Helicopter Parents and College Confidence
My husband and I trucked all of our son’s college paraphernalia over to Northwestern yesterday and helped him set up his new permanent dorm room instead of the temporary room he had been in for band camp. His new room is really nice: a clean corner unit with two huge windows on both walls overlooking a giant oak and the gabled, slate tiled frat house roofs, reminiscent of Hogwarts.
Logan and I laid down the plush pillow top mattress over the mattress pad, mattress protector, and mattress itself, but under the fitted and flat sheets as well as the duvet and duvet cover.
Major. Eye. Roll.
Even Hans Christian Andersen’s uber sensitive princess would never feel her notorious pea under all of these layers of over-the-top bedding.
When I went away to school, there was no bed-making ceremony. I pretty much remember my mom and dad helping me haul the stuff I brought into my room, dump it on the linoleum floor, and then they were out the door as quick as crickets.
Honestly, a bed-making ceremony would have been a farce because the sheets that I had so proudly purchased at a discount shop, were only a smidge softer than corn husks, and the towels I bought were so rough they doubled as loofahs. (As I recall, my skin was extra silky smooth that first year.) I’m pretty sure I only had a fitted sheet betwixt me and the ages-old pallet I slept on, and yet somehow I survived without coming down with a severe case of bed bug-itis. There also wasn’t the hour of furniture arrangement and rearrangement that we went through yesterday morning only to conclude that the way it was set up in the first place was the most livable.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing this for Loge because I seldom dote on him, but it seems to me that parents’ involvement is completely too much these days. Helicopter parents have flown from elementary schools to high schools, and have even begun hovering over universities nationwide. Click on this article if you want to read more about this phenomenon. Infographic Reveals Damaging Effects of Helicopter Parenting.
Trust me when I say that I will never be calling a single one of Logan’s professors as some parents have been known to do. Frankly, I won’t even know their names. Unless he becomes close buds with his RA, I won’t be able to pick him out of a two-man line-up. I will also have no idea when he has a test or quiz or paper due. And that’s because, in my way of thinking, completing these items is his full-time job now, and not, in any way, mine.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
In elementary school, Logan and his classmates were assigned the task of decorating a large foam core letter to represent a series of books that focused on the letters of the alphabet, the A to Z Mysteries. Logan’s letter happened to be “W”, which stood for The White Wolf. He explained the assignment to me, and my eyes lit up. “Ooh, Loge! We can get so creative with this!” Where the “we” came from, I’m not sure, but did we ever get creative! We hightailed it to the fabric store and bought some faux fur and set off to construct a menacing wolf out of our supplies. As with most young kids, his gluing skills were dubious, his penmanship was atrocious, and frankly, my wolf wasn’t turning out quite the way I had envisioned, so I told him to run along and, sure as shootin’, finished the project all by myself.
And it was GOOD!
The next day, Loge brought it in to his classroom where all of the kids’ letters were displayed. Many other classrooms as well as teachers came in to see their work. When Logan got home in the afternoon, I anxiously awaited a report on how people received my beautifully crafted “W”. “Mom,” he said, “I’m not sure what one of the teachers meant by this, but she told me to go home and congratulate you on a job well done.”
And she was so right. It was damn good. Kidding. Well, actually it was damn good, but that’s beside the point. I learned my lesson that day that school projects and homework and papers are for kids to complete, not parents. From then on, I was only there to gently guide Logan and only when he requested it. It wasn’t easy to do, but it was crucial. I keep the “W of shame” in my office as a constant reminder to back off. We parents can do the best darn job in town, it’s true, but we’re also cheating our kids out of learning to try their hardest, to handle failure, and to revel in the glory of self-created successes not to mention making all of the other kids who actually did their own work feel inferior.
That’s how we raised Logan all through middle school and high school as well. School and everything that went along with it was his job. He was responsible for getting extra help if need be, for advocating on behalf of himself, for turning in work on time, and for making sure that he studied for whatever test or quiz was imminent. We were only there to guide him in doing so.
Despite living right down the street from his high school, I think I only dropped off a forgotten assignment or lunch bag twice during his entire four year-stint. It wasn’t for lack of caring. I wanted him to learn how to be self-reliant while still at home when we could later talk about the consequences of his actions, or lack thereof, and how he might differently comport himself the next time around. He experienced a few epic fails, but many, many more satisfying successes.
After we set up the basics in Logan’s room yesterday morning, the three of us headed out to lunch and ate a delicious Mediterranean meal of Chicken Shawarma with falafel, tahini sauce, hummus and freshly made pita bread.
Oh my. Why haven’t we explored Evanston’s multi-cultural cuisine scene before?
Once we finished our meal, we drove back over to the dorm and said goodbye.
What a dramatic change from the last drop off! Having survived a week and a half on his own, I was confident in his ability to assimilate into college life, and that I could and would survive his absence at home as well.
I called him a few minutes after we left him. “Loge, you know that window in your room that was sticking? You might want to get a maintenance man to take care of that. I saw one down the hall.” “Yep, I’m already on it,” was his reply.
During yesterday’s stormy ride home, I didn’t shove sunglasses on my face to hide my tears as I had done during the stormy return drive the week before. I had no need to. Rather, I wore a radiant smile realizing that my boy is in a really good place, and is rapidly growing into a wonderfully capable and confident man.