I am not sure when the parenting process is over. Probably never, but there must be milestones. Times when we hope to step back and say, “I am not sure how we did that, but we couldn’t be more thankful for how our kids turned out.” I think one of those milestones came last month when our oldest son, Eric, finished defending his senior thesis at Princeton University. He studies mathematics of a sort that is completely beyond me, so I could not understand a single sentence he wrote in the main body of his work. In fact, the only part I could understand was the acknowledgements. And that is all needed to understand.
I’ll let you read them for yourselves and make a few comments along the way.
"I first must thank my adviser Professor Robert Gunning for his guidance throughout the year. Your suggestions and encouragement have been so important to this entire process. Thank you for always welcoming my unannounced appearances at your office and the many questions I brought."
Universities these days have too often become machines that produce degrees and afford little interaction between student and professor. Obviously that was not the case for my son, at least not with Professor RG. I guess what I like about what Eric writes here is that he sought someone’s guidance, he took the initiative to make unannounced appearances, and he thanked his prof not generically but specifically. These are not so common acts for people today, young or old. They will bode him well in the future.
Thank you to Alissa, my bride-to-be, closest friend, and greatest encourager. You have been the most special part of my time at Princeton.
Yes, my son found his girl while in college and will marry not long after graduation. That’s well below the average age these days. But that’s no surprise to me; people of character are able to come to places of commitment much sooner when the opportunity arises. One of the things Eric saw me do all his years at home is tell his mother how wonderful she is and treat her as my best friend in the world. He is starting off on a similar path, and we couldn’t be happier with whom he is taking that journey.
I am also so grateful for the friendships I have and the support I have received from my three roommates Matt Gerber, Adam Gallagher, and Austen McDougal. It has been a privilege to live with each of you. Thank you for participating in and/or putting up with my endless Nerf basketball games.
Eric is an introvert. But don’t ever think that introverts can’t be great friends and have great friends. They just have a tighter circle and like smaller groups rather than big ones. Eric built great friendships in college. Not with the masses but with a few that will bring him joy for years to come.
To the staff and members of the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, you are the foremost reason I chose to attend Princeton in the first place, and will undoubtedly be who I miss most upon leaving Princeton. The Lord has blessed me deeply through you.
I have to wonder how many students at Princeton would make the comment Eric made here. People choose Princeton for the prestige. People choose Princeton for the academic rigor and quality of the faculty. That’s not to say that Eric was not drawn by those characteristics, but like many Princeton students Eric could have attended nearly any school he wanted. He chose Princeton because he knew the value of Christian community, did his research as to what was offered at Princeton in that regard, and in the end was deeply impacted and supported by the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship all four years. In other words, his spiritual growth in college was no accident; he reaped what he sowed.
Many thanks to my family: Dad, Mom, Ian, Hudson, and Corrie. You have been such incredible examples to me of loving God and loving others. Outside of math, you have taught me so much of what I know. I have cherished every trip home.
Wait a second! What does he mean “outside of math”? I am sure I helped him learn at least a few algebraic concepts back when he was in the fourth grade! All kidding aside, what more could parents want than a kid who actually wants to come home and cherishes his time with us?
To Joe Mellor, you turned mathematics from something I was “good” at into something I love. During my house arrest, I witnessed your passion and excellence in teaching for four years. Because of you, I look forward to having students of my own.
Joe was Eric’s high school math teacher. And he was one heck of a teacher. I don’t think I ever had a teacher like Joe; one that made me absolutely love the subject. It seems like we all should have such teachers. What is rather remarkable is that Eric finished the highest level of high school math as a freshman, and had to do coursework from Stanford on his own after that, which means he only formally sat under Joe’s teaching for one year. But one year is all it takes when you’re a great teacher. Where did Eric do his Stanford coursework? He did it sitting in Joe’s class, of course, in his off period.
I also must thank the individuals, many still unknown to me, who have generously supported both my high school and University education. This project would not have been possible apart from your gifts. You have blessed me greatly.
Eric attended an expensive private high school and then an expensive university. He is finishing without debt . . . and so are we! This is not because of anything Eric or we made happen. It was an utter gift to us by, as Eric states, both known and unknown individuals. When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one came back and said thank you. How pleased I am that Eric has shown himself to be of the one.
To each of those mentioned, may the Lord bless each of you just as He has blessed me through you. To Him be the glory.
For years, Eric has heard me say that all of life is sacred. There are not parts that we live unto God and parts that are not under his purview. Eric knows that for himself. Those who stood with him along the way, knowingly or unknowingly, were part of God’s work of blessing, and what better than for Eric to desire that blessing be given by God in return.
Parenting is a rather mysterious art. There are no real formulas to it. There are certainly ways of wisdom, but the myriad of differences among children and the circumstances life throws our way don’t allow us to resort to steps one, two, and three. Not, at least, if we want to be good parents. That said, I am quite sure I cannot give you a specific prescription for raising someone like Eric, or any of our other children. And yet at the same time, I can’t help but think that by God’s mercy my wife and I somehow did it right.
John likes to help people wrestle with the big questions of life in his work with Search Ministries. He served as a pastor in Houston for 16 years, earned his doctorate at Biola University, and is a contributing author of Reasons to Believe: Thoughtful Responses to Life’s Toughest Questions.