Like many Westporters, I read with both horror and fascination yesterday’s New York Times story on parental over-involvement.
Titled “Students, Welcome to College; Parents, Go Home,” it detailed the many ways in which moms and dads are unable to say goodbye after taking their freshmen sons and daughters to college.
The story described the mother who planned to “hang around for a while in Princeton for her son just in case.” In case what? In case he suddenly had a brain malfunction, and was no longer smart enough to figure his way around an Ivy League campus?
It told of a mother who — dreading separation since “the umbilical cord falls off” — read books about the stages of grief.
And — just so regular Times-reading parents don’t feel bad — it ended with an anecdote about a father who made reservations at a B-and-B near campus, so he could take his daughter to breakfast after her first night at college. The kicker: He himself is vice president of student affairs at another school.
The timing of the piece was not coincidental. This is the time of year when hundreds of Westport parents take their children young adults to college. They (the parents) are filled with far more anxiety, I bet, than their sons and daughters.
It’s an instructive story too for parents of Staples students. I am fully aware that with no kids of my own, I can’t understand the need to hang around “just in case.” Or read books on grief.
But I do spend many hours each day with teenagers. I do know that when my generation went off to college, our parents bolted as soon as they unpacked the last box of albums (music). And the fact that we called once a week (Sundays, for some reason) did not mean our relationships were any less real.
My perspective is limited. But this is my blog, so I’m going to share that perspective, through one piece of advice. It’s applicable, I think, to students in a broad array of activities at Staples.
If your son or daughter forgets something, you don’t have to drop everything to deliver it. If it’s sports equipment, he’ll figure something out — like borrowing from a teammate. Or he’ll sit out that day, and probably never forget it again.
If it’s homework, she’ll learn how to communicate with a teacher, person to person. She’ll learn the art of compromise, or perhaps the lesson that actions have consequences. And one late assignment will not mean the difference between admission to Princeton, and rejection. Trust me on this.
Sports is a great area in which to learn life lessons. So are Staples Players, music, Inklings, and of course the classroom.
I realize this is a sensitive topic. Every time parents take charge of their child’s life — or try to ease the burden on their kids’ already stressful, fully scheduled lives — they have what sounds like a valid reason to do so.
But in the end, that doesn’t help their son or daughter grow, mature and develop.
Education takes many forms. Despite its stellar faculty, Staples offers infinite opportunities for parents to be the best teachers their children ever had.
Let them figure things out for themselves. You’ve already given them roots; now let them flap their wings.
If you do, when you drop them off at college — 1, 2, 3 or 4 years from now — you may still leave with tears in your eyes.
But hopefully without grief in your heart.