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.