The REAL List Parents of College Freshmen Need

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Today is “move-in day” for freshmen on our campus. Naturally, there are moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters everywhere. In the past, I always liked to ride my Harley on move-in day. When the crowds were at their peak, I liked to cruise around campus—pipes bellowing, pony-tail flowing, tats showing—and pull up at the sidewalk where the upperclassmen were helping the freshmen and their parents tote far too much stuff up the stairs. The parents eyed me suspiciously, especially those with daughters. We’re not that large a University; at least a couple of the upperclassmen would know me and let the worried parents know that, not only was I an employee, I was a teacher. I try to always be mindful of the gifts life gives each day. The look on those parents’ faces kinda makes me feel like Christmas morning.

But this year, well, it’s the hottest day we’ve had all summer and the humidity is somewhere around 118% (what? I was an English major), and they’ve closed the road that goes nearest the girls dorm, so I decided not to ride the scooter. In the spirit of tradition, I decided the least I could do was trek around campus, see how things were going.

There are parents and grandparents and siblings everywhere. Ev-ry-where… But, this time, today, I noticed a different look on their faces. I knew this one, too. It struck me that I’d been on all sides of their equation (I have no idea why all these “math-ish” terms keep appearing). I’d been a student, I’d moved my son into his college dorm, and now I’m a teacher—someone somehow, in some ways, “responsible” for these kids for the next four years. Yeah, I know, that’s an unsettling thought, especially for me, but hey, life’s a journey and this is the wrong turn dimly lit alley we’ve taken, so let’s just go with it for now. It’s scary turning your bay-bay over to any one, least of all the likes of me and all the other “unknowns” awaiting them on campus (remember Animal House?)

I know, I know. Last night I was talking to my son and one of his good friends, a friend he grew up with, one I knew well, now grown and married. We were going to a concert (yes, I am an Old Hippie, but I was not the oldest hippie at the show), having a few beers before the show, catching up on life. I asked about his kids. First words out of his mouth—“I never knew I could love somebody as much as I love them.” I know, I know. Now imagine dropping them off at college, at the doorstep of unknown, and driving away. It’s tough.

A few years ago, I posted a piece here called The REAL Top Ten List Every College Freshman Needs. While that list still holds true (and is worth a read, hint, hint), it dawned on me as I saw the looks on the faces of both parents and kids that maybe the parents of college freshmen need a list, too. And like I mention in the “for freshmen” essay, there are plenty of them out there. The parent of a college freshman really only needs to know one thing, though, not ten.

It’ll be okay.

Sure, your kid is going to change. But so are you. They’re still gonna mess up in big ways. Some of them won’t finish. Some of them are gonna get their heart broken. It might take some six or seven years, or longer, to graduate. Some of them are gonna drink too much, party too hard. Some of them are gonna change majors three or four times. But they’re gonna see things, do things, experience things that make them grow, that make them see the world in a different way. Maybe not your way, maybe so. They’ll come back a different person, but they’ll be a person, a real, live, (semi) independent (hopefully) person. And that’s a good thing.

Not to get all Lion King, Circle of Life on you, but here’s the thing. That concert I mentioned last night? My son got us the tickets. Got us upgraded to box seats. He bought the beers. Owns his own home. Hasn’t asked for money in a long time. Met some folks he works with and they all bragged about him (did I mention the bands were fantastic?). It was a great night all the way around. Did I also mention I dropped him off at college one day? That he made plenty of bad decisions over the next five and a half years before he graduated (finally). That I missed him terribly while he was away?

See. It’ll be okay, parents. They’ll be okay.

Until next time, Peace!

Kevin WinchesterComment