This is the time of year when it has happened to many parents already and is about to happen to many more. The act of “dropping off” your child at college.
Do you remember when it happened to you and you were the freshman?
It was the early ’80s for me, and my father was proudly driving me down from Dallas to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. I can’t say that it was a ride where we had any profound talks, though I don’t think it was for any lack of my father’s trying. Like many, I just couldn’t wait to leave the house and at the same time felt a little anxious–not only about my new life just ahead but the nearest concrete event tied to that exodus after a few hours in an air-conditioned cushy automotive ride.
Yes, Dad unpacking the car and doing probably more of the heavy lifting, even walking upstairs to the dorm room, and of course this entailed other future residents moving in and them seeing Dad, though at the time it did not occur to me that it might have been just as embarrassing to them as it was to me.
There was really no reason to be embarrassed about having Dad there, except for having Dad there. Add to that what having Dad there meant. He was inspecting the dorm room, muttering something about how nice everything was–even though by today’s standards that bare dorm room with metal beds and two functional desks and little less would not be something you are probably dropping your child off to. No, your child might be moving into a kind of upscale hotel suite.
But no matter what things look like in the new surroundings, and even if your child, young adult supposedly, has bonded with you all during the drive to the college or university, remember this, this past of yours, but of course that is probably not necessary or desirable quite yet, because you just might shed a tear, as if over a sentimental song, or your child, I mean adult, might shed a tear also. Or the goodbyes might be quiet and not occurring fast enough for either party.
As my father slipped some folded twenty-dollar bills into my hands, there wasn’t a word exchanged, and all I could hear was the mother of my future room mate admonishing him to hang up his all-cotton dress shirts after he had washed them. So all in all, it was a pretty good day for both father and son, if you make comparisons.
I could have left it there, you getting off easy, vicariously participating in my small victory of not having dress shirts forced upon me, or maybe you wished you were part of some Sons and Lovers phase my roommate was experiencing.
No, you might be thinking or trying not to think that as soon as you leave your freshman will engage in some wild screw-fest, get so drunk he or she throws up all over the balcony railing if the room comes with one, but I want to reassure you that there is no need to take the time to worry because very likely your freshman will get to do all that and things your generation did not yet have in their arsenal of ideas.
You might have heard in the news about alcohol-enemas and alcohol tampons, surprisingly part of polite conversation these days–maybe we are making progress in at least some part of the act of the communication, even if the kids are not included, but by now you can be sure that new things will be tried as your freshman might simply be bored by the proliferation of student life activities that are being thought up for them by professionals.
And that’s a good thing, that your freshman is not some idiot consumer easily manipulated by Mad Men, though of course there are different kinds of mad men that manipulate and erect the cabal of peer pressure for cauldron activities boiling over on campuses across America.
But take heart, the human race is remarkably resilient, we have reached almost a kind of roach or rat-like status in our ability to consume what is bad for us, and there is every reason to believe that your freshman will come out alive and better for it, alive and well when it is his or her turn to drop off his or her child if your freshman has decided to reproduce and add more people to the state of the planet.
More likely, your freshman’s future offspring will be taking some kind of outgrowth of online education, sitting in their home, while you, through improved medications, will be there to see it all. Is that what they mean by a grandparent’s joys?
It is not nice to scare people, but people seem to want to be scared these days–even by such contrived events along the jagged-teeth plot line of Shark Week, with its obligatory hashtag to make its mark further known than it needs to be.
I hope I have given you pause for thought, as education strangely is becoming more of an abstract notion despite its workman-like specificity of goals and tasks, where students are often trained like mammals at Sea World to perform. So as you drive to drop off your freshman at college, tell him or her a ghost story in the car, adding your own to what you have just read, and as your freshman flees up the stairs to the new student housing, don’t worry, it is very likely that your freshman will attend an event or two with a freshly ironed shirt or blouse, even these modern days, the only difference being it was turned in to be laundered by someone other than your child, I mean adult. After all, a handshake with a couple of twenties just won’t do it anymore.