• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.



Getting ready for a son's next steps.

July 20, 2018

The Boy is flying to Honduras on Saturday. We’re quietly freaking out, though for different reasons.

He’s with a group called Students Helping Honduras. As I understand it, they build schools in rural parts of Honduras so children there don’t have to walk long distances through gang territory to go to school. TB’s girlfriend went last year and is going again this year, but this will be his first trip. He (and the group) will be there for a week. The larger organization brings various groups in over the course of the summer.

In the manner of young men everywhere, he’s motivated by a combination of idealism, restlessness, a sense of adventure, and a desire to impress his girlfriend.  That’s pretty much as it should be. He’s a great kid, he really wants to go, the organization seems legit, and his girlfriend, whom we like, speaks highly of her experience there last year. We couldn’t come up with a reason to say no.

The Wife is concerned about his safety. Part of that comes from a general sense that it’s a dangerous area, and part of it comes from a sense that anti-Americanism may be running unusually high these days. She supported the idea of him going, but now that it’s imminent, she’s getting nervous. Just the fact that he has to take medications to prevent typhoid and malaria are signs that it isn’t the safest place in the world. 

I’m seeing it more as a sneak preview of what it’ll be like in a little over a year, when he goes away to college. I support him going to college, and will be proud to see him spread his wings, but we haven’t been without him on a daily basis since 2001. Until now, I’ve known that intellectually, but I haven’t felt it as a lived reality. Now I will, and the countdown clock to college is suddenly a whole lot louder than it was.

We both know that it’ll be fine. But every parent knows the vertiginous mix of dread and pride that comes with the undeniable launch of a new stage.  You know it’s coming, you know it’s part of the way things should be, and you steel yourself for it. But in the moment that it first stares you in the face with its cold, hard reality, the butterflies come back.

That’s especially true with a trip like this, which neither of us ever did when we were students.  We’ve never been to Honduras at all. That makes it a little scarier for us; we honestly don’t know what he’s in for.  In this specific moment, he’s like a first-generation student. We’re sending him on a journey to a place we’ve never been, out of a general sense that it’s a good idea.  Leaps of faith involve, well, leaps. We have to leave terra firma for a moment and trust that the landing won’t hurt too much.

I don’t know if this will make next September any easier. But it may help me appreciate his last full year at home just a little bit more. That counts for something, right?


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