What You Taught Us

It was different back then. Our parents did not take us on college tours. We received thick books in the mail and occasionally sat in well-heeled living rooms where preppies touted the virtues of their alma mater. Kodak slide carousels were involved.

If we visited anywhere, it was probably by Greyhound Bus. Amtrak. Hitchhiking. Or sharing a ride in an old beater with a handful of friends on a whimsied run up to New England. We'd just as soon be accompanied by our 12th grade A/V teacher, as our parents, tooling around a campus full of pretty girls, cool guys and kegs full of cheap, sudsy beer. 

But here's the thing. Not only weren't we worried about where we got in, we didn't even think about it! College was just something you did after high school. And any correlation between that, and jobs, grown-up debt, and a future? You might as well have talked to us about retirement planning. We were non-plussed. 

So what did we learn this fall as we hauled you from the Happy Valley to Ann Arbor, Madison to Chapel Hill? 

•  The key to being a successful tour guide is walking backwards.

•  Food swipes matter.

•  Antarctica is apparently overrun, since every college has a semester abroad there, now.

•  Quidditch and squirrel watching clubs are in.

•  Laundry machines can be reserved online.

•  Superstition is rampant, but there are numerous statues to adulate and rectify the situation.

•  If anything ever goes wrong, anything at all, run to the blue light. 

Now the miles have been logged and you're busy working on the common app. We watched you listen through half-mast lids to chirpy upperclassmen  at 9 in the morning while we sipped our Starbucks and glanced at our texts. We desperately tried not to ask the questions we wished you'd thought of. We maintained respectful silence as you drank in the size of a freshman "suite." We gulped back our fears when the costs flashed up during the info session powerpoint, and we opened our wallets at the student store.

Maybe, just maybe, you taught us a thing or two, as well. Like your dreams matter more than that third SAT score. That the first draft of your essay was probably the right one. And mainly, that this invisible plume of pressure we unwittingly created, is the worst kind of legacy we could ever pass down.

You'll go and we'll weep. But you can take small comfort knowing what your parents are just starting to figure out. We followed in our folk's footsteps, and you're going to follow in ours. And not a doubt in the world, you're going to be smarter than us.