Saving the World One Teen at a Time - Column on Parenting Tweens and Teens

East Coast College Extravaganza, Part 2.

by Abby Margolis Newman



In my last piece, I wrote about my five-day college tour with my oldest son, Jonah, specifically about our impressions of Brown and about the admissions process in general. What I didn't really touch upon - and which, in the scheme of things, was more important - was the whole strange and wonderful phenomenon of spending five days alone with my oldest child. For a mother of three, this was a rarity indeed.


I remember when Jonah was about four and we were living in Michigan. I was exploring kindergartens for him, both public and private, and one of the schools we looked at was the Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills. The admissions person there asked me to tell her what Jonah was like. I recall blurting out, "He's good company." She looked at me like I had two heads - a four-year-old? good company? - but it was the truth. Jonah was then and always has been an extremely interesting person to be around - someone who thinks about things and has perceptive, incisive and funny things to say. I liked him when he was four, and - somewhat miraculously - I still like him as a teenager.


For the college tour, we flew into Boston and drove to Providence, then Amherst, MA; Middletown and New Haven, CT; then Swarthmore, PA and back to CT. Altogether we covered some 600 miles and spent about 14 hours together in a rental car. Now, I love Jonah but I'm not in a complete fantasy land: I knew I wouldn't be spending fourteen hours in conversation with a teenager - any teenager. So before we left California, we borrowed from our library some of the old Harry Potter "books on tape" (now CDs, of course), narrated by the incomparable Jim Dale. Years ago, when Jonah and his brothers were much younger, we listened to these nonstop; and Jonah and I were both excited to revisit them.


The good news: the Jim Dale narration is still every bit as wonderful and enthralling now as we remembered. The bad news: the Jim Dale narration is so wonderful and enthralling, it caused both me and Jonah to stop paying attention to our GPS device. In at least three instances, we went several miles in the wrong direction before we could correct course. In one particularly annoying case, we got on some minor highway in Pennsylvania and were unable to exit for about 20 miles - while the GPS constantly nagged us to "make a U-turn, if possible." For reasons too convoluted to explain here, our family has named any vehicle's female GPS-generated voice "Adelaide." Poor Adelaide didn't have a chance at vying for our attention with Jim Dale - so meek and quiet was she, it was as if she preemptively surrendered to her obviously superior competition. And since my husband and middle son possess all of the sense-of-direction genes distributed within our family, Jonah and I were screwed.