A Slap of Reality
A couple years ago I went to New York with my oldest daughter, Abbi. It was a college visit, but to be honest, the visit was a bit of a hail Mary since the visit was to NYU. The college is certainly an excellent one. It should be. It has a most excellent price attached to it.
The visit was, to be honest, as much a compromise thank you gift for all her hard work over the year as it was a college visit. At the end of the day, the pittance of financial aid they would give was nowhere near what we could afford. It wasn’t simply not in the ballpark, it was more than a few ballparks removed.
It was a bit disheartening for Abbi, but it wasn’t the end of the world . . . and I’d tempered her expectations telling her there was little or no way she’d be able to go to New York. I’d scrimped and saved for us to go on this trip . . . but there was no scrimping and saving that would get her into the school, let alone live, eat and survive in New York City.
Reality is such a dream killer, right?
She’s now thriving in a university and environment and the school is thrilled with her performance. It’s not in New York, but she’s working in her field and getting contacts. That’s worth its weight in gold. She loves her school, made excellent contacts already . . . and she’s quite happy, at least from what I can tell. She had her reality check and it seemed to sink in.
Reality has slapped us, particularly that young woman, quite a bit. The next school year after losing her Mom I had to take her out of private school. Without two incomes there was just no way to afford it. So junior year of high school she became the “new kid” at a new school. She was never mad at me about it but the situation certainly took its toll.
Her brothers, too, have faced a similar fate. The year she left for college I had no one to drive the kids home every day. As a result I moved them to the public school as well so we could get them on the bus home. Then this year . . . another move to a different school for Middle School. That’s a lot of change in a few years filled with change.
Then there’s the middle daughter, who completed her middle school and is now in high school. That reality slap is finally hitting her. She didn’t change schools – not due to favoritism or anything, it was just pure dumb luck. She finished her elementary and middle school at the same place. Now she’s in her second year of high school at the same place.
But she’s started to freak out about college and is now looking at how expensive it really is. I guess the fact that she walks around the house, back yard, school and everywhere else with a set of blue headphones in her ears oblivious to the rest of the world means she hasn’t seen or heard me freaking out about the tuition payments to her sister’s school.
My middle daughter has taken to, on a regular basis, telling me about her “friend” and how that friend keeps telling her the art school she should go to when she graduates.
Let me just say, for the record, this school costs as much or maybe even more than NYU.
That was my response. One word.
“I know it’s expensive.”
So I went on to tell her how much it costs . . . how when she’s in college her social security check will be gone so I’ll move to a cheaper home in order to offset that. It’s not a complaint, it just is reality and that’s okay.
“It’s a really good school.”
“I’m sure it is. So is UCLA, UC Berkeley, Davis, Sac State . . . ”
She feigns acceptance and then slinks off with her headphones. Still, she acts like she’s accepted it and then the school comes up again and again.
The phrases come at random times:
“The guy who makes this cartoon went to (school name here)!”
“My friend told me again how I should go to (Insert Name Here)”
“I told my friend all day that we can’t afford to go to (Insert name here).”
Finally, I informed her: “You know, Abbi wanted desperately to go to NYU.”
“Have you seen her pictures from New York? Her apartment on 5th Avenue? Her eating sushi with Olivia Wilde on Park Avenue?”
“Exactly. That couldn’t happen for her . . . why should it for you?”
She can’t answer that question.
My kids have a lot, I don’t pretend they don’t. We cut back a lot when their Mom passed, but we do an awful lot. I cook more than I ever did. We travel when we can and we go to the movies – my main indulgence for them – a lot. As a result, I’ve tried to temper their expectations.
“There are plenty of places to go to school for whatever you want to do. You don’t have to go to an expensive art school or you’ll end up tens of thousands in debt and I can’t pay that off. It’s not possible. I have to look at your two brothers going to school at the same time. That’s not a positive thing for me to contend with, it’s going to be very, very hard.”
Reality is just that . . . reality. It slaps you around. It sucks, it’s hard, it’s nasty and . . . it just is. I can’t change it. Sometimes the choices are hard and I can fix it so they go right . . . like arranging things so we have a fun trip every year.
Sometimes, reality just slaps you in the face. In this case, it’s not such a bad thing.