One drawback to parenting teens in the fast-paced, highly scheduled world in which we live is losing touch with them. I really don’t see much of my high school junior. Between school, sports, a part-time job and her social life, there is no “us” time. She seriously stops at home just to shower, change, eat and sleep, rarely to hang out with her parents or siblings.
Unlike the relationships I have with my younger children, my teenager and I don’t spend any quality time together. There’s no catching a chick-flick, chatting over a cup of tea or hitting the mall together. I guess that’s why touring college campuses was the best time I’d spent with her in years.
We just finished our first excursion, which included several small liberal arts schools and two urban campuses in Boston. The two of us had not spent this much time together since before she went to preschool. Together, we explored the college towns. We sought out the coffee shops, pizza joints and pubs where students hang out. We shared our impressions and took photos and notes for future reference. Due to her athletics, we met not only with students, but also with coaches. Afterwards, we tried to decipher the culture of the communities of which she is considering becoming a part. We played detective as we looked for positive aspects and red flags along the way.
So, while the college search portion of our trip was exciting, just being together was also a pleasure. Back at home, a few words in passing is often the extent of our relationship. Sometimes, it feels like I’m just there to give her what she needs — a note, money, food, clean clothes, whatever. I was surprised at how easy the one-on-one was, at how compatible we could be.
Our trip was not without pitfalls. We had a tire blowout on the interstate, our EZ Pass failed at a toll gate and we were in Boston for a blizzard. There was no blame or terse words, though. Instead of a surly teen, I got a considerate young partner. There was also sharing, delightful small talk and plenty of laughter.
We both made the most of every moment, seeking out good food and adventure. Instead of staying in our room during the storm, we researched the public transportation and then rode “The T” all over town. We watched hearty Bostonians handle a Nor’easter from the shelter of a train car. My daughter struck up conversation with anyone with an engaging smile, eager to learn more about the city she was coming to love.
Boston Commons provided great entertainment as we ate lunch on the warm, dry side of a huge windowfront facing the park. Dog lovers played fetch in 40 mile-per-hour winds. Students arrived in droves, carrying sleds and snowboards. Inspired, we bundled up and joined them, walking off our lunch and tossing snowballs.
Getting on the highway for our ride home, we discussed how much we had learned about what she wants in a school. We also relived our favorite moments. My daughter said she was sad that our trip was over, and I agreed, the only consolation being that our next college tour is just a month away. I smiled as I drove, filled with gratitude for this time we had shared. I had been fortunate enough to get to know my daughter as the young adult she is becoming, and I liked it.
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