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/
My, how time flies. It seems like just yesterday that I was posting on this page that we were taking our eldest to college. It is unfathomable to me that it has actually been nearly four years. Tomorrow, my wife and I will watch him walk across a stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from Gordon College. All the papers and tests, projects and presentations have been made; all the notes and classes have been taken. Jonathan is no longer a kid who has gone off to school. There is little doubt now – my son is now an adult.
I thought about writing an open letter to my son, telling him all the things that he still needs to know in order to be successful in the world of the working – there are no small jobs, just small people; those you crush on your way up the ladder to success will also be those unwilling to prevent you from falling back down; if you do your best every time, you will sleep better at night – but I realized that I do not have many pearls of wisdom to offer. As the diploma he’ll receive tomorrow signifies, the days of formal lessons are over and the days of application awaits.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
My hope is that what he learned at the Kenny, the Murphy, Boston Latin School and Gordon – and especially what he learned at home – has been sufficient for him to know the importance of being a good and kind person and not simply successful. My hope is that it does not take him too long to understand that it is not the facts that he gained that provide education with its value; it is the ability to process those facts for the improvement of those around him that counts. He was a smart kid when he began school 17 years ago; I pray that he is a wise young man now.
I asked my wife the other day, “How old will Jonathan be in your mind when we watch him graduate?” For me, I have a feeling that the images will fluctuate. I will see that week-old NICU patient, the six-year old soccer dynamo, the 10-year old baseball player. It will be the kid I ate pancakes with after an emergency room visit, the boy his mother witnessed being struck by a car as he made his way to the school bus and the young man who drove off to camp for the summer. I will see all the birthday parties and Christmases, all the awards and arguments and all the frustrations and fun that has brought him to this point. I hope I can see it all.
Congratulations, Jonathan. I am so proud of you, son, for staying the course, even when the way was difficult and the days were filled with doubts. May the Lord bless your next adventure as wonderfully as He has your last.