Fast forward thirty years (yes, my 30th high school reunion is this weekend).
I just returned from my first Parents Weekend at my son's university. The students are young and fit and beautiful and young. There were parents EVERYWHERE. The car line in front of the dorm was like pre-school pickup; parents shuttling their kids to dinner, brunch and shopping trips to Target. My son remarked how different the campus looked this weekend with all of us baby-boomer parents schlepping behind our eighteen year olds.
A mere eight weeks ago these "rising freshmen" were anxious, new and still a little clingy as we dragged them through Bed Bath and Beyond, and every other big-box store to stock their dorm rooms for the year. They seem to have acclimated themselves to this new way of life; the dorm room smelled like sweaty sneakers, the back pack looked broken in and there were nods, hello's and a few hugs to classmates as my son showed us campus from his viewpoint.
I learned about the "swiping" of the card which gets one in to the food halls, the gym and many other campus venues. I was instructed about when and where they were permitted to eat what and about these periods called "late night" dining; that would be the "9:30pm I haven't had dinner because I got up at 12:00pm meal" that the campus provides for these college students and their unique daily routines.
My son pointed out the classrooms, the faculty offices and the big and beautiful new student center adjacent to the gorgeous campus pool. I saw his particular nook at the on-campus Starbucks where he gets most of his work done ("I like the white noise, it's not too quiet like the library, but not loud and distracting") and the Student Government Office where he and his peers will convene weekly as members of the newly elected student government (may they have better luck that their Federal counterparts).
So many thoughts as a parent were swirling through my head, first and foremost being, when can I go to sleep since I have been up since 5:30am and you rolled out of bed when we landed at the airport? But seriously, how their lives have changed so much in just two months. Which experiences will be the impetus to their future adult lives? Who from this campus will be their lifelong friends, partners or spouses?
It was also interesting to note how the freshman are learning to negotiate their way through life challenges. One girl had an ear infection and had to spend three hours waiting at the health clinic because she hadn't made an appointment only to realize she had no cash on her to purchase her prescription. A few classmates switched majors and thus have an entirely new schedule from the one that they had constructed over the summer with mom and dad by their side. There have been fights, injuries and student probationary periods prompted by overindulging in underage drinking and I read a flyer on the dorm wall about "alerts" that a professor will send home if there is an academic concern.
The freshman are learning that the "Welcome to Adulthood" banner includes the joy of the greatest.party.evah. and the realization that "it is time to do some work" all wrapped up in the same college experience . I am grateful that these students have the opportunity to wear the banner in a somewhat protected environment. There are faculty, staff, resident advisors and upperclassmen are all available to share both the joys and the great lessons of the freshman year.
May all the Freshman of 2013-2014 find joy, learning, great adventures and safety this year (and don't forget to call your parents, okay, a text will suffice!)
Addendum: Between completing this post and making final edits, I got a text from my son "I think I'm going to go to the health center to get my sinuses checked out". Since he had been having symptoms all weekend, I praised his idea and reminded him to make an appointment to avoid a three hour wait!