As a college professor, I’m surrounded by young adults, and overall, they’re a lovely lot. I’m continually jazzed by their inventiveness, optimism and vitality, and 95% of the time, they’re a joy to be around. So what makes the other five percent such a slog? Ask any collegiate administrator, staffer or academic – it’s not the kids, it’s the parents.
Seeing that these parents are my contemporaries, they should know better. Back during our college orientation days, we either got dropped off at the curb or the bus stop or arrived in our ten-year-old heaps (if we were even allowed, as freshman, to have cars on campus). For three days we usually stumbled around trying to manuever a confusion of classes, advisors, academic halls, tuition, textbooks and financial aid, not to mention mold-infested dorms, stinky communal bathrooms, unidentifiable food, the inevitable creepy roommate, all which were eventually placated by the awakened reality of unsupervised and unlimited sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. There in July, amid a half-slumbering campus, armed with our SAT scores and a wad of summer job money, ready to be socked into our new local bank account, we’d get our first taste of independence, the Orientation not only a portend of college, but of a life we couldn’t wait to make on our own. But that was then.
Now has Joey and Suzy Campus following the Rents’ Family Volvo with their New Graduation Ride. First stop is the Family Picnic, where Mater and Pater pick up their own Orientation schedule. While Suzy is being tested and reevaluated, Mom and Pop are attending seminars on Separation Anxiety and Snowplow Parenting. Later on Dad goes to buy the textbooks, while Joey Campus is in his residential suite, sipping latte from the campus Starbucks as he sets up the webcam to Skype home every night, and Mom is transferring a grand or two into her little student’s Kampus Kash account. Some parents have been known to attend advisor meetings with the student, or at least try to, and one NJ campus reports an instance where a parent was asked to stop walking a student to the classroom. They’re trying to be nice about it but truly, they have but two words for parents: get out!
A-hem! Listen up, parental units: we are in danger of raising a nation of infants. Look, I know you want the best for your little darlings, want to wrap them in cotton wool and keep every nasty bugaboo far, far away, but for all your good intentions, this reality intrudes: if your son or daughter is over eighteen, and they are of sound mind and body, you are not legally responsible for them. If their car hits my car, I am going to sue them, not you. If they are in danger of failing, I’m not going to call you. As a matter of fact, my dean has expressly told all professors that we do not talk to parents. In fact, federal privacy laws stipulate that we not do so. If they are failing, if they owe money, if they don’t have their textbooks, if they don’t make it to class on time because you didn’t wake them up, that is THEIR problem. And I will not talk to you on their cell phone to tell you so.
There are too many in this generation that need to Man/Woman up. And it’s because the two most spoiled generations in history, the GenXers and the Baby Boomers, raised them that way. If we’re throwing up our hands at their self-serving, entitled ways, it is because we have created these scary monsters, with our own pushy, demanding, self-serving attitudes. But listen to this chunk of How It Really Is: there will be no coddling at my house. I’m the cold shower of reality. I don’t care if your mother forgot to upload your assignment. Don’t tell me it wasn’t your fault your alarm didn’t go off. Want to see me go off? Try passing the blame to someone else. For that, my dear, it really is all about you.
Hey, we’re all adults here, and I promise not to be condescending. Life’s a bitch, but it’s also very sweet, and I’m here to help with your transition. And I promise, whatever happens, I won’t tell your mother.