A dozen years ago, I walked my son to his first day of kindergarten. Hand in hand, we made the two-block journey to a brightly decorated classroom filled with the clamor of new classmates. My boy was nervous, and a little clingy. And as I left, he stood in the window, tearfully waving goodbye, maintaining eye contact until the very last possible moment.
Through the fifth grade, I walked him to class nearly every day. Then the more distant middle school and high school campuses forced me to give up this pleasure. So I compensated by packing his lunch, and handing it off to him at our front door each morning. Plus I began a new tradition. I coined some earnest advice that at first made him roll his eyes, but which he later learned to tolerate. Before I released the lunch into his hands, I'd pause for effect and say: "Be good. Do your best. Learn a lot." Sometimes, just for good measure, I'd add: "Feed the brain." It was a dad thing.
I can't be sure how much difference those words really made. But my son did well in high school as a student and athlete. And the whole family celebrated his admission to an East Coast university. At the same time, we dreaded letting him go. His mother and sister had to deal with it at curbside when they dropped us off at the airport early one recent morning. I got to fly with him, and I liked thinking how I was "walking" him to his first day of school again. Instead of going cold turkey, my goodbye came in stages -- seeing his roommates, unpacking his things and sharing meals on campus. But finally it was time for me to leave.
So on that final morning, it was my turn to be clingy, as I hugged him and cried. And the child became father to the man as he bent down from his 6'4'' height to reassure me. So I blubbered my old advice: "Be good. Do your best. Learn a lot." And he laughed. Then in a moment of symmetry from that first day of kindergarten, I dragged out the walk back to the rental car, maintaining eye contact until the very last possible moment.
With a Perspective, I'm Lindsay Beaman.