I can't recall exactly how or when it happened, but at some point when I was in elementary school I got the notion that I would attend college when I grew up. Maybe my mom or dad told me that it was expected, or perhaps I heard about the magical, mystical place from someone else...but from that moment on, it was treated as an irrefutable fact that my future would include higher education. Now, it didn't occur to me until much, much later (like, when I was an adult) that there was anything at all unusual about this. But the funny thing is, neither of my parents held a college degree. Furthermore, we were firmly situated in what you'd call "middle class" territory--you know, that shadowy realm where you're "too wealthy (ha!) for financial aid" but "of modest enough means that the cost of a good school will definitely...pinch a bit". Nevertheless, my entire vision of what would happen to me in that crazy, far-off time after high school...revolved around some as-yet-unknown university.
I mention this because I seem to have done the exact same thing to my own children. (Funny how that happens, right?) Both boys already know that it's not a case of "if you go to college", it's more like "which school you'll attend, based on the programs available, and what you want to study". (Oh, and the ever-so-painful--at least to your parents--price, of course...) Derek, my uber-laid-back older child, really hasn't given much thought to these issues yet (which, I hasten to add, is FINE, since he's only in 8th grade). The only topic that he seems to have considered in relation to institutions of post-secondary-learning is...the generosity of the meal plan...the quality of the culinary offerings...and the quantity of food he'll be allowed to consume on a daily basis in his 4 years of living there. (I blame Husband, who never wastes an opportunity to reminisce about his tenure at Penn State, while simultaneously extolling the virtues of dorm eating...sigh...)
Then, there's Riley...he who has general ambitions of becoming an environmental biologist, with more specific goals of studying reptiles and amphibians. I know...he's only 10...so we listen with great interest to his plans and schemes...and realize that they may (and most likely will) change 15 times before the day actually arrives for him to start seriously considering colleges. But sometimes he still manages to catch us off guard--like the other day, when he poked his head in the kitchen door and called, "Mom?" I was upstairs, and expecting the usual query from him, "Can I go to my friend's house down the street?" I opened my mouth to give him permission, but before I could speak, he continued, "Are you okay with me going to the University of San Francisco for grad school?" Absentmindedly I replied, "Sure, honey, no problem." Then my brain caught up and I backpedaled, "Wait, I'm sorry, WHAT?" However, he had already closed the door and disappeared outside to play again, so further clarification had to wait until dinnertime.
When he came back in, this is how he explained himself: "I'm planning my degrees." (Plural? Ay yi yi...) I want to get my first one from North Carolina, then go to graduate school at University of San Francisco." Oh-kay...I'll play along...wwwhhhyyyyy? He blithely elaborated, "Well, I was looking online for schools with good biology programs." (Oh...of course you were...) First I want a biology degree. Then maybe specialize in frogs and toads." (Meanwhile I'm processing this data, and also wondering "What'd you do, Google it?" The answer to this, by the way, was "Yes, yes he did." I swear these kids should just be known as the Google Generation...but I digress...) Husband's reaction seemed to be a mixture of bewildered/impressed/slightly concerned, as he shook his head and marveled aloud, "So, here I thought he was just sitting around playing silly games on his Kindle...and he was researching his future education?" (Apparently...)
On the other hand, Derek's response to the whole situation was a pretty common open-mouthed, perplexed/amused expression, and the added comment, "I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up, and he's planning where to go to school already?!" I tell ya, we've gotta watch this one. That's it, no more...educational browsing for you, young man! Now, go waste time with some pointless entertainment, right this minute! Because your father and I need a minute to call the Guidance Counselor and leave her a message...warning her that you're coming...