Leaving Your Kid at College

I was asked to give some remarks to the incoming freshmen and their parents this week. Here’s what I said. (I changed the name of my son’s friend to protect her well-meaning mother).

Good morning and welcome. On behalf of the faculty, I welcome all of you to our Leeds family.

One of the reasons I was selected for these remarks is that I, too, am sending a child to college this month. My Facebook feed is filled with headlines like “6 Reasons Why Moms Cry When They Leave Their Kids at College.”

I find myself nodding my head in agreement at the 6 Reasons. There is solidarity in being part of this bittersweet rite of passage. However, with my job at the university, I have an uncommon perspective on these articles, because I get to see what happens after the drop-off. I get to witness the great things that happen as these young adults start to make their marks on the world.

In my family, the story we summon for these life transitions took place exactly sixteen years ago this week. That was the week that my older son started kindergarten. A few months before that launch date, my husband and I attended a meeting at his pre-school to learn about what to expect. There was a heated discussion among the other parents about whether or not they were going to send their child on the bus on the first day of kindergarten. Maybe you faced a decision like that, so many years ago.

For us, it wasn’t a hard decision. Our son, Ted, talked non-stop from a young age, and we were confident that if he had a question, he would find someone to ask. He was going on that bus.

But every child is different. Ted had a friend named Kay. Kay definitely wanted to go on the bus, but Kay’s mother was not so sure about that. When the first day came, Kay did go on the bus. Unbeknownst to Kay, her mother followed the bus in her car, and crouched behind the bushes to observe the arrival scene at school.

I hope you, as parents, don’t feel the need to crouch behind the bushes today. But if you do, I hope you see what Kay’s mother saw that day: the vibrant energy of young people met with a warm welcome into a supportive environment. Remembering this story makes me smile because the kindergarten bus is just one of the many transitions on the way to independent adulthood. Today is another. The faculty at Leeds are honored to be a part of today’s transition. Our campus has an incredible set of resources: academic expertise, of course, but also social support, involvement opportunities, and career guidance.

Students, find and use these resources. We, the faculty, look forward to having you in class. It is our privilege to teach you, to learn with you about the changing world, and to see you develop in the classroom and beyond. We hope that you feel exactly the same way: that it is your privilege to be here with us.

To the parents, siblings, friends, family members, and other supporters here today: we see you as partners in supporting these students. We hope you feel exactly the same way.

To all of you, congratulations on making it to this moment, and welcome to Leeds.

p.s. Not part of the speech: I used my poetic license for the story. The real report from the crouching mom was “CHAOS!!” (That would be an accurate analogy, but not an appropriate one to convey on the occasion of my speech.) She also reported, sweetly, that Ted took Kay’s hand and together they made their way to the classroom. Kay is now going to be a senior in college. Hopefully she can find her own classes now…but if not, I bet Ted would help her.

3 Comment

  1. laurakornish says: Reply

    A fellow traveler on this journey–the dean of the UC Irvine law school on sending his last child to college, after 33 (!!) years with a youngster at home: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/school-726902-year-college.html

  2. Thank goodness the world is full of Kays, Teds and everyone in between! As a mom who is currently dreading the college send off of my baby next year, it’s really sweet to hear the faculty perspective. Sometimes I forget that there are a whole bunch pf caring people on the other end of MY good-bye hug… excited to offer a big huge “WELCOME”

  3. laurakornish says: Reply

    Another contribution to this genre of launch reflections: https://nyti.ms/2N9DkOf

    “Any parent with an ounce of self-knowledge will agree that parenting is a multi-decade exercise in recalibration. In our house we are either grossly overreacting or, just as unsettling, underreacting. ” “Don’t take other people’s Adderall. Granola bars have a lot of sugar. The stamp goes in the upper right-hand corner of the envelope.”

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