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Biotechnology, Russian minor
Chicago IL

A Word to the Wise (Parents)

Sarah Alef on Thursday, 19 March 2009. Posted in Advising & Support, Orientation

There's a saying by Mark Twain that goes "When I was sixteen, my father was the most ignorant man in the world.  By the time I reached 21, I was surprised at how much he had learned in five years." 

Mark Twain wasn't kidding. I passed my 21st birthday about 4 months ago, and my parents are smarter than ever.  I never necessarily thought my parents ignorant, but I was convinced that they said and made decisions based on how likely they were to irritate me.  At times I was convinced they existed purely to make my life difficult.  At no other time was I more convinced of this than the summer before I started college.    

Parents, please.  Treasure the time you have this summer with your children, but like Amanda said, let them go hang out with friends, make them mow the lawn, do laundry, etc.  After all, the reason you had children in the first place was for manual labor! As a former RA, I'm giving you homework this summer to make sure your children come to college fully prepared.

1) TEACH - For the love of humanity, please teach your children basic life skills if you haven't already.  Things like laundry, picking up after oneself (although you've probably been trying to teach that one for years now), how to "doctor" ramen to make it somewhat tastier, teach them to budget money, balance a checkbook, etc.  Unless you don't mind getting phone calls about how Junior now needs new khakis because he/she has bleached them pink. Teach your daughter how to check and change oil in her car.  Don't just give her AAA.  We teenagers get to college and after a few weeks, we have a whole level of appreciation for the behind the scenes help our parents have been giving us for years.  The gratitude will come, trust me. (THANK YOU MOM FOR TEACHING ME HOW TO MAKE BREAD AND USE BLEACH PROPERLY...Can we work on the ironing next time I come home?)

2) TELL - Tell your son/daughter you will miss them, but remind them how important college is.  Tell them to take time out from school to engage in other activities.  If all you do is study, you'll miss half of college.  Tell them how much fun you had in college, even if they roll their eyes.  They're listening.  Remind them to be safe when making choices.   Tell them to get a job.  It'll be good training for learning to budget their own money.  Tell them you expect good grades.  Most importantly, tell them you love them no matter what.  Every parent will get at least one phone call from a kid in tears, wanting to come home and quit it all.  Listen, comfort them, and then throw them back into the fish pond.  We can't grow up unless you let us. 

3) RESTRAIN - Restrain yourself from being overbearing and preventing any fun this summer.  I know, that's a parent's job, but...it more than likely is the last time they'll see some of their friends for a year.  That's a long time.  Please restrain yourself from buying out the Target "Back to College" aisle.  Stick to the basics...your child's roommate will be thankful.  There's only so much you can cram in a 9' x 11' space.  And most importantly, restrain yourself from being the "helicopter" parent.  You can't fight all our battles, and if we got a bad grade in a class, it more than likely really is our fault.  At some point, you have to stop thinking of us as being a reflection on you, and start considering us the adults that you trained us to be.  You did a good job; we wouldn't be in college if you didn't.  

Now sit back and watch the show, because there should be some entertaining parts.  Particularly when we call home demanding to know why our socks turned pink, and how come you never told us that our red shirt bleeds?