When I first start working with a new student, I hold a family meeting. I feel that it is essential that all of us be on the same page or at least in the same chapter when it comes to my students’ future plans. At the first meeting, I tell my students to turn to their parents and say
“You are Fired”
Some laugh, some say it right away, some just look at me with an odd expression, perhaps thinking - really this is the person my parents and I are trusting my college admissions process to - some outright ask what am I firing them for?
I simply say, they are no longer your college admissions advisor - I am. To that, they usually laugh, turn to their parents, and say, “You are Fired.”
Then I tell them to turn back to their parent(s) and say, “You are Hired.”
Now, this is where I get even more concerned looks from the kids, again I get “Really, mom/dad - this is who you think can help me get to college?” look.
I wish I could videotape these moments, the often slouched over teenage with a worried look on their face, who sometimes feel as if they have no say in this process begin to sit up a little taller, smile just a little bit. The tension in the air is broken. These are some of my favorite conversations.
As parents, even those of us who have been through the college admissions process before, even those of us who are educators or writers or work in higher education, need to step back and remember that even doctors are taught not to treat their own family members.
This week I was listening to a podcast about mothers taking care of themselves, putting themselves first. It made me start thinking. Why do we, mothers, need to wait to be “fired” by our children? Why can’t we just quit?
Why can’t we simply turn to our children and say, “I love you, I want the best for you, I am here to help you in whatever way you would like, but I quit.” Think about all the time you have spent as your child’s college counselor. The hours you have spent looking at websites, creating spreadsheets, booking tours, hotels, airline tickets, not to mention the hours you have spent worrying about if your child is going to get into the school of your, I mean THEIR dreams.
Listen, I am not saying if you quit or get fired that the worrying will go away. But what it will do is allow you to focus on you - and I am sure you will agree that as Mom’s, we never have enough time for that in the first place.
My oldest daughter wanted my help, she enjoyed hearing my opinions about the colleges we visited, we had a blast on our road trips, she even let me tutor her for the SATs (well that didn’t go as smoothly as the other pieces, but that is a story to share over a glass of wine). This might have been because she had a clear vision of what she wanted in a college, or what she wanted to study, or it just could have been her easy-going personality. This is not to say we didn't have our disagreements, but for the most part, our conversations were civil.
However, it has come time for my middle daughter to look at schools. I found myself heading down that rabbit hole of looking for options for schools that I think would be best for her only to be met with a lot of “NOs” and “Mom’s I will figure it out on my own” speeches - (except that the tone wasn’t always so lovely.) That was until I quit. Once I told her that I quit being her research assistant, her secretary, and her travel agent (well I still needed that role sort of - otherwise we would be flying first class to a school 2 hours away on her sister’s birthday in the middle of quarantine), and that I wanted to reapply as her mother.
My middle daughter is strong-willed and fiercely independent. She likes to do things on her own time in her own way. Over the years we have had our battles, there have been tears (from both of us) - regrets (on both our parts) - and sometimes sheer exhaustion. I have learned how and when to present ideas to her as to not upset the apple cart. And as she has grown and matured, she has been a little bit more open to asking for help. Yet, even as we started taking the first few baby steps in this process, I could tell this process my have us regress to a place that we have worked so hard to move from.
She would be so happy if someone told her that she could fire me, believe me, she has fired me as her cook, her laundry person, and now that she drives her chauffeur. So before she can fire me as her college advisor, I quit. I am going to allow her to rehire me by drafting up the job responsibilities she would like me to fulfill for this process, I may not agree to take them all on, but I will allow her to have her say.
It won’t be easy - I am opinionated (and don't always hold my tongue) and let’s face it, I do know a lot about colleges and the admissions process - but I have to let her face this on her own terms.
What will I do with all my free time? Walk, read, watch some bad reality tv, or perhaps turn my college searching focus onto her (9th grade) younger brother, only kidding!