaaaaaaa.

As we continue to make progress though, my Lovely Bride remains the voice of reason on our team and keeps reminding me that we’ll figure it out one step at a time. Of course I think that a crippling case of decidophobia is still a real threat to be guarded against, but I’ll keep you posted. Gaaaa.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ticker tape, the Giants and dad's shoulders.

The  sky was grey, it was crowded, and the weather was colder than  Kate Gosselin’s smile. And yet none of that mattered because Underdog was floating past me, up in the sky, larger than life. Perhaps most surprising though, he was also in Living Color, complete with bright red standard-issue superhero tights and a blue cape. Who knew? Mostly this was remarkable to me because  I had only seen him on our black and white Zenith TV, which also meant that it was not just Underdog, but Mr. Rogers, Big Bird and Easy Reader who were rendered in a surprisingly small number of grey, grainy hues.

That being said, it was exactly the sort of day that a six year old never forgets because it was not just my first Thanksgiving Day parade, but an adventure in the city with my dad.

My father is an interesting guy for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most important to me is that he’s a guy who straddled a transitional period in our culture when notions of what success, family and fatherhood meant were shifting. He was in some ways entirely traditional: each morning he left before everyone else was  up to catch a train to the city where he worked at a mysterious job in a mysterious skyscraper. He then came home around dinnertime and read a paper while listening to the news. (He did, however, wisely avoid the pipe and martini thing which thankfully remains in the dustbin of dad-history. There are some clich├ęs that no one can pull off, short of an Adolphe Menjou or Claude Raines.)

Traditional as he may have been, though, my dad made a conscious decision to (mostly) not work late, not bring work home and to not work on the weekends. He had made a calculation about what was important to him and then made it his business to be present in our lives even though it must have cost him professionally. Sure, we could probably have lived in a bigger house and had cooler cars, but I was luckier than that.

And so that’s why I’m assuming that even more memories are being made today at the Giant’s victory ticker tape parade. The streets are lined with families dressed in blue and there are little kids on shoulders watching bigger than life figures make their way down the canyon of heroes. But here’s the thing, even if you didn’t make it to New York today there are still plenty of opportunities to get outside with the kids and see the weird and wonderful things that only happen in a parade.

An obvious one is the St. Patrick’s to-do in either Pearl River or New York, but there are more parades than you would suppose. Try the Columbus Day parade, or the weird and creative Halloween parade in Nyack. And in case you didn’t know, there’s an annual Volunteer Firefighters parade to be watched.

Or, have you ever had the urge to see a 30 foot Dora the Explorer? Of course you haven’t, but your kids want to, so make sure to hit the easy-to-navigate Thanksgiving Day Parade in Stamford. It’s actually extra cool because it features a whole herd of full sized balloons.  And of course there’s the far more hilarious and entertaining Halloween parade in the Village, but, well, you know. Take the teens.

So anyway,  even though Eli Manning probably won’t be at any of those wearing red tights and blue cape, your kids won’t care. Just make sure they get a turn on your shoulders. Do it.