It was this week, Monday and Tuesday.
It’s who I am, once I resign my commission as Orientation Generalissimo. On the first morning, I told my daughter it was probably good her mother couldn’t get out of work to come, because having two of us hovering over her might be oppressive. “Dad, you’re kind of like two people all by yourself,” she said.
One to make sure she’s thinking realistically about her course schedule, and another to spot this brochure in at the “Resources Fair” and stuff it into his leather portfolio for furrow-browed review later, back at the university hotel.
College orientation makes you feel terribly, blessedly aware that you are old, and times have passed you by. I mean, you think of your World War II dad, and what preparation he got to cope with his “transition”—not to the University of Virginia in 1941, but to the United States Army, in 1943. I wonder, what part of Schlossberg’s Transition Theory was Dad’s drill sergeant applying when he woke every boy in the barracks every morning by screaming, “Drop your cocks and grab your socks!”
But in a session on, “What I Wish My Family Knew,” a senior undergrad said he wished his family knew how much he had changed over the last four years, and how much college had changed since they went. Here in the Appalachian corner of Ohio, it was clear, to Chicago dads and Cincinnati moms alike: It’s changed a lot.
I’ve written here before about how parents are these days taking—and how they ought to take—their kids going off to college. I sat with a couple dozen other parents of only children, talking for 45 breathless minutes about how we are going to deal with this.
One member of that group introduced himself to me later, and confessed to being terrified for his daughter, and terrified for himself. We bonded instantly. Throughout “What I Wish My Family Knew,” this software company CEO took many deep breaths and let out many sighs, and after one kid spoke, he marveled to me in a teary whisper, “Pretty brave!”
He is going to be all right.
And as the college transition counselor told us repeatedly,
Which must mean there is no wrong way, either. In fact, now that I’m home, I’m coping with a glass of bourbon.
But in 2022 just as it was in 1804 …
… we desperately petition fortune to smile upon our children, as they take their own path, out our front door.