Its been a long time since I greeted a new school year with fresh notebooks and sharpened pencils. These days, Carol and I pack our kids off to school with more digital doodads than books. But though times change, theres still something special about back to school. Its a time of renewal, and though its meant for students, I claim the fresh start for myself, too. Even the best old school years have their share of should-haves and might-have-beens. But new school years carry none of that extra weight. New school years stand before us each September like the grade-school teacher we still love. A new school year smiles on us and says "Welcome."
So let me say welcome, too, on behalf of the University of Iowa Parents Association. Whether youre a first-time Hawkeye parent or you have a whole flock of collegians already, we UI parents do share a common bond. We all have offspring who have temporarily flown the nest for Iowa City. Of course, most of the freshmen are still so fuzzy that theyre doing more hopping than flying so far. The sophomores have generally jumped off their first few branches by now and found that they can indeed wobble through the air. And the juniors and seniors have long since won their wings, so they cruise high above the traffic of the underclassmen, smugly confident that they never were so awkward, lonely, or confused when they were baby birds.
But we parents know better. Most of us remember well what its like to feel very small in a very big place, and thats why the UI Parents Association is here.
Like you, we all have undergraduate students at the University. Like you, we all worry about our kids and want the best for them. And like you, we all want our students to have real people to turn to on campus when they need advice or help. The UI Parents Association works to make sure you and your students can find those real people when you need them. If we can help you, please let us know. What we lack in expertise, we make up for in experience.
If youre a veteran Hawkeye parent, of course, none of this is news to you. In fact, you may well be reading this with your feet up and your guard down, quietly satisfied that you and your child made it through summer vacation together. Thats no simple trick, since even the meekest college student swaggers home after a year on campus and adds a whole new dimension to the notion that threes a crowd. But again, thats normal. Thats how students and parents grow. We part and we rejoin again throughout the college years, and each parting and reunion helps us meet the day when our children leave home for good.
We parents see college as an internship for adulthood. Our students see it as a parent-free zone with nightlife. The great thing about college is its flexible enough that we can all be right. Providence designed college to help almost-but-not-quite-grown children go forth and multiply with at least one employable skill. Summer vacation is just natures insurance policy against backsliding.
College is great as a student, but it can be even better as a parent. If we play our cards right, we parents get the challenge, the excitement, and the thrill of a whole new stage of life without ever leaving home or adjusting to a new roommate.
So take a deep breath, relish the change, and celebrate the season. Our students may not know it, but we all get a fresh start in September. And since were certainly older and perhaps a bit wiser, we ought to be smart enough to do something with the chance. I suggest we take it and run.
Jim Waterbury is general manager of KWWL-TV in Waterloo, Iowa. He and his wife Carol are parents of Hawkeye senior Libby and West Waterloo High School senior Dan.