Parents of college-bound kids should proudly let them fly and say a prayer
If Polonius, Shakespeare's helicopter parent in "Hamlet," were sending Laertes off to college today, he might advise his son as he did then -- "This above all: To thine own self be true" -- and then Facebook-stalk him for the next four years.
Well, being a busybody didn't work out for Polonius, and if we creeped our kids on Facebook they would never talk to us again, so how are we supposed to handle the heart-wrenching departure of our college-age offspring this month? Are we expected to relinquish the works of art we've been shaping for the past 18 years to forces beyond our control -- frat parties, Jello shots, a hook-up culture, liberal professors?
Eighteen years ago when we were reading "Your Baby and Child," there was no mention of this. But it's going to happen, for many of us this month. After the extra-long twin sheets are on the dorm bed, the minifridge is stocked with Vitamin water and Power Bars, we are going to have to get in the car and drive away.
I am preparing for this day by thinking of myself as an Olympic discus thrower. Parents, this is what we have been training for the past 18 years; this is our moment. We have to hurl them far, let them fly. Don't drop your child at your feet or, worse, on your foot; don't make an aborted attempt that causes the crowd to mumble and feel sorry for you. Spin around, do the discus dance, get up on your toes and really launch that thing.
Also, keep in mind that athletes don't do it alone. They have coaches and trainers; some invoke routine, some call upon a higher power. Whatever it takes to get you there.
As for me, as I watch my son's broad back disappear into his freshmen dorm, I expect I will fling a desperate prayer skyward that will go something like this:
Dear God, please, no tattoos.
Don't let me see "YOLO" on any part of his unblemished body at fall break, or see it desecrated with ink, vodka shots or anything concocted in a chemistry lab.
Keep him healthy and pure of heart.
Lord, let him nurse that first beer throughout the entire party and pour it in the grass by night's end, and if he witnesses a classmate in trouble, may he walk her home to be sure she is safe.
Let him remember what we have taught him and always be his brother's keeper.
And when a designated driver is needed, let it be him.
Please steer all distracted drivers down other roads, and if my boy is tempted to text behind the wheel, let him remember the seat belts, lifejackets and bike helmets we strapped him into, and put the phone away.
I ask you these things, Lord, fully aware they may compromise his popularity, but if it will help me sleep at night, so be it.
Please surround him with friends who will have his back, that back that has already disappeared into the dorm, a building with rooms not much larger than closets. Let not those rooms be buffeted by earthquakes or tornadoes or infested with cockroaches. (Though he might not notice the cockroaches.)
Let him work hard in all his classes, and if he has to drop a class, let him know the drop deadline so that his transcript will show a W, not an F, and so we will not have to pay for it.
When he has a research paper due, Lord, let him dig beyond Wikipedia.
Lead him not into temptation but deliver him from Facebook and YouTube.
Let him drink deeply from good books, wise professors and new ideas. Let him think and reflect and ponder and ultimately act according to your will, without claiming to know your will, because, frankly, people who do that scare me.
Above all else, let him be humble and kind. And safe. Especially safe.
He's been a good boy; help him become a good man.
And after that, I'm going to perform my post-toss victory scream. I'm going to pump my fist in the air while the officials hustle out on the field to measure my toss;, and I will bellow like I hit a personal best, hop up and down and smile like I couldn't be happier with my accomplishment.
Then I'm going to cry all the way home.
Christine Brunkhorst is a Minneapolis writer.
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