Revisiting Junior Parents Weekend

Today marks the beginning of Junior Parents Weekend at the University of Notre Dame.

That three-day period when parents and their students come together with other parents and students for various activities, to meet the professors, visit campus, and affirm that their hard-earned dollars are being put to good use.

But I’m missing it.

My Favorite Domer turned thumbs-down on this event a long time ago. He’s too busy for such orchestrated activities, he said. His friends’ parents aren’t coming. He didn’t want me to spend money for tickets and clothing and transportation and lodging — when I’m already on campus monthly.

‘Are you sure?’ I wondered.

Yes, he said. It’s not like we’ll have quality time together, with all the planned activities. And you know how hard those large-group gatherings are.

I certainly do.

Some folks excel in a cocktail party setting. They mix and mingle, kiss everybody within grabbing distance, and make small talk like they’ve known those people forever.

I’ve never been like that.

‘Shy’ would have described me as a kid. Or ‘Wallflower.’

Today, I prefer ‘Introverted.’

Nothing wrong with that. Introverts (and many writers fall into that category) choose our companions and friends after they’ve been tested and found true.

When the invitation came in the mail, I assumed we’d go. Despite the certain cold weather, the itchy new clothing, and the uncomfortable socializing.

I never expected Domer wouldn’t want to attend.

The schedule of events was full, to say the least:

  • An Opening Gala, complete with music, dancing, and fancy food.
  • Hall Luncheon to meet my son’s friends and see his quad in its “natural” state.
  • Saturday Mass at the Joyce Center (nobody does Mass the way ND does Mass!)
  • President’s Dinner.
  • Closing Brunch on Sunday, with tearful good-byes all around.

‘Are you certain?’ I kept asking.

His reply continued in the affirmative.

Some parents would have signed up and coerced their kid to tag along. Not me.

ND is his school, his home. Right or wrong, the decision on attending these festivities would be his.

And he said No.

A big part of me is sad. Sad at not seeing him this weekend. Sad at not being on campus, even at this dismal time of year. Sad at not being part of the students’ enthusiasm, their intelligence, their wit.

You see, I love ND as much as is possible for someone who didn’t go there!

But growing up means assuming responsibility for our choices. The world (and our own family) might not approve. But we each must listen to that quiet, inner Voice which leads us in the direction that’s right for us.

Sometimes we call that Voice, ‘conscience.’ Other times, it’s ‘compass.’

Domer is blessed with a strong one, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Junior Parents Weekend

Recently I received Notre Dame’s brochure promoting this year’s Junior Parents Weekend, and I’m still debating what to do about it.

JPW is billed as an opportunity to “become part of the academic, spiritual, social, and residential life of the University.” The weekend offers parents a chance “to learn more about the people and places that comprise your son or daughter’s home away from home.”

Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Almost like going back to college myself, only this time, actually knowing something!

But guess when this extravaganza is to be held?

Did you say October, when the weather cools a bit and the campus trees are brilliant with reds and golds and coppers?

Wrong.

Maybe April, when a profusion of multicolored tulips poke through the soil, buds pop out on the trees, and the grass greens, turning everything into an emerald oasis?

No again.

JPW is scheduled for February.

February??

Whose idea was that?

February, the shortest and dreariest month in the entire calendar.

February, when mountains of snow and patches of ice make travel by foot or vehicle treacherous.

February, when PermaCloud (that pervasive cloud cover over Northern Indiana) is ever-present to darken the skies above and the spirits within.

February. Seriously.

But maybe there’s more to it than at first glance.

Is it possible they deliberately chose February as the month for JPW?

So parents and their students could come aside for a few days deep in the heart of winter, when daylight is shorter and campus is quieter, when all you hear is the soft crunch of footsteps on the snow, when few other activities or holidays or demands compete for our attention, when the laughter of students blends with the camaraderie of professors and parents in a celebration of gala feasts and live entertainment.

Yeah, that must be it.

But I still wish they’d chosen another month. Mid-September through mid-November is nice; so’s mid-April through mid-May.

February is the height of basketball season. My Favorite Domer probably will be otherwise occupied with Band obligations, leaving little opportunity for “family bonding.”

If I could even get to campus through the ice and snow.

Another thing — they invite us to a celebration, then expect us to pay for every activity. Plus our own hotel rooms.

Call me cheap, but couldn’t they at least throw in free tickets to a home football game??