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  • Writer's picturePenny Sterling


Fred was awake yesterday at 5 am, on the subway at 6:30, and at the URTA auditions before 8. Just like on Saturday, he did his five minutes of work, and then sat around until the early afternoon to see if anyone wanted to talk to him. If not, he'd just get on the subway back home. Except there were some of the more physical programs who wanted to see him do some movement work, and by the time he was done with that, the University of Washington wanted to talk to him. And the University of Iowa. And the University of Missouri, Kansas City. And THE Ohio State University ("It's how they said it, said Fred, "is there an imposter University lurking around, pretending to be Ohio?") And the University of Florida, and the University of South Carolina. All not only talking to him about their school's MFA programs, but also about stipends, and grants and teaching opportunities and health care.

HEALTH CARE?? Which roused his suspicions. "Why are they pitching me so hard?" he asked. "Are their programs that bad?" "Or are you that good?" I asked him. We had this conversation Sunday night at 10 pm, while he was sitting in a bathtub drinking tea. He had arrived there just a few minutes before, after talking to six Universities all afternoon and evening, pitching for him to come and offering all they could to get him there. It was the end of a 12-hour day for him. So we talked about his options. We also talked about the Ivys--Yale and Cornell, especially--who don't come to the URTAS because frankly, they don't NEED to, and about applying there. He gave me several reasons why he might not do that. I let him, but told him I'd be glad to help him if he needed it. He told me he'd think about it. In his Senior year of high school, Fred wasn't sure he was going to apply to any colleges. Then he finally chose Le Moyne, partially because he knew the campus and the program because of his Aunt and Cousin, both graduates. I put no pressure on him either way, but did discuss his options with him when he wanted to, but otherwise let him make decisions about things. I think giving him the opportunity to voice his fears and desires and letting him know that there were no bad decisions here and I would love him either way helped him along. As well as my refusal to give him advice unless he asked for it. Sometimes kids just need to be heard. Fred wasn't sure about going to the URTAs, several times telling me flat out that he most likely wouldn't do it this year. "I'll come home and stay with you," he said. "I'll work at Target, and get my debt load down." I told him that it would be wonderful to have him home. "But we both know that this isn't where you ultimately should be" I said. I told him what I saw in him. He usually didn't believe me. What parent doesn't think their kid walks on water? I didn't care, and only occasionally reminded him of my academic credentials and years of experience in this field.* I kept telling him how good he was, but letting him figure things out for himself. That's kind of my parenting style. I don't push (or pull) my kids much. Mostly I let them wander their lives themselves, only getting involved if there's a chance of making the sort of mistake that could injure themselves in some way. But I'd let them get hurt, and I'd let them make up their own minds.

There's a difference between getting hurt and getting injured, and as parents we need to know the difference. Actually I think we all do, but sometimes we don't trust our own judgements. In the end, he decided to sign up and go stay with a friend, but had absolutely NO expectations about anything at all positive coming out of this. He came with no expectations, he left with nine programs clamoring for his attention. My boy's gettin' wooed.

Photo by Kerry Blauvelt|Granite Salmon Photography

*Those occasions being: Whenever I was awake and breathing.

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