Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Monday morning at 10AM, Jeanine and I will be dropping off at college our middle son, David. When we do, he will start his freshman year at Fitchburg State University. This will mark the third time we have dropped off our child at college (for those unfamiliar with our story, seven years ago we abandoned to the world of academia a defenseless boy at Gordon College and three years ago we deserted in our nation’s capital a wide-eyed girl at American University). For those wondering, repetition does not make the process of leaving a child to fend for himself any easier.
So, as David steps out of the shadows of our wings and begins to chart the course of his own flight, allow me to share a few words of wisdom for my own experiences:
- First, I would want to tell him to allow seize every opportunity to accentuate all that is good within him. I want David to use these next four years to discover and define his passions and pursue them. I’d want him to exhaust his electives with eclectic, not just easy, courses – art, drama, bocce, or women’s studies – with the intent on unearthing an unknown interest. I ask that he join a club or society outside his field of study. And, in the dining hall, I hope he expands his palate, eating more than just a backpack full of croutons.
- Next, I would want to tell him to remember why he is where he is. He is there to get an education. He is there to gain confidence in his independence. He is there to shine like the sun in a world of darkness. He is there to build life-long relationship with real people. I’d recommend to him to maintain the discipline of going to every class every time it meets, of working hard and then playing hard and of partnering with like-minded individuals to prod themselves onto good works. If his brother and sister are any indication of his future, he will return home a different, more assured, person; I’d want him to embrace that development.
- Then, I would remind him that an elephant is eaten one bite at a time. As he enters the dormitory on Monday, I am sure that there are fears and trepidations that will cloud his thinking, as well as the worry that this undertaking is too much to handle – and in the moment, it will be. But when he takes one step in the right direction, followed by another and another, before long progress will be seen. I would tell him to keep moving forward, even if it is baby steps.
As my child steps out of the car and into a world of curated independence, I’d want him to know that he is capable of more than he thinks possible and stronger than he thinks necessary.
For all those leaving for college for the first time this week, and for their families who love them, I pray God’s richest blessing and watch care be upon us as we all pursue our dreams.
For those wanting to read my thoughts seven years ago, read https://calvaryboston.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/a-parents-hope-for-freshmen/ and for my thoughts three years ago, read https://calvaryboston.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/for-freshmen/
Tomorrow morning at 9AM Jeanine and I will be dropping off at college our only daughter, Rebekah. At that time, she will begin orientation week at American University in Washington, DC (which is 447 miles from our new apartment in Dorchester). This is not the first time we’ve driven a child to college and waved as we drove away; we were in a similar situation four years as we hugged our son in front of a dorm at Gordon College (a mere 33 miles from our current apartment in Dorchester). I can say in my mind that this is the same thing, but my heart tells me that this is going to be different.
As Rebekah begins her collegiate career, I feel the need, as I did for her brother before her, to pass on a few words of wisdom from my own experiences:
- First, I would want to tell her to allow this experience to enhance her beautiful qualities instead of changing them. She will meet a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds whom she will want to emulate; I’d want her to know that she is able to resist that temptation and remain true to herself. I hope she makes friends with people from other cultures, countries and capabilities and she is better for these interactions while keeping within her what makes her unique;
- Next, I would want to tell her to focus on the important and not just the interesting. I’d want her to remember why she is where she is – to gain the skills and special training she needs to improve her chances at accomplishing her goals. I’d tell her that going to class and preparing for exams are essentials disciplines that will reap rich rewards. However, there are important things beyond the classroom as well: I’d want her to look for those lifelong friendships and life-shaping experiences that can be found in unexpected places;
- Then, I would remind her that God has directed her to our nation’s capital for a purpose. I would encourage her to take advantage to all that her campus and community allows. Go to the Smithsonian and absorb great art and artifacts, read the words inscribed on the monuments and memorials, and witness the pageantry of diplomatic motorcades and an inauguration; attend worship in some of the great churches in our nation, serve the needs of the poor and underprivileged, and take a skull along the Potomac.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)
Honey, I want you to shine so brightly that in the dark moments we can still see you 447 miles away. Your mother and I are so proud of you and all that you’ve become. We cannot wait to see the great things God will continue to do through you!
For all those leaving for college for the first time this week, and for their families who love them, I pray God’s richest blessing and watch care as you pursue your dreams.
For those wanting to read my thoughts four years ago, read https://calvaryboston.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/a-parents-hope-for-freshmen/