Jim Amidon — About a week ago, Chris and I took our daughter to “meet the teacher” night at her new school. With system-wide reorganization fully implemented, we shifted from Hose to Nicholson and I actually found myself lost in the maze of hallways that at Hose I found so familiar.
How sad is it that I had to stop to ask for directions in an elementary school?
Sammie, a third grader, had some anxiety about the new school, too. I told her that every student in the city who had to shift schools probably had the same feeling. Our kids are working through new teachers, schools, cafeterias, gyms, hallways, and routines.
“Seems more strict,” Sammie told me after the second day of school. I reminded her that she said the same thing after her first day at Hose.
“Did I say that,” she asked.
Then, on Thursday, I laughed out loud when I went to pick her up from school. Never knew Honda equipped its cars with autopilot until I was halfway to Hose, only to realize my daughter wasn’t there. Then, once I got to Nicholson, I went the wrong way and got backwards in the pick-up loop.
Many of us who are parents are working through new routines, too, though I firmly believe our children will transition much easier and more quickly than any of us will.
The whole new school/new routine thing took on new meaning for me when I sat in the Wabash College Chapel on Saturday listening to Dean Steve Klein and President Pat White talking to the 250 new freshmen and their families. It’s a one-hour rite of passage we call the “Ringing In Ceremony.”
President White was reassuring in his comments to parents in a way only a father who has been there and done that can be. When he told parents that their sons were in good hands, he spoke from experience. He’s been through the process once as Wabash’s president, but can also fall back on the experience of having sent his three children to college.
Still, I don’t think many parents in the crowd were really listening to him. Their eyes might have been fixed on the podium, but my hunch is that their minds were drifting back into memory. They had to be thinking, “Wasn’t it just yesterday when we took him — with back pack and Star Wars lunch box — to elementary school?”
Instead of seeing President White, most folks were seeing images of skinned knees and touchdown catches, while remembering the heartbreak their sons felt when girlfriends dumped them or the anxiety they felt when they handed their sons the car keys for the first time.
Some of the dads in the crowd were smiling and beaming with pride at the fact their sons are attending a fine college with an excellent reputation, a college for men, no less.
Many of the moms were wiping tears from their eyes, no doubt sad that their little boys are, well, no longer little boys.
There’s a lot of emotion packed into that one hour. It’s essentially the time when parents realize their sons are on their own with all the joy, fear, and anxiety that brings.
I can only imagine.
When the ceremony had concluded and President White had rung the Caleb Mills Bell, reality settled in for both parents and students. I felt a wave of emotion come over me as I watched moms hold on a little longer when they hugged their sons and kissed them goodbye. Through the tears of sadness came a sparkle of pride and a sense that everything is going to be okay.
By this morning, those same moms are dying to speed-dial their sons’ cell phones. They will, I hope, know not to do it. They’ll learn quickly enough that Wabash men need a little space, a little time. And those same sons, now Wabash men, will do well not to call home too often, especially at first.
While I’ve never dropped off a child at college, I’ve watched it 25 times here at Wabash. And I can say with some deal of certainty that everything will be okay.
After all, our children adapt and adjust to transitions far better than their parents.