Your School Parents

My dad is constantly cheering from the sidelines of my field hockey games. Half the time, it’s not even for me, but for my teammates and friends who don’t have parents on the sideline. For every “Get up the field, Sierra!” there’s a “Nice pass, Riya!” or “Great defense, Jane!” While it’s nice to hear his constant encouragement to move up the field (which is usually misinformed since I’m supposed to be a back pass option), it sometimes makes me even happier to hear him cheering for my friends from Boston, L.A., or Germany who don’t have their parents there to cheer for them.

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My dad also specializes in grilling home cooked meals for my friends

While not as vocal as my dad, my mom is, however, known to give sympathetic “mom hugs” to me and my friends after a tough game—or congratulatory hugs after someone played well. I can almost always count on her announcing her impending “mom hug” to one of my sweaty friends on our way to the locker room after a game before she finally comes over to hug me.

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My mom takes a selfie with my friend Jane after the field hockey game that Jane got a black eye. My mom sent the picture to Jane’s mom so that her mom would know Jane had a mom looking out for her.
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My mom also acts as team photographer and sends out the pictures that she takes to all of my teammates.

My point is not that I am jealous about sharing my parents during the school year for the past few years, or even that participation on the field hockey team gives you access to my parents’ love. The role that my parents have sometimes played for my friends has caused me to notice other instances in which all of us at Swarthmore have formed familial relationships with members of our community.

For example, as I was walking out of my Solar Energy class one day, I overheard a classmate go up to the professor, the chair of the Engineering Department and probably one of the smartest people I know, and say, “Can I ask you a dad question?” Despite having the capacity to answer far more complex questions about acoustics or solar energy, the professor was more than happy to answer her tax form question. This made me think of all of the ways in which we have and benefit from these “school parents.”

Whether it’s asking your Engineering professor a tax question or a Career Services counselor for job search tips, there are plenty of ways to get parental advice in the physical absence of your birth parents.

Parental or familial support comes in many other forms beyond just advice. Whether it’s venting about your Physics test at a Coffee Talk with the Dean of Students or constantly being served by Donny at Sharples’ grill, there are many ways that people develop close relationships with members of Swarthmore’s community that resemble family.

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Members of my Cape Town study abroad family, including a Swat engineering professor

Leaving home can be a big adjustment, especially being away from your family. But if you’re a freshman who plays field hockey, you better watch out, because as soon as my dad learns your name, he’ll be cheering for you. And if not, there are many other ways for you will quickly develop a family at Swat.

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