We talk about college…when we have to. Our son is a sophomore in high school. And this spring, universities have been flooding our mail box with brochures, and his school has been pushing “college readiness” since last year. As a parent, I admit, I got on the band wagon and last year started researching colleges on the internet.
And when I brought up the subject to a group of freshman parents at a birthday party one day, they looked at me in disbelief. How could I be thinking about college when my son was barely 15 at the time? And I went home somewhat agreeing with them. Yes, we have to prepare our kids, but really, how much is too much? When I would bring up life after high school, my son sometimes wanted to talk about it, and sometimes quickly changed the subject. This should have been a cue to me to shut up! And so finally I did. I figure we have plenty of time, and really the college search is his thing, not mine. I’m not going to be living in the dorm and eating the bland food in the cafeteria, he is. So every decision about the entire process should come from him. He’s in no hurry to grow up, and I’m in no hurry for him to leave.
But when is the right time to talk about the next chapter in your child’s life? (I still do a little research on the side, but I just don’t talk to him about it…yet.) When I called one school about a visit, I said to the admissions representative, “My son is only a sophomore, am I calling too early?” He said no, they get visits from eighth graders and their parents! I know there’s no hard and fast rule, but I figure, if he wants to bring it up, I’ll let him. And sometimes he asks me to research a particular field he might be interested in pursing, so I’m glad to do that. In fact, I have become the queen of useless information about various occupations. I once told a nurse at my doctor’s office something about pharmacy that she didn’t know, and her husband is a pharmacist!
Yes, I think it’s great our school system is talking about life after high school as early as middle school; that’s their job. But our job as nurturing parents is to maintain a healthy balance between living in the moment and preparing for the future. I don’t want to look back and think that I spent all of my son’s high school years talking about college. I want to enjoy the track meets, and celebrate the good grades as long as he is with us. We’ll probably go on a college search during spring break next year, but we can at least wait until February to talk about it.