My wife calls momentous life changes “Seasons of Life,” while I prefer the “Chapters” analogy. Whichever way you slice it, this week was a big one for our small family as we dropped off our precious daughter at college for her first semester of school away from home. I had no idea it would be so powerful. Over the years, whenever my mom would nostalgically describe how she cried all the way home from Tennessee after dropping me off at Maryville College, I would simply smile and chuckle. I didn’t get it, until now. And yes, the ride home was a melancholy one.
I could wax on about whether or not Maggie can use text-based evidence to support arguments, if she will write from varied sources, or if she’s fluent in her mathematics and can apply mathematical concepts in real world, unpredictable settings, but what’s the point? My wife and I, in tandem with her school teachers, have done all that’s possible to develop her academic skills and understandings. Instead, I hope and pray she fits in and finds her niche in the complex community she has been thrown into. That her new classmates are kind, open-minded, and curious, and that she makes time to take care of her physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. She’s not in “Kansas” anymore, and the Oz-like wonder of a strong liberal arts college presents great opportunities for exploration and creativity.
We’ve done our part, and that chapter has closed. Over Maggie’s 19 years, we did our best to provide a rich structure that helped shape her character, intelligence, and personality. I like to think we provided a firm foundation for Maggie’s future success by getting her ready for school, something Colin Powell speaks about in his Ted Talks presentation on Kids Need Structure. It’s a 50-50 deal though, and our influence has waned with the increasing role of her teachers and peer group. With each year in school, we became more dependent on good teachers and strong friendships to develop Maggie’s personal and academic growth. Fortunately for Maggie and other Warrensburg Central School students, the quality of instruction and the level of nurturance are exceptional in our small rural school district.
And so it goes. Our daughter will now explore a brave new world with lots of other young adults. There will be fewer boundaries and so the lessons learned will be markedly different and sometimes harder than those under the guiding hands of home and community. I hope she and her class mates have a sense of self-efficacy to plow through the roadblocks that life and school throw at them, and that they emerge four years later en masse to change the world for the better. I hope they also realize how privileged this college experience is for them, and that they take every advantage such an experience offers. Meanwhile, my wife and I will pay more attention to Facebook to vicariously watch over our little girl.