Crunch Time

The clock ticks, inches forward. Fits and starts. I’m on call now, unenergetic and a little grumpy. Four hours ’till midnight. Sophie picks up the piece of paper next to her on the couch. She reads aloud in a sing-song voice. In French. “Sophie! No homework now. I’m waiting.” Fingers paused over her keyboard, not moving, her gaze fixed on Eli’s phone. She can see the screen from her angle. “Sophie! What can we do to help you focus?”

This situation keeps arising. College application deadlines. It begins two weeks out. “Make a dent in that essay. Don’t leave it for the last night.”  Ten days: “Have you started yet?” One week: “Are you making progress?” Night before: “When will you finish your essay? If you want me to read it, I want some notice.”

Her answer is always the same, “It’s under control.”

This time, I actually thought it was. Tonight, Wednesday, is the deadline for scholarship applications. Over the weekend, Sophie was jamming. Laptop open, curled up on the white chair; kicked back in the recliner; stretched out on her bed; sprawled on the couch, typing furiously. On Monday night she brought me an essay to read. The prompt: What would you change about your home town? Sophie railed against the Gettysburg National Military Park. She lamented how it’s exclusively designed to be toured by car. She suggested that tourists would get a more intimate experience if they got out and walked. Her essay was tight. The environmental theme dovetailed nicely into her major: Environmental Studies. Her punctuation, correct. Her word choice, solid.

The next morning, I mentioned to Susan that many of those scholarships are specifically for environmental students. “She’ll really catch some attention with that essay.”

“That essay wasn’t for a scholarship, it’s her application to Lehigh. It was due last night. I don’t think she’s started on the scholarship application yet.”


I’m tired. I had a busy day at work. I ran when I got home. Dinner, dishes, I’m done.

I’m old. My brain and body are craving sleep. Or at least relaxation. I should be in shut-down mode. Not giving feedback on essays. Not writing this post to stay engaged. Sophie’s young and fresh. Working up until midnight is run-of-the-mill for her.

I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson; this won’t happen again. And maybe that’s true. This is the last application she’s submitting. But because she’s a teenager, last minute is where she likes to be. She thrives under the pressure. I was like that once. College, and then as a young professional, up all night writing papers, later, preparing reports. I worked best with a tight deadline. Crunch time!

Now I plan my week. Presentation on Thursday night? I start preparing on Tuesday morning. Sober. Mature. Dull. Sophie writes essays under protest. I write them as my hobby. And I read. And I fall asleep before ten. We won’t understand each other.

I want to celebrate her style, her inclination to nail it at the very last minute. It’s worked so well for seventeen years. But right now, I just want to go to bed.

10 thoughts on “Crunch Time

  1. I’m frustrated by this too – not for college essays, but I am the reader of English papers and the “study buddy” for my kids and their tests. The kids have their activities and then want a “break” with their devices so that we aren’t sitting down to read papers or study until 9 – a time I am usually prepping for Declan and I to get ready for bed. Frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I often wondered how the teenagers I taught for 31 years could be so unconcerned about letting things go until the last minute. I am usually not a procrastinator. I just don’t like big unfinished responsibilities hanging over my head. I did see some kids get caught off-guard when life happened and they didn’t get the assignment done at the last minute as they expected to. This too will pass! I love the point Sophie makes in her essay. Tourists should get out of their cars and WALK the park.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve always walked and hiked our way around the battlefield. Because of this, we know all sorts of magical places that are overlooked by 99 percent of the people who visit. And some of them are pretty obvious. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been starting a walk across the Pickett’s Charge field and there’s a family standing on the paved path. “You should really walk across!” I say. “Oh no, it looks too far.” It would make their trip so much more memorable. Maybe should write a tourist guide for people who want to engage in nature while on the battlefield.


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