Thursday, September 1, 2011

The College Drop Off

I have a very hard time giving up roles and responsibilities.    Rather than change jobs, I add jobs.

In 1996, I oversaw the CareGroup Center for Quality and Value, the data warehousing and analytic operations of a Boston-based integrated delivery system comprised of Beth Israel Deaconess and 4 other hospitals.   When I became the CIO of CareGroup in 1998, it took me a year to separate myself from the operational responsibilities of the CQV.

In 2000, I oversaw the Harvard Medical School learning management system as Associate Dean of Educational Technology.   When I become the CIO of HMS in 2001, it took me a year to delegate my educational technology role.   Early in my HMS tenure, I was asked to serve as temporary CIO of Harvard Clinical Research Institute (HCRI).  That temporary job lasted a year.

Today, my wife and I spent the day at Tufts, helping our daughter move into her dorm and begin her journey as an independent adult.   In many ways, my job as parent, that began 18 years ago, fundamentally changed today.   It's very hard to let go.

I'll want to hear about my daughter's experiences each day, the decisions she's making, the challenges she's facing, and the successes she's achieving.  I'll want to offer advice, assist when I can, and give her the benefits of my 50 years of experience.

However, all of these activities are the wrong thing to do.   She needs to fly on her own, knowing that we're here when she needs us.

The Deans at Tufts emphasized 3 goals for Tufts undergraduates - develop internal curiosity for learning, be responsible for your own actions, and become an advocate for yourself.  

The only way my daughter will become a mature, experienced, and assertive young woman is to do her best, explore a college world that is much more diverse than her high school experience, and be responsible for her own decisions.

Today, my wife and I became a safety net rather than a guiding force.

Lara has fledged and we have an empty nest.

We shed tears of loss when saying goodbye, followed by tears of joy for her new possibilities.

I may have had a hard time with the CQV, HCRI, and Harvard Medical School, but for Lara, I can morph my parent job so that she that she can thrive in our increasingly complex and confusing world.   My job needs to change, so that she can change.

Lara, we only cried part of the way home.   We're ok.

Now do great things.  The world is your oyster.


Anonymous said...

Ten years ago, my parents dropped me off at college and after that it was about one phone call a week. A lot has changed in the world since then, and especially in parents' involvement in their children's lives as they progress into adulthood. While I admire the love you show for your daughter and the guidance you've provided along the way, I worry about you truly letting her get the decision-making experience she needs. After reading your past entries, I hope you really do let go and let your daughter become an independent young woman. You're still only 30 minutes away, an easy T to commuter rail trip. Let's hope it's far enough.

Mattpenning said...

Having come out on the other side of leading our one and only from the nest, now to enjoy the company and conversation of our son as a fully formed adult, I can get a small glimpse of your journey today. It was hard for us, and worth the hardship. We have been reaping the rewards of letting go and enjoying both our own closer company and that of our son and his chosen partner.

Well done. Thank you for sharing the journey.

SJ said...

John, I like hearing your perspective from the other side of the coin. I'm 30, and can remember my first day of college vividly -- my dad was driving away, and I realized with horror that my dorm room keys were in his car. This is before cell phones were all that common, and of course we didn't have one. I took off running behind his car, and he said the sight of me running after him in his rearview mirror is something he'll always remembr. It really is a poignant time.

Anonymous said...

I have read your posts and admire your parenting.

I thought I should try not to hover when our first daughter went to college, but we seem to have fallen into a very comfortable routine of talking almost every day. While my other daughter calls every two to three days. I was surprised that even though she is very independent, she admitted to being lonely at times in the dorm. So while I very much want them to be independent, I don't worry about trying not to call too often anymore.

If you were close before, you will be close while she is at college too. A very relaxed, natural rhythm just develops.

I think the first few weeks are the most difficult. By day 5 many of them are very homesick, but after that they settle in just fine. When they settle, I settle. This usually takes about 2 weeks the first year and is so much easier the following years.