As we come to the end of this quarter of college with our daughter, Emily, the freshman, I'm so overcome with emotion about this transition of life. It's gone on now for more than a year—the emotion, that is. Ever since we started going through all her childhood pictures to collect the ones that best represent our child for all the PowerPoint presentations they do to commemorate all those senior year moments. Yeah, that was emotional enough!
Now, she is finishing her first quarter and coming to the end of her University Seminar class. USem is a class that all incoming freshman have to take and they get to choose which subject of USem they take. Emily took "50 things to do before I die" with Professor Sharon Hartnett. I've heard nothing but rave reviews from Emily about her prof (trying to use the lingo here!). I first met Dr. Hartnett on the day in May when Emily and I were on campus for registration. Probably wisely, they separated the parents from the incoming students, and we had our own "college orientation for parents" sessions and lunch in Gwinn Commons, the Dining Hall, with professors from the departments that our kids were 'planning' on being in. Of course, we all know that that department will change many times before we make the last payment of tuition! At any rate, the professor that I had lunch with was Dr. Sharon Hartnett, Emily's current USem professor. She was very friendly and told us about her "50 things" class and how she has the parents write a letter to the students at the end of the quarter telling them all the things they've meant to them and what they desire for their future. OK, so yeah! I was bawling just thinking about those poor parents who had THAT emotional job!
Then, Emily ended up in her class!
So, Ken and I got an e-mail from Dr. Hartnett explaining our assignment. Wait! I thought EMILY was in her class—not US!
(This blog will post a bit AFTER the fact because this assignment is a SURPRISE for the students. Emily's on facebook so she'll see it if I post it today!)
This was the e-mail:
Dear Parents and Extended Family,
My name is Dr. Sharon Hartnett, and I am teaching the University Seminar in which your son or daughter is enrolled. This is my eighth year at Seattle Pacific University (30 years of teaching overall), and teaching freshmen is one of my favorite responsibilities.
The course is entitled: Fifty Things to Do or Be Before You Die. One of the assignments students create is a poster, scrapbook, or PowerPoint presentation of 50 values, experiences, or activities that they hope to complete before the end of their lives. Could you write a letter to them expressing your hopes and values for their lives? What kind of person do you want them to be? What gifts do you think they possess? What makes them unique? What do you hope they will gain from their college experience? What wisdom do you have for them?
Near the end of the quarter, just before Thanksgiving Break, when the quarter is the most stressful for them, they will come to my home for breakfast and a morning of relaxation. I will surprise them with the letter then.
Sometimes before leaving for college, parents and young people have conflicts. While this helps the separation process, it can leave things unsaid. Here is your chance. Address the letters to them in care of me. Please respond by Email or the U.S. Postal Service.
I post our response here so that you get a glimpse of the impact Emily has made in her world in her 17 years here on earth:
As you come to the end of your first college semester, we hope you feel a great sense of relief and accomplishment. You have risen to a new academic and social level, and have already separated yourself from tens of millions of Americans who never reach for that higher educational ring.
Naturally, we love you, as all parents love their children. We are proud of you, and this is true for most other parents as well. But we also have a great deal of respect for you, and this is probably scarcer among parents these days.
It is respect that you have earned with the decisions you've made and the path you've chosen to walk. You are an incredible person with incredible gifts and beyond that, you have a perception as to how to use those gifts!
Early in life, you developed a wonderful personality, and we have enjoyed living with you all these years. About age eleven, you began to hone your interests and distinguish yourself in various venues. Ballet (what a beautiful dancer you are!), writing (even earning an award!), design (you have an amazing grasp of scale and proportion!), music (I—Mom—am still amazed that you taught yourself how to play piano! I TEACH piano and know how hard that is!), literature (who ever heard of a high school freshman desiring to read the entire Jane Austen collection, devouring it, and then starting over?), history (you could practically recite American History!), nostalgia (from old movies—Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn being among our favorites!—to fashion, to food, to 50s-style polka-dotted aprons, to home décor, etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on!). Before that, you were leaning in those directions — reading books far above your school level (sorry for all the interjections, but I can hardly resist mentioning finding you as a six-year-old reading the contrast/comparison in the Reader's Digest of the presidential candidates!), watching old movies and endless reruns of Little House On The Prairie, rearranging your room twice a day — but over the past six or seven years, we've seen you allow God to shape your into the person you are today. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and it's a wonderful thing. We are so proud not just to know you as a person, but to have been your parents, to have had the privilege of influencing your growth, and to see you become a product of all that has been poured into you.
Wisely, we did not plan out your life ahead of time – those things rarely turn out well. We just tried to teach you well, read good literature to you, provide good literature for you to read after you learned how, pray for you, and give you an opportunity to succeed.
And you have truly blessed our life.
What parent could ask for more?
We love you—this much.
Dad and Mom
I also hope you get to see Emily's project someday—or parts of it anyway. She has chosen to create a scrapbook. Of course, because this is Emily, it's not a typical scrapbook. She has cut pages into 6 x 6 size and bought a small box that she'll embellish and that the pages will fit in when they are completed. This way, as she accomplishes each of the 50 things, she can move them into a 'Mission Accomplished' box! She is designing each page herself. I've only seen a couple of them so far, but she would definitely be a graphic designer that I would hire! Amazing work! Love you, Em!