Dropping off, dry run

Confession of the Dean of a Community College


On Tuesday I dropped The Girl off at Trenton Train Station so she could catch the train to DC. He will stay with the family for a few days, and then go to Freshman Orientation at UMD.


As far as both he and I were concerned, it was a step towards a dropoff in college.


This coming weekend we will be there for the parental part, then we will bring him back. The actual dropoff is towards the end of August. It was a dry run.


I think at his age he had the same nervous energy. Maybe a little less nervous, and a little more energetic. Sociologist Richard Senate once wrote that the cause of adolescent anxiety is that everything is possible, but nothing is happening. He knew something was about to happen, and his excitement was palpable.


Of course there was a slight undercurrent of fear. While driving to the train station, we immediately agreed to focus only on the tasks at hand. She had never taken Amtrak before, let alone, so I tried to make it as mysterious as possible. The conversational serve-and-volley was much more animated than usual, as we each dealt with both the task at hand and its larger impact.


When I took him to the station, he immediately found the supplies. He got on the right train, and reported that everything was fine. I work.


It didn’t really hit me until I got home and realized he wouldn’t be home for the rest of the week. There are no shifts in the restaurant, no chatting with his group of friends. This week, every dinner is for two. We need to adjust the recipe.


When The Boy moved to college a few years ago, the balance of the house changed, but we still had TG. We were still in full parenting mode. When he leaves, we will be home without a child for the first time since 2001.


I recently finished Susan Kane’s new book, Beatersweet, which was all set for this. (It’s a wonderful book in its own right, even better than his previous book, which I also like.) He notes that the bitter sweet feeling comes with the simultaneous realization and awareness of beauty that it is fleeting. Awareness of loss is part of the experience.


This is parenting. The goal of parenting, as we see, is to take children to places where they no longer need parents. Each new sign of freedom and ability is a cause for celebration, even as it carries an awareness of greater distance. We have raised children with the clear goal of becoming worthy adults and good people. Sometimes the steps are subtle: an unexpected gesture, a recognition from a friend’s parents that a child helped them go through difficult times. But some steps come with spotlights and marching bands. Leaving for college is one of them.


I’m excited to see TG begin to see himself as a college student and explore the world outside of mom and dad’s home. She is ready. We will too. It may take us a little longer.


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Release Newsletter Publication Date:
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Diversity Newsletter Release Date:
Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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