I was leading a panel discussion in front of about 200 parents of incoming freshman students.  The mood in the room ranged from bored (it had already been a long orientation day for them) to highly anxious.  The topic of the moment was “Move-in day” and one of the parents on the panel had just old a tear-jerking story of leaving her daughter at college two years before.  She was tearful as she recalled the excruciating “Good-bye.”  Many of the parents had grabbed for Kleenex during her talk.

A brief and awkward silence followed her presentation, so I took a breath to introduce the next topic.  Just before I spoke, a hand went up on the third row to my right.


A man stood, hesitated, and then began, “I work at a plant where I don’t get many vacation days.  In fact, I used my last two days to come to this orientation, so I’m not going to be able to bring my son to college.  If I buy him a tank of gas and wave at him from the driveway, does that make me a bad parent?”

“No sir, it does not,” I replied emphatically.  I thanked him for his comment and stated clearly that not everyone has the luxury of the kind of moving in experience we’d just heard.  Then to the crowd, “Every good-bye is different.  Your good-bye should be a reflection of your relationship with your son or daughter.  A good-bye in the driveway can be just as meaningful as a tearful hug in the residence hall parking lot.  Just make sure you’ve said what you needed to say to them.  Make sure they know you are proud of them, you love them, and you are available if they have trouble.”