Editor's Note: This essay was originally published on The Jewish Week's Fresh Ink For Teens, an online magazine.
Parents of high school students do weird stuff. I think of mine as bears in hibernation. Freshman year, sophomore year, they just sort of read the paper, eat some porridge and ask how school was, but come junior year, and specifically spring of junior year, they awake, rise up and with a loud roar, scream: “ROAD TRIP!”
Yes, the dreaded college bonding trip with your parents. Spend three days, see five schools and connect with your parents through 500 miles in the back seat of the car, hearing them reminisce about that same exact road trip they took 30 years ago. They say it’s the ultimate bonding experience between parents and child and something not to be missed. But guys, I gotta tell you, that ride down memory lane is oh so painful for the child. There are lots of stories and rekindled memories, but do I really want to know the exact tree where my uncle threw up 30 years ago or where my dad … well, you get the idea.
Our first stop on every campus is the Hillel. I’ve become something of an expert on Hillel architecture. There are one-story Hillels, two-story Hillels, Hillels that represent organic architecture, Hillels that represent post-modern architecture. There’s even the secret Hillel. You know, the one that nobody knows where it’s located (that usually is the shortest college visit). They all have food of various quantities and qualities and unfortunately, all have kids sitting there waiting patiently as the prospective parents pepper them with questions like a White House press conference. It would be great entertainment, that is, if they weren’t my parents asking the questions.
There must be some parent handbook that is given out before these trips that lists the most embarrassing questions. For example, (parents, if you’re reading this) the Hillel is not the place to have various college juniors “chance” me. You know, “If my daughter has a 3.75 GPA and an SAT score of 2200 can she get in?” Nor is it the place to pull aside some sophomore and secretly ask if the boys are nice.
While we’re on dos and don’ts, if you are over 45 and just received your iPhone 6, do not take it with you to the college information sessions. When your office calls and the phone rings to the musical strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,” the entire auditorium will not be singing along as you fumble to turn it off. Also do not ask people to slide over so you can sit in the front row and then promptly fall asleep once the program starts — that looks really, really bad. I beg you, do not ask whether they will make special omelets for your daughter at the cafeteria because she does not like wet eggs. And never ever ask students if they know any cute guys for your daughter.
As for that car ride home, it’s really not the post-game show. We are 16 years old, we want to — we need to — sleep, at least 12 hours a day, especially on weekends. I don’t want to assess whether the Michigan blue or Maryland maroon will go better with my complexion; whether tour guides should walk backward or forwards (a historic debate between parents that can last at least three exits on the New Jersey Turnpike); or whether the girl in the blue sweater just looked smart or really is smart. And yes, I know it seems like the kids are all sooo nice, but really, I just want to sleep.
When do parents go back into hibernation?