New Roles and New Beginnings

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John M. Stein
Dean of Students

This academic year my wife and I took on a new status-as members of the “Empty Nesters’ Club.” Both of our children are now away at college. My son is attending college in Denver and my daughter is at a school here in Georgia. It is a new beginning for both them and us. We are all adjusting to our new roles. Our initial thought was probably the same as theirs: freedom! A new life, a new beginning.

But as the weeks go by, the initial sense of freedom has changed to a more somber note, one of missing all that is gone since they left home. Sure there is less laundry to do, fewer lunches to make, less food to cook, and a lot less noise in the house. However, we are also less informed of their daily comings and goings, their new friends, and their daily challenges. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As I say during FASET orientation, this is the time to start letting go and to allow them to become the young men and women they were meant to be. For us parents, what I think is more challenging is figuring out who we are meant to be in their absence. After being full-time parents for so long there is a natural adjustment period as we move into this new phase of our lives without our children in the house. One very apparent change is not hearing the words “mom” or “dad” spoken in the house for days or weeks.

Another change in this new role is how we communicate with our children. These days we have to listen more carefully because we are no longer having face-to-face conversations with our children (unless of course you are using a video chat service). Most of my daily interactions with my son and daughter involve a quick text message which often results in a quick response. Depending on their response, I may decide to make a reply telephone call. In the absence of a face-to-face conversation, though, we are left to interpret what is being said and how it is being said, but more importantly, what is not being said.

Six weeks into the semester, I am preparing to attend my son’s Family Weekend event. I am excited to see him - to actually have a face-to-face conversation. I look forward to learning about his new life and meeting some of his new friends. In a recent telephone conversation, he asked me if we could break away from all the planned activities to go off and explore the mountains of Colorado together. As Dean of Students I understand the importance of being involved in the university’s planned activities. However, as a dad, I can’t wait to have some private, exclusive time with my son, at his request.

To sum it up, our new role is challenging us to navigate this new sense of freedom against the reality that we miss them. We look forward to their return in a few weeks when the house will be once again full of noise, laundry and food.

If you would like to contact Dean Stein regarding this article, you may e-mail him at


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