For the past 10 years, my dad and I have attended the same school -- he as an administrator and I as a student. While my friends enjoyed the escape from parents that school provided, I could count on my dad taking me to school, bumping into him regularly during the day and riding home with him each and every afternoon. It's been interesting. Our relationship, in and out of school, has been totally unpredictable.
When I was younger, all that my dad said was doctrine and anything he did I, naturally, copied. We played rocket ship games in the pool, stayed up too late reading bedtime stories and ran through the corn mazes at Terhune's Orchard. In second grade, I broke my wrist running toward my dad and never would have guessed that, just a few years later, I would sprain my ankle running away from him.
As I grew older, he was no longer as cool as he used to be. He became the enemy -- a total embarrassment. He wore his socks too high and whistled too loudly. He listened to horrific country music while carpooling six other 12- year-old girls to soccer games. In front of my friends, his bold laugh paralyzed me.
However, the catastrophes that occurred in school were by far the worst. On Halloween, in seventh grade, my class went outside to watch the Lower School Halloween parade. To my surprise, my father had dressed up as Chewbacca from Star Wars, sound effects included, and was leading the march around the school. In fifth grade he, the only father, came to our Girl Scout retreat, guitar in hand, and made up songs (which in hindsight seem propagandistic) like, "Boys are stupid, boys are dumb, boys just don't know how to have fun!" Just kill me. Every time he spoke I wanted to crawl away. He invaded my privacy, humiliated me in front of my friends and seemed to be the least cool parent ever.
This struggle continued into high school, but over the last two years we somehow began to find a balance. Around the time of my 11th-grade physics project, things started to change. The assignment was to build a balsa wood bridge with the best strength-to-weight ratio. The entire junior class and the two physics teachers participated -- and so did my dad. To make a long story short, he blew away all the competition by a considerable margin. Embarrassed, as usual, I fled the scene. However, later when my friends were marveling about the strength of my dad's bridge, I found that mixed in with my embarrassment was a touch of pride.
I had needed a third party to show me what I appreciated in my dad; it wasn't the fact that he'd won, it wasn't even the fact that my friends were admiring him for it, it was more basic than all of that. Subconsciously I was beginning to realize that what I liked about him were the same things I liked about myself. No matter how much I had tried to resist him, he still influenced me. I began to recognize that we have many of the same values and sometimes the same opinions; most remarkable of all, we even have the same sense of humor! I used to feel that he did a lot of what he did just to bug me, but now I have enough distance to see that those weren't his intentions at all. Everything parents do when you're 13 is humiliating because it's the age when kids are trying to define themselves and fit in. I knew I wanted to be independent and cool, and it just wasn't cool to have a 45-year-old dad who dresses up in costumes and tells jokes. I have decided that, in the end, he might have been a little more sensitive toward my obvious teenage insecurities, but then I shouldn't have taken it all so seriously. Arguing about who's right and who's wrong on the details of some of these stories is now something we joke about.
The relationship I have developed with my dad over the years is the first that has enabled me to look back and see how I've grown. At this early stage in my life when I still have so many things to learn, I feel fortunate to have such an unusual father to put it all into perspective.
Here are a few examples of admission essays written by Hamilton's newest students.
New Canaan, Conn.
Alice Dou Wang
West Chester, Pa.