We are looking at colleges. And by "we," I mean my wife Laura, daughter Caroline and I are doing it separately with little coordination.

But my daughter recently observed that when we talk to other parents whom we feel we need to impress socially, we use the term "we." And we act as if we have it all together. So maybe it is the royal we. I will give some examples.

Me: "Some colleges are interested that we row. That may be a good way in."

Reality. I do not row. I doubt my 265-plus-pound butt could get into those skinny rowing boats. I cannot tell port from starboard (one of them is left). Caroline is the one getting up at 5 a.m. and heading out to the river. Most colleges will not be impressed if I declared that I was a rower, and believe me when I say they don't want to see me at 5 a.m. in tight spandex.

Laura: "We need to work on our grade point average."

Reality: Caroline has to pay better attention in class, study more, take the exams and do the homework. We can only nag her, of which we do a fair amount. But she needs to do it solo.

Someone will ask Caroline what her major will be. Caroline will stare blankly ahead, as if her head was recently dipped in a vat of Botox. No recognition, nothing. It's scary because even her eyes do not move. Her breathing slows. My wife will finally chime in, trying to fill the silence.

"We are considering liberal arts, maybe sociology or English lit." Caroline is still comatose, no recognition that her mother spoke or that there is anyone else in the room. She is a mime.

Reality: my wife was an English Lit major, her mother was an English Lit major. We can talk English Lit major with anyone. It's always our fallback position.

Laura: "We are going to take the SAT again."

Reality: Caroline will begrudgingly retake the test on a Saturday in early October at 7:45 a.m. Last year, the PSAT was on her birthday. For us, I am sure they will waive the rule about parents not hovering over the student's shoulder during the test.

When we say, "We are exploring," we mean "we have no idea."

"We are exploring colleges in her interest areas" translates to absolutely nothing. Doesn't take an English major to recognize a pile of fluff. That is a last ditch statement, right before we point behind them and yell, "Hey, look over there!" and then flee when they turn their backs.

"We are looking at colleges in the Northeast" is code for "we live in the Northeast."

My wife has several files and is the one organizing the whole college search thing.

Organizing translates to "herding kittens. Actually herding unresponsive kittens would fit better.

On one of Caroline's college visits, she came back unusually excited about the school. After quizzing her I learned why.

Reality: They gave her a free T-shirt. It reminded me of my nephew, who was excited about the first day of kindergarten this year because they gave him a pencil.

Over this long process, as we go through the fog we are getting a better idea of what we like in a school. We have some concrete ideas

Not too big, not too small.

Translation: Not bigger than our town, not smaller than our high school.

No school within an 80-mile radius.

Translation: Caroline's parents, who obviously have boundary issues, can't easily pop by for a surprise campus visit.

Caroline now wants us to stop using the plural "we" when we refer to her. She wants us each to use the singular "I."

Hell, maybe she will be an English major.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday.