• 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.

Title

The Last First Day

The Boy starts his senior year of high school this week.

September 4, 2018
 
 

The Boy starts his senior year of high school this week. It will be his last first day of school, at least with us.

He’s more than ready to move on. He has a confidence beyond anything I could have even faked at that age, and -- even better -- the ability to back it up. To the extent that I worry for him, it’s usually around overconfidence. The hand-wave and dismissive “I’ll be fine” works, except when it doesn’t.  But he’ll have to learn that for himself.

He is very much his own person. He gets his love for order and neatness from his mother, and he likes to say he gets his “chill” from me, but he’s really his own creation. (The one thing I’ll take credit for is teaching him that the occasional short sentence, especially as its own paragraph, can help the rhythm of a paper.  He admits adopting that.) He’s athletic in a way that neither of us ever was, and musical in ways that neither of us ever was. The most striking thing, though, is his ease with people.  Little kids love him, and always have; they pick up on the “gentle giant” vibe he gives off. His courtesy is based on actually wanting to be a decent person, and it comes off that way. It’s mannerly, rather than mannered, and it wears well.

He was our first. Most of our firsts have been with him.

In the early years, he was what gets euphemistically called a “live wire.” We used to unplug the baby monitor because we could hear him just fine without it.  He used to jump up and down in the exersaucer so quickly that it sounded like a jackhammer in the living room. He would slam his legs down in the crib so hard that the lights downstairs would shake. The only things that would get him to sit still were books and legos. 

He grew into himself, though, and found ways to control that energy. 

As parents, we had to make it up as we went along with him.  Luckily, we share a guiding principle of parenting, which is that the goal is to get the kid to the point that the kid doesn’t need the parent anymore. That means providing a safe home base and gradually calibrating exposure to risks, to the extent that you control them.

This will be the first time since he was in the fourth grade that he and The Girl will be in the same school. They’ve both announced their intentions to avoid each other as much as possible. I get that. It’s not anger or hatred; they actually like each other.  It’s just that they each have their own worlds at school, as well they should. As parents, at least we’ll have a year in which their half-days and snow days always match.  That will be refreshing.

He’s in the thick of the college search.  Next week, when their school is closed for Rosh Hashanah, he and I will fly out to Michigan to see the University up close.  As a kid, I heard my parents (both U of M grads) talk about it. Now my son is talking about it. I’m not quite sure when that happened, but it did.

His next first day will be someplace that is not here, with people who are not us. 

..

This Thursday will be his last first day.  I may be a little late.
 

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