So, the current academic term is speeding its way to the finish line, with only 8 more weeks to go. Obviously this makes the students in our house verrrry happy, as it signifies the approach of Summer...but this year it also means one more thing...Derek will soon magically transform into a High School Senior. (Excuse me for one moment while I experience the first of what's sure to be a multitude of Mom's mini-freak-outs to come...okay, I've got a grip....for now...) And you know what that milestone means? That's right: the kid had better start getting serious about figuring out where he wants to go next.
No, no, I'm not talking "philosophically", here; he actually needs to start focusing his attention (limited as that may be on occasion due to Teenage Boy Brain) on the grand tradition of Ye Olde College Search. Husband and I--enthused about helping him with the process and excited for him to investigate his options, blah blah blah--have been encouraging him....for months...to provide us with some direction. Thus far his contributions to the discussion have been, shall we say, "minimal"...and also, um..."lacking in substance". (I swear it feels like we're living out our own personal Bueller moment--you know what I'm talking about: "Ideas? Hello, Derek? Anything at all?)
I mean, I do GET it on some level--the kid isn't sure what he wants to do, or in what location he wants to do it...because he's 17 years old, and this is totally normal. All we're asking for is some input into, for example, where he might like to go visit--to have a look around, meet some students, take a tour. Just...some basic, extremely preliminary recon, if you will...no commitment, no pressure, just for FUN, really. Well...his father and I believe this process should be enjoyable, anyway, but the jury's still out as to how Derek feels about it, since he hasn't been so forthcoming on the whole "sharing your thoughts" thing.
Finally, Husband--who it should be noted is generally the much more patient of the two parental units on Team WestEnders--reached his limit and decided to take action himself. Since the Male Posse was making their annual Spring Break trek to see his mom and dad in South Carolina, Husband tacked an extra day onto the excursion...and arranged campus visitation outings for Clemson and the University of South Carolina...regardless of whether Derek expressed any interest in these institutions or not. In the time-honored tradition of "you've gotta start somewhere", he figured they'd at least get an inkling of how to go about this task...learn about two good schools...and who knows, maybe even light a fire under Derek's butt, thereby sparking some useful feedback for future trips.
Well, then....sounds GREAT, right? When informed of the agenda, Derek's response was an agreeable but less-than-super-psyched "Oh. Okay." (Siiiighhhh...I'll take "Times When I Want to Smack My Beloved Child Upside the Head" for $1,000, Alex".) On the other hand, when Riley heard about the additional activities, we got an entirely different reaction: a spontaneous fist pump and an emphatic, "YES!" (Proving once again that although my sons share a very close relationship, and are alike in many ways, they are sometimes reeeaalllly different as well. Also, this indubitably secures Riley's position as the Preferred Child of the moment...ha!)
Having squared away all the details (and with this I'm referring to Husband, not Derek), they hit the road, southbound toward Clemson. Later that day, I got a text showing me a gorgeous fountain in front of the Cooper Library...from Husband. Then a slideshow appeared on Instagram the following day, displaying lovely photographs taken at various points of interest from both sites...posted by Riley. And from Derek, the potential applicant at one of these fine universities? Utter...radio...silence. (Banging head against wall...mentally, not IRL--that would be stupid and painful...I mean, even more so than waiting for any kind of critical analysis, insightful commentary, or even, you know, "first impressions" from my kid...)
Anyway, I chose to hold off on grilling him until he returned home, when I'd be able to corner him and run some version of the Inquisition--I mean thoughtful "question and answer" session...or whatever. Because of my own overnight getaway, I didn't see the boys until Sunday, and Derek had just come back from playing a reportedly rugged couple of hours of basketball at a friend's house when we finally connected to talk. I even led off the topic gently, I thought, with an easy, "How was South Carolina?" which he handled smoothly. Since that had gone so well, I assumed it was safe to immediately jump to the more challenging, "What did you think of the campuses?" Derek shook his head wearily and answered, "They were good."
Uhhh...that's lovely, dear. Now could you expand upon that admirably succinct yet totally unenlightening statement? He managed to add, "I know you want details, but I really need a shower right now....and I'll use the time to think of what to tell you, okay?" Oh. Good. Grief. This is not usually a guy who has any trouble whatsoever describing things, or expressing his opinions, so I have NO CLUE why this particular subject causes him SUCH issues. However, as promised, he emerged from his (I have to admit I agree "much-needed") clean-up ready to communicate...something. As it turns out, both he and Riley actually concurred that they liked both campuses equally well. One stat that apparently stuck with the gang: the student populations are distinct from each other in terms of size (17,000 Tigers vs 33,000 Gamecocks) but the schools nevertheless boast a similar student/faculty ratio (17:1 and 19:1).
Husband noted that their tour guide at Clemson was a perky co-ed named Meredith...with whom Derek declined to interact for whatever reason (the universal "girls are icky" being my best guess), leaving the adult to carry on most of the exchange. On the other hand, USC gave them Matt, who was able to engage Derek in lively conversation, according to Husband. Other than that, Derek stated that, overall, he could see himself at either school. Now, we're talking--an actual starting point! Even though I wasn't personally there, however, if I had to give the edge to anyone, I'd choose Clemson--simply because, within 3 days, before the trio had even rumbled back into North Carolina, a postcard arrived in the mail...thanking them for stopping by....offering any further assistance they might need in the future...and signed....with a heart...by Meredith.
Possibly the most advantageous result of this little sojourn is that it led Derek to identify the NEXT two schools he'd like to see--which, given that they're UVA and Virginia Tech, indicates that our merry little band of adventurers will be headed north, sometime soon. But no matter what he ultimately decides, at least for right now, I'm declaring it: Tigers, for the win!