Leave a Message After the Beep…

One Senior Parent’s Reflection on and Advice for New 9th Grade Parents

Remember last year? The school visits, the interviews, the seemingly endless rounds of tutoring and SSAT test centers? Remember just this past Summer? Shopping for clothes, bedding, the perfect desk chair with the California fire code rating? You and your new Deerfield student probably spent more intense time together during these past 12 months than ever before.  Remember those times because your lives are about to change.

The first time your child leaves for boarding school there is a seismic shift in the family dynamic. The obvious? Less chauffeuring, less laundry, an empty seat at the table. The difference that our family felt more deeply than all those others –

the SILENCE.

One doesn’t have to be a Deerfield alumnus to understand that one less person at home means less noise. What we didn’t expect, or even fathom, was the cone of silence that would envelope our lives as our only child left for boarding school.  Day One for a freshman’s family – move student in, meet roommate and roommate’s family, set up room, lunch with family and Advisor, child changes into “The Village” T-shirt, grabs stuff for Camp Beckett, Class picture on steps, family hugs, students board busses and wave goodbye to the sea of parents.

The drive home is surreal, some of us cry, you will hear or have heard many stories. My personal favorite? Big strong Dad makes it all the way to the Irving gas station, runs in buys a 6 pack and tells Mom she has to stop crying and drive home, all Mom hears is her husband sobbing for the next 2 hours.  But wait…Deerfield allows the kids to have their mobile phones, we’ll be able to talk with them every day or so we thought.

We waited for the phone to ring. Our texts were answered with “I’ll call later.” We asked, we begged, we cajoled, we threatened – most times the response was zip, zilch, zero. It took us until Fall Family Weekend to get “it” – 30 minute classes instead of their normal 45 minutes, 5 more minutes in between classes to get to the next one, no homework to do, no sport to train for and, after five classes (4 of which we had no clue what was being discussed), I had a migraine, my husband needed a nap and basically we just wanted to cry.

Finally, it dawned on us – THEY HAVE LITTLE TIME TO EVEN THINK ABOUT CALLING HOME. We came to understand the simple facts – the life of a Deerfield student, especially a freshman, is jam packed with the aforementioned obvious plus the equally difficult task of putting together a whole new support network of friends and mentors, navigating new geography, sharing a room quite possibly for the first time, and becoming the self reliant adults every parent wants their children to become.

Looking back on my experience as a new 9thgrade parent, here are my hints for success –

  1. Lower your expectations, now lower them again.
  2. Agree on minimal communications schedule.  For us, it was one text a day and one phone call a week on Sunday, anything else was manna from heaven. Figure out your own routine, do not be upset when it doesn’t happen.  Their class schedules are on DAInfo and knowing when they have free time is helpful.
  3. Remember your child is busy and that’s a good thing.  You will be desperate to see them and ask them a million questions the first time you visit them – re-read Hint #1. They are busy and you are now interrupting their routine, they still love you but they are still figuring “it” out. Isn’t that what we really want them to do? Not need us? Sigh.
TIDBITS for Day Students’ Families | NEW Parents/Guardians Schedule—Opening Days 2019

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