Another View: Plenty to learn when sending your child off to college

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, publisher, Auburn Journal
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Going back to college wasn’t what I expected. Last weekend, I helped move my daughter into the freshmen dorm at the University of San Francisco. Excited and anxious, she was realizing a longtime dream of attending a highly regarded institution in one of the most spectacular cities in the world. Me? I was just trying to hold on, searching to understand a set of emotions that left me dazed, confused and wondering why I was a bit saddened. And no, it wasn’t the rarified air of the Haight-Ashbury District working its way up the hill. Just a few months ago, I had put together a photo book of my daughter’s first 18 years. There were pictures of her birth, her days at the Montessori preschool and her first day of first grade. Other pages offered photos of a genealogy project that revealed her Armenian heritage, summer and winter vacations in Tahoe, good times with her grandparents, blowing glass with her exceptional aunt. Choosing from hundreds of photos, the book had taken me several days to construct, but it brought her young life into context. A graduation gift for her, a round of therapy for me. The last page included a photo of her near one of the USF entry signs. At the time, it seemed like a nice segue between adolescence and adulthood. Now, with that new chapter in her life well under way, it struck me as something more. My daughter is on her own. As I looked around, I realized hundreds of other families were in the same situation. Around the country, millions of college freshmen are taking the same step this fall, leaving millions of parents feeling exactly like I am — excited for their opportunity, and saddened by our loss. Knowing this, USF put together a short guide for parents that expressed empathy, but also shared the brutal, honest truth: Let go, and then watch them grow. It was with eerie coincidence Sunday that the New York Times published a story on the subject of parent-child separation, titled “Students, Welcome to College; Parents, Go Home.” The article shares numerous instances around the country in which colleges and universities have established “parting ceremonies” to keep “Velcro parents” from sticking around campus. At Grinnell College in Iowa, parents and students sit on opposite sides of the gym at the opening assembly. When the session ends, parents are urged to leave campus. At the University of Minnesota, parents and students are separated early on move-in day so students can negotiate with their roommates without parental involvement. “Formal ‘hit the road’ departure ceremonies are unusual, but growing in popularity,” the Times article states. “A more common approach is for colleges to introduce blunt language into drop-off schedules specifying the hour for last hugs.” “It’s easy for us to point to this notation and say, ‘Hey Mom, I think you’re supposed to be gone now,’” the Times quotes Thomas Dunne, associate dean of students at Colgate University. “It’s obviously a hard conversation for students to have with parents,” Dunne said. Nothing like that happened at USF. Parents were treated with grace and respect, from the beautiful opening service in the university cathedral to the “Dons Fest” expo in the gym. And my daughter didn’t lay it out for me, either. But as the weekend wore on, it was clear it was time for me to go. The sadness has ebbed the last few days, but I still catch myself wanting to call or shoot a text message her way, just to see how her day is going. Has she made new friends? Are her classes going well? Does she need anything? I can hear the Velcro ripping now.